Looking for a job after graduating from college can be both exciting and frightening. Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com, shares insights for new graduates in this exclusive LoveToKnow Jobs interview.
Insight for Recent Graduates
LoveToKnow (LTK): What unique challenges do recent graduates face in the modern job market?
Rich Milgram (RM): The graduates of 2011 are entering a job market where many companies are building from the bottom up in an effort to keep cost affordable, thus creating an increase in entry-level employment opportunities. Although there is an increase in job opportunities for recent college graduates, there are still not enough opportunities to accommodate all entry-level job seekers. This year's graduates will be competing for entry-level positions alongside grads from the last few years who are still seeking employment.
LTK: What do you consider the top three tips that recent graduates should follow when looking for work?
RM: Regardless of where you are in your career, you should always be networking, researching organizations, and maintaining an error-free, up-to-date resume. All three of these things will ensure that you are an informed, well-rounded, and proactive professional.
LTK: What job search mistakes do recent graduates often make, and how can they be avoided?
RM: Many recent graduates aren't as proactive as they should be when it comes to forming and engaging their networking contacts. Today, our recent college grads have grown up in the age of texting, email and the Internet which has provided them so many amazing resources and opportunities. But, for some, it often hinders their ability to interact face-to-face and over the phone. When it comes to off-line networking, recent graduates have to push themselves out of their comfort zone in order to use their professional network to its fullest potential.
Another big mistake grads tend to make is not utilizing available job search services such as resume critiques and resume writing help that is often offered for free on campus and available online. In today's market, recruiters and hiring managers see hundreds, if not, thousands of resumes each week; if your resume isn't perfect you're going to be passed over. Utilize these services to ensure your resume has the very best chance of being seen-at the very least have a friend review your resume to ensure it is free of typos.
LTK: Do recent college graduates need to limit their search only to advertised job openings, or is there another way to identify opportunities?
RM: There are many ways to find job openings aside from those that are advertised. In fact, because there are several candidates that apply to each job, many employers frequently will not post every career opportunity as they receive an overwhelming response. Many employers and recruiters prefer to search resume databases of online job boards to find candidates that fit their needs-this is what is referred to as the 'hidden job market.'
In addition to the hidden job market and advertised opportunities, candidates should reach out to their networking contacts, attend career fairs, join their university's alumni association, volunteer for internships and join relevant industry associations. While in school, they should take advantage of the complimentary services that campus career centers offer.
Finding Potential Employers
LTK: How can recent graduates identify companies that actively recruit newly trained professionals with their skills?
RM: Searching for companies that are seeking candidates with specific skill sets is what the Beyond.com Career Network™ does best. Entry-level candidates can perform focused job searches and make the right connections quickly. Additionally, on campus career fairs are often attended by organizations that are focused on hiring fresh talent. Online alumni groups on a college's career web site are a great resource for identifying which employers are searching for professionals just starting out in their careers as well.
LTK: How do you suggest recent graduates get started in engaging in professional networking?
RM: Tapping into student associations, current and past professors as well as Department Heads are all excellent ways to start building a professional network that is relevant to your major or career interest. Parents, and their networks and friends, should also be utilized as a resource for setting up informal "meet and greets" to research a particular career or company.
Contacting supervisors at previous summer jobs or internships can be another great way to obtain introductions to new contacts. Search for local chapters of relevant national professional associations that may offer special discounts (or free) memberships for recent grads. Building an excellent Career Portfolio™ will also create a vehicle to showcase current skills and previous work history and can easily be referenced within email or other follow up communications as recent grads network.
LTK: Do you recommend volunteer work as a way for recent graduates to gain work experience and make contacts?
RM: Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, and as an added bonus, employers love to see volunteer experiences on your resume. It shows that the candidate has a desire to learn, which is a coveted quality in any potential employee. A volunteer opportunity could turn into a paid position down the road.
LTK: Is having an online presence important to a new graduate's job search?
RM: When it comes to creating a professional online presence, sites like LinkedIn and Beyond.com do a good job at creating a space for professionals to showcase their background, skills and experience while connecting in a professional setting online. Being able to distinguish yourself from the competition online is essential. Recruiting professionals frequently search online for candidate information and putting your best foot forward within a customized online portfolio is a terrific communication tool.
LTK: Should the fact that a recent graduate is searching for work have an impact on how he or she utilizes social media sites?
RM: While sites like Facebook are more geared towards social interactions, recent grads should be diligent about their privacy settings and what information is publically searchable. Be careful as to what you post on sites like Facebook and Twitter as these sites are often utilized by employers and recruiters to do research on potential employees. A good rule of thumb-if you post something online that you wouldn't want your mother to see, chances are good that your potential new boss doesn't want to see it either. Periodically perform your own "online reputation audit" and search for your name in quotes on search engines. It's important to stay on top of what employers are seeing.