This blog post is copyright Pathfinder Writing and Career Services.
Diploma? Check. Résumé? Check.
Er, wait. Not so fast on that one.
New graduates are facing one of the toughest job markets in history. What few jobs are open have literally hundreds of applicants, some of whom are vastly overqualified, putting newly minted workers at a marked disadvantage.
One of the biggest problems grads face are their credentials. While career centers try to provide counseling to students on how to construct a compelling summary of their background that translates to the work world, many students aren’t listening or aren’t given any reasons to the strategy that goes behind the document or a focused job search.
Here are some tips that you’ll not likely be taught in school:
1) Education matters. But experience matters more.
Many students put their education front and center at the top of their résumé. Unless you are continuing on in an educational field as your career, you should start to move your work experience that is relevant towards the top of your résumé while moving your education to the latter portion. Why? Because to employers, that experience matters more. They want to know that you can DO the job, not just know HOW to do the job. And here’s the wake-up call: After all of that money you just spent on your degree, for a lot of employers, all they care about is one thing: Did you graduate: Yes or No? That’s a tough pill to swallow, but remember, this is about THEM, not you. How can you make your résumé more compelling and of interest to an employer? Write to your audience and what they care about.
2) Learning doesn’t end with graduation.
Congratulations! You’ve just finished several grueling years of school and finally! No more exams, homework, or study, right? WRONG. You’ve just completed the building blocks of your career. Now, you have to think about the long-term. One of the driving forces of successful people in business is to have a strategy that incorporates job-specific learning throughout their working lives. You need to be aware of and take part in ‘Professional Development’ which hones your skills and provides you with the specialized knowledge to not only be a subject matter expert but how to do your job better. Showing a commitment to life-long learning is what sets candidates apart when it boils down to selecting a finalist for positions, according to many employers.
3) Your reputation is now on a piece of paper.
In school, where you are known for what you wear and who you hang around with, and you’ve pretty much been with the same age group for your entire life, When you graduate and move into the workforce, there’s a culture shock that happens when you enter the workplace. You are generally one of the youngest people there, and you are a ‘nobody.’ It’s a completely alienating feeling. And that reputation thing? Well, everything you are all about now goes on your résumé – where you worked, what you did, and how you did it is the reputation that will follow you throughout your entire career. Take care to nurture it and keep your professional reputation on how you conduct yourself in the workplace a good one.
4) Be patient and you will be rewarded.
There’s a quiet revolution going on with employers right now. They are struggling with an extreme shift in how work gets done. Heard about the Generation Y (Millenial) vs. Baby Boomer conflict? Get ready- you’re going to be on the front lines. More mature workers have a different way of doing business which is very hierarchal. “You need to put your time in” is a common refrain. Gen Y are quick to learn (look at how fast information flows from all of our mobile devices) and ‘get it’ faster, then become impatient, which, in turn is not tolerated by the Baby Boomers. Presto! Instant disconnect. Understand that in your job search or during your career, things aren’t going to move as fast as you like. You want it now, but then so does everyone else. If you can learn patience, you will be rewarded, and even recognized for having the maturity to find the right opportunity, versus forcing it. It’s ok to be hungry and ask for more responsibility, but don’t be entitled to it. Showing initiative will definitely help you in job searches and be demonstrated in your résumé through increasing responsibilities, but don’t alienate employers by asking for too much too soon. Maturity comes with time. EVERY new graduate thinks they know everything. As a friend used to say: You don’t get your brains until you’re 25!
5) You need to build your connections.
Jobs will NOT be handed to you because of your education. Education does play a role in favoring one candidate over another at times, but that top-tier school or fancy degree isn’t going to be the sole reason they hire you. You’re going to have to gut it out and face facts: it’s all about meeting people. Join networking groups, get a business card with your name on it, and think long-term with your connections. Don’t ‘use’ the people that you meet and offer to help. Your career is going to span a lifetime, and if you burn someone early on, they’ll likely remember your transgression. No one likes to be used.
These tips are important insights in order to attract the attention of employers and build your reputation as your progress throughout your job search and for the rest of your career.