Job hunting in tough times: Tips for College Grads

By Cindy Mindell

Steven Greenberg is founder and CEO of Jobs4point0.com, a website specializing in job opportunities for candidates 40 and older. He is also anchor of WCBS NewsRadio 880’s “Your Next Job.” While his expertise lies with the more seasoned job-seeker, “I talk to everyone,” he says. “I’ve been getting a lot of calls from recent graduates and students home for the summer who are stunned at the lack of employment opportunities.”
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find a job, Greenberg says; it just means that the tough have to get going. He gave the Ledger a few tips.

Q: What’s the best Job Search 101 technique for the recent college grad?

A: You need to get out there and meet people because your resume, as a young person, understandably is not compelling. But your personality, initiative, energy, and creativity can be – but only in person. It requires courage to be rejected in person, but you have to be willing to experience it. If you do common, ordinary things, you’ll get common, ordinary results. You have to get out there and be bold.
Make a list of five people you know. Make it easy for others to help you: you’re asking for advice, not a job. Define your specific skill set, not a general description; for example, you’re not great at graphic design, but you’re an incredible children’s book illustrator. Never ask for a job, only advice. LinkedIn.com lists new hires. You can contact these people and ask how they got their jobs. Continue to dig and work at it until someone offers you a job.
Don’t hang out too much with other unemployed people – that’s commiserating, not networking.
Everybody can make a list of 15 or 20 employers who seem interesting within the commuting radius of where they live, and go after those. Use the Internet to gather information on these places, knowing what you can find out about them, and then show up in person and portray yourself as a good potential match.
Searching for a job is the hardest thing. Take a week to look for work without sending out resumes. Find other ways to network and stay engaged, like volunteering. In a job you’re accountable to a superior. In a job search, make yourself the superior you’re accountable to. So at the end of the day, go to that person, and journal and report on your work and progress. It will inspire you to work harder and bring the process to completion. Don’t look for a job for 10 hours a day. Be good to yourself and do something nice for yourself like going to the gym or volunteering, and include those activities in your report.
Sixty-five to 80 percent of available jobs are not advertised. Don’t search for jobs; search for employers who are growing and who will be good matches for you. Look in the local newspapers: Companies that sponsor events are doing well. If an employer on your list advertises a certain number of jobs that might not exactly fit your skill set, inquire about other jobs they might have.
Don’t dismiss temp jobs, but choose the company wisely. A temp job can often turn into a long-term position. So two weeks with a great employer trump six months at a not-so-great employer.
People are judging your skill set based on how you deal with them during the application process. Demonstrate your skills through relentless smart follow-up. When you first contact an employer, you can email your resume. All employers want to receive a resume by email, but you should follow up with a hard copy as well. Find the name of the correct person to contact on the company’s website and in the public library reference files. When you call and get voicemail, say who you are, say that you saw the company’s job posting, state a couple of relevant skills, and close by saying that if you don’t hear back from the person by a particular date a week later, you will call them on a particular date; leave your contact information. This will distinguish you from 99 percent of the other applicants. Someone asked me whether this approach constitutes stalking. Have you ever heard about a person not getting a job because they called too much?

Q: What should you include in your application package?

A: Most cover letters don’t get read, and 20 seconds are spent reading a resume. So make your resume read like a resume, and make it a “functional resume, “audience-specific and tailored for the company you’re applying to. At the top, explain how everything you’ve done – skills, experience, personality – relate to what they’re looking for. At the bottom, if relevant, list the employers you’ve worked for and the dates you’ve worked for them. I tell older job applicants to only list the years.
Many employers now conduct a phone screening to determine if they want to invite a candidate for an in-person interview. Be as completely prepared and non-traditional as you can. Research the company but don’t just show off your knowledge; explain how what you’ve learned about the company is relevant to your experience.

Q: What about salary guidelines?

A: Come in at a salary level you think you know you deserve – not higher – because employers can be choosy and not offer the more generous packages typical five or 10 years ago. I’ve watched the employment market for 20 years now and this one is so brutal. It can be tough to land a job, but once you get in, your career can take off more easily from point A to point E. Start at as low a salary as you can afford, and show them what you can do and work your way up. It’s a faster, better route to point E.
That’s the more traditional approach – putting your time in and showing what you can do. People used to be willing to put the time in and do that, but today too many act as if things are owed to them. Businesses obviously don’t like that attitude and don’t respond to it well; it doesn’t maximize young people’s chances of success. The attitude should be, “Pay me less than I think I deserve.”
For a person home for the summer, you don’t have a lot of time, but make that list of employers, get out there and talk to people. You’re hopefully coming back to a town where you know a lot of adults who watched you grow up and can help you.

Q: How are you answering those frantic phone calls from college kids home for the summer who can’t find jobs?

A: The time to think about jobs is before you get home, when you have time to reflect on your choices. But if you haven’t, you can’t expect to sit in front of your computer, search for openings, email your resume, and get an offer. That doesn’t work in many markets, and won’t in this one. You’ll have an uphill climb if you’ve given it no forethought.
It’s more important than ever for younger people to get out from behind their laptops and stop just clicking and sending all day. Every place they send resumes to already has stacks of electronic resumes and one more electronic resume won’t make a difference. The thought that your resume will be read thoughtfully is a dream. Many people think, “I sent out 50 resumes yesterday; I’ll triple my odds today by sending out 150.”
The media talk about unemployment numbers, but there are approximately two million open jobs and four million people were hired in one month last autumn. During the same period, 4.6 million people were laid off. So there are opportunities out there, and that should motivate the job-seeker every day.

For more information: jobs4point0.com.

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