There is some good news for new GRADS in this challenging economy. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (www.nace.org), new college hires are expected to increase 19% over last year, and nearly 40% of the interns of 2010 received permanent positions. But with increasing prospective opportunities, students have to make sure that they are well positioned to receive them. Carol Watson, who heads Tangerine-Watson Inc., a New York City-based talent consultant firm specializing in minority recruitment, offers several tips for recent grads to improve their competitive standing in the job market.
1 Focus on your professional profile. While many graduates may have Facebook and Twitter accounts, Watson suggests that all college graduates need to spend more time developing their professional profile online. “Make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100% filled in, complete with a polished photo,” Watson advises. “Don’t position yourself as a student. Instead, describe the professional role you are looking for based on the experience you have acquired.”
2 Start building relationships. Whether you’re approaching possible mentors or reconnecting with professionals you’ve met, Watson suggests securing a professional e-mail address. “Then connect on LinkedIn and Twitter, but not Facebook. Send a note to the recipient about where you met or where you found them and what you are interested in and passionate about as a career path. In other words, in what type of role would you add the most value and why?”
3 Invest time in your development. “Spend at least an hour a week keeping abreast of industry information, i.e., newsletters and industry blogs.” Watson recommends using Google Alerts to stay on top of companies and high-profile people you’re interested in and Glassdoor.com for background research on companies.
4 Tell an interesting story. You may feel that you don’t have much experience, but whatever experience you do have should provide indications of your potential and work ethic. “On your résumé and cover letter tell the story of your journey and how and why the things you’ve experienced relate to what you want to do. Recruiters are looking for things that show innovation and leadership. That can be something as simple as improving some system in the office, or an innovative new idea or initiative that has been brought to management,” advises Watson. “No matter what the role, whether a cashier or sales assistant, you can always find something you contributed.”
5 Know your pitch. “Always be prepared with your presentation because you never know when you’re going to come in contact with someone who could lead you to an opportunity.” At a moment’s notice, you should be able to answer the following questions: Why does this industry appeal to you? What drives you? What specific strengths and skills would be valuable to the company? “No matter what the role, whether a cashier or sales assistant, you can always find something you contributed.”
6 Follow up. There’s usually a debate about whether to send a handwritten or e-mailed note. “It’s optimal to do both,” Watson says. “Within the first 24 hours, send an e-mail note thanking them for their time and reiterating what value and unique strengths you bring. If there’s any new information that you’ve uncovered since the meeting, include that, expressing an interest in a role. A follow-up handwritten note is always a nice touch, but make sure it’s professional and not too personal.”