Whether you're looking for your first job or switching to a new career field, these strategies are fundamental to your job search.
Good news, class of 2016. According to employment-site giant CareerBuilder, this year's college graduate hiring forecast is the best in nearly 10 years.
A CareerBuilder survey of 2,186 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted earlier this year found that 67 percent of employers say they plan to hire recent college graduates – the highest outlook since 2007. In addition, 37 percent of hiring employers plan to offer college graduates higher pay than last year, and 67 percent are willing to negotiate salary offers.
Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, says that in addition to an improving economy, the rising number of retiring Baby Boomers is creating more room for advancement and opportunities for entry-level candidates.
To take advantage of the rosier hiring outlook, here are 10 no-brainer strategies every new grad should follow. These strategies are based on a career services webinar conducted by Saint Leo career advisor Nancy Cheek. You can view Nancy's presentation, "Advice to Grads," by clicking here.
1. Add your degree to your resume correctly.
Use the full name of your degree on your resume, including your major and any specialization you achieved: for example, Bachelor of Arts, Criminal Justice-Homeland Security or Bachelor of Science, Computer Information Systems. Include the month and year that you completed your degree program, which could be different from the month you participated in commencement. Add your GPA if it is impressive (3.5 or higher), any honors such as cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, and any clubs or associations in which you participated.
2. Hone your professional summary.
In a job market flooded with candidates, hiring managers are not as concerned about your personal career goals as they are about how you can make a difference in their organizations. Rather than have an objective at the top of your resume, start with a professional summary – a strong, two-to-three sentence marketing statement that explains the value you bring to an organization. Even if you are just starting out, you have skills and knowledge that can benefit the company.
3. Rock your LinkedIn profile.
More than 90 percent of HR recruiters and hiring managers use social media to search for and connect with job candidates. While you don't need to be on every social platform, LinkedIn is essential. So if you don't have a profile yet, the time is now. If you have a profile, strengthen your presence by building your network, getting involved in groups, setting up job alerts and gathering recommendations. (Visit 5 LinkedIn Strategies To Energize Your Job Search In A Tough Market for tips on taking your profile to the next level.)
4. Join professional associations.
If you are just starting your career, join the leading professional association in the industry you want to enter. Already involved in an association? Then join one more. It could be an online group through LinkedIn or it could be one in your local area such as a business organization or a Toastmasters group. Don't overlook your alumni association. Alumni associations offer events and volunteer opportunities where you can meet other professionals. Being well connected is imperative to being successful in the contemporary workforce.
5. Develop a top 10 target employer list.
Don't limit your search to waiting for jobs to be posted on employment sites and then applying. Enhance your efforts by taking a proactive approach. Create a wish list of the places where you would like to work. List them and then regularly scour their job boards understand the type of candidate you need to be to get hired there. Follow these companies on social media to learn about who they are and what they believe in so you can speak knowledgeably when you interview.
6. Create job alerts and work with staffing agencies.
Lay the groundwork so that when job opportunities matching your criteria become available, you receive notification via email on either a weekly or daily basis. Setting up job alerts on LinkedIn and Monster.com is a great first step. Working with a staffing agency also can be helpful. Once an agency is aware of your education credentials and your qualifications, they can match you with companies that have positions available.
7. Go offline.
While the internet and social media are indispensable to finding work today, high tech can never replace old-fashioned high touch. Get out and meet people face to face. Shake hands at job fairs and networking events. Even if you don't think a particular job fair includes any companies that you are particularly interested in, attending is an opportunity to hone your elevator pitch and practice your interpersonal skills. Keep in mind that networking events don't have to be formal; they can be social or fundraising events – a Habitat for Humanity weekend house building or a charity dinner.
8. Designate a proofreader.
Writing professional, accurate letters – cover letters and thank you letters included – is imperative. Always have someone proofread your correspondence – email or hard copy – before you send it, even if it's simply to check for typos. It can also be helpful if someone compares your letter to the job posting to be sure you have not omitted any essential requirements.
9. Keep learning.
Learning does not end with a bachelor's degree. In today's evolving workforce, the levels of education required continue to advance. Every field has some sort of certification that can give you an edge over another candidate. From public speaking to computer programs, there's always a new skill or additional knowledge you can pursue that could help you in your career.
10. Use your college's career services office.
As a student, it's never too early to tap the resources available through your school's career services office, and as a graduate, it's never too late. At Saint Leo University, for example, career services advisor Nancy Cheek encourages all grads to call and email her regularly. She offers to help with internet searches for job openings, to guide with the creation of LinkedIn profiles and to proofread cover letters. Take advantage of all the employment services your university offers. (Check out Saint Leo's Career Services page)
Turning negatives into positives
Going back to that CareerBuilder survey, the same employers who said that they will be hiring more recent college grads this year also voiced concern over a number of skills needed in the workplace they think candidates lack. Interpersonal or people skills and problem-solving skills were at the top of the list, followed by leadership, teamwork, written and oral communication and creative thinking.
Use this insight to your advantage. Throughout your search, always communicate professionally both orally and in writing. Be ready to show examples of your ability to work in a team and to lead, to solve problems and to think creatively, and include them on your resume.
The bottom line is that even though the new college labor market seems to be improving, there will always be competition for well-paying positions. Be prepared to prove that you are ready and able to fill the job you desire most.
Have any other job-search tips for new grads you'd like to share?
Image credit: Gustavo Frazao on Shutterstock
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