College graduates are all too familiar with the challenges of job searching in an economy that hasn’t fully recovered from its five-year trough. Every October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys recent graduates to determine their employment picture. The latest reported data, from October 2011, shows 12.6 percent unemployment for recent grads versus 7.3 percent in 2007. And although the overall U.S. unemployment rate has improved since 2011, much of the gains have been in lower-paying jobs requiring little skill or education.
As a result of this tough market, new college students and graduates have begun to adopt some clever techniques to differentiate themselves. They’re certainly more proactive than graduates were in generations past, but also a bit more creative than job seekers were just a few years ago. Here are a few techniques that the savvier grads are employing:
The Experience Grab
Not too long ago, having experience in your chosen field opened all the right doors. The lucky or connected student who could swing a summer job at the right place could expect, if nothing else, a guarantee of coveted interviews for her first post-college job. Now, experience is mandatory on a candidate’s resume and not so differentiating. The availability of non-paying to low-paying internships has leveled the playing field for many job seekers. So now, students are creatively looking for internships and making the ones they have stand out. Enter the studenternship. Coeds aren’t waiting for summer to load on the experience; they’re working on campus as student reps for businesses or working remotely for companies from their dorm room. I have my own social media college intern who I’ve developed a symbiotic relationship with; she helps me with social media marketing and I give her work experience and a little fuel for her resume. Being the smart intern that she is, she also asked me to write a recommendation for her on her Linked-In profile.
Top of the Heap
Of course, I’m not Amazon, KPMG, or Proctor & Gamble, so referencing my little company will only get you so far. If you really want to catch some attention, put an industry leader on your resume. To be honest, most employers are more impressed by the name of your summer employer than the quality of the work offered; or at least this will help float a resume to the top of the pile because of it. So how do students get the big name employer? During high school, some target an industry and go for the low-hanging fruit —the internships in the smaller, experience-rich companies. Each year these students advance to bigger, more recognizable companies within their field. An undergrad I know had attention-getting Microsoft on his resume by the time he was a college sophomore, with an offer to go back the following summer, yet he specifically sought out (and gained) an internship at Apple instead, to round out his resume.
Talking the Talk
Some job seekers decide not to take any chances when it comes to getting those coveted internships or their first post-college job. They learn as much as they can about their industry through connections and company literature, but they don’t stop there. They access information through the internet, including specific interview questions. When you Google “Google interview questions,” 291 million entries appear. That ought to give a candidate plenty to chew on while preparing for her first chat with company recruiters.
Websites have also sprung up catering to job seekers in almost every field or company. Want to know how to ace your i-banking interview? First buy a self-study HD video from Wall Street Oasis to gain the financial modeling skills needed for interviews. Then peruse the website’s online articles to find out How Not to Suck at Phone Interviews. The site even offers advice for what to do when pegged as a faceless number cruncher with How to Develop a Personality.
Using these methods of gaining the right resume-enhancing experience, the most ambitious grads should be able to land attractive jobs in a reasonable amount of time. But also consider a time-tested element gleaned from an interview with Football Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell discussed applying for an internship at the NFL and said he was rejected “maybe 50” times. He added, “I think they honestly gave me the job because they were tired of getting my letters.” In summing up his job search he reflected, “I actually don’t mind rejection, I’m good at it.”
Great attitude, Mr. Commissioner—one we can all learn from in today’s market.