Source: Fast Company – work-life
Author: Stephanie Vozza
Completing your education and starting your career is a major milestone. While you probably held jobs before, looking for your first professional role takes a different kind of job search skills. It’s important to know how to sell yourself so you can land that first “real” job, says Amy Feind Reeves, career coach and author of College to Career, Explained: Tools, Tips & Confidence for Your Job Search.
“Finding your first job can be a numbers game,” she says. “You need to spend a little more time making yourself more attractive and understanding what companies are looking for.”
What helped you land a job you had as a student won’t always work when you’re starting on your career path. Here are four mistakes new grads make that can hold up their search:
1. Not recognizing your skills
When you’re entering a new field, it’s natural to think you don’t have any experience. However, Feind Reeves tells new grads to not overlook the roles you held in school—paid and unpaid. Those experiences can often be applied to your new career path.
“A lot of kids [have] no idea that they actually have a lot of skills that are very desirable in the workforce,” says Feind Reeves. “As an example, there’s not . . . a hiring manager on the planet who doesn’t want someone who is very detail-oriented, organized, and able to function in an environment where there’s a lot of pressure.”
Working as a restaurant server would demonstrate those skills. Feind Reeves suggests calling out those talents on a résumé.
Another skills students often acquire during school is relationship-building. “Being in a fraternity or sorority or planning council events at your college requires good negotiating and relationship-building,” says Feind Reeves. “Those are really sale-able skills a lot of new grads don’t recognize that they have.”
2. Limiting your search to online posts
Applying to jobs that are posted online is the easiest way to look for a position, but Feind Reeves says it’s also the least effective. “I recommend networking, which is much more powerful,” she says. “Nobody gets a job just by sitting behind their desks. Networking is scary, but it’s really just talking to people with a goal of saying, ‘Can I contact you in the future if I see a job at your firm?’ [or] asking, ‘Is there anyone else that you recommend that I talked to?’”
Start with LinkedIn and your school’s alumni database. Feind Reeves recommends setting a goal each week of how many people to contact, setting up a meeting for coffee or a beer or a phone call.
“Networking is a really powerful tool, and it can shorten your job search by a lot,” she says. “You’re looking for the jobs that have not yet been posted online. No one should be afraid to ask for their résumé to be sent internally because most companies will give a bonus to the employee who sends a résumé internally and the person gets hired.”
3. Focusing only on yourself
While you have to present your strengths to a potential employer, that’s not enough, says Feind Reeves. “That’s about halfway of what they need to do,” she says. “They really need to present themselves as, ‘Here [are] all the great things I can do for you.’ That will set them apart.”
Taking this approach can be hard for new grads because they may not understand what an organization does, what they would actually do in a job, and how the skills that they have could apply to a job. Feind Reeves recommends that students do some soft networking with people who are working at companies that interest them.
“Ask how their company makes money, who their customer is, and how their job ultimately contributes to how the company makes money and adds value to the customer,” she says. “That can help a new grad who doesn’t know anything about business start to understand and think about what people do in their jobs.”
4. Not demonstrating you want the job
Playing it cool and not being too enthusiastic might make you feel less vulnerable, but Feind Reeves says the job usually goes to the person who wants it the most. “They’re the ones who are going to work their hardest to do the best at it,” she says.
Start to demonstrate your interest with your cover letter. Be specific about why you want the job, such as the fact that the job is in an industry that you are excited about, or because it links to something that you are personally interested in, says Feind Reeves.
Then connect that interest to the value you can add. For example, if you’re going to apply to be a business analyst in a financial services company, Feind Reeves says you could say, “I know I can add value because I’m excellent with numbers and I love doing analysis, as I’ve done in several of my economic papers.”
“You prove that you can add value, you have had the experience of doing this, and you’re going to really enjoy it,” she says.
You can also show your interest in the company. Do some research and find something that impresses you. For example, they may have a case study on their website about innovative work they’ve done for a client, or they may have information about their corporate responsibility values.
“Find something that catches your eye,” says Feind Reeves. “Then as you get an interview, prepare to talk about specifically why you want this job at this company.”
A third way to demonstrate you want a job is to show how much you know about an industry. Feind Reeves suggests spending a couple hours each week for what she calls “professional development in your field of interest.”
“Find blogs to follow from companies and thought leaders,” she says. “Find a book about your industry. Be well read and know what’s happening. The more you know about the industry, the more interesting you’ll be in an interview.”
While it can be tempting to take any job out of school, you’ll increase your chances of getting the right job for you if you approach your search in a smarter way.
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