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RoundUp: Getting Your First Career Job, What Works, What Does Not!

Ever wonder what it takes to get your first career job?  How are other recent college grads doing it?

JenningsWire features real life recent grads who tell what worked and what did not work for them in landing their first career job.

JenningsWire also asked the job hunting experts for their advice on getting hired as well.

Did posting about your job hunt on social media work?  Or was it one big blunder?   Did grads find that networking in person worked better than networking online?  If so, why?  Is it good to look for a job everyday? Is that a mistake?

What’s the perfect combination?  Find out the strategies that worked and did not work to help you land your new job.  Good luck (and if you land a job because of a tip or two from this article, please let us know. We will be so happy)!

Here we go:

Recent Grad:  It helps to know someone

Works:  I’m a recent college graduate (June of 2011) and was working in a professional setting within a month after graduation. I figured I could share what I’ve learned.  I found to be true what most people say to be true – It helps to know someone. I received my first job out of college as a Proposal & Marketing Coordinator via my Finance professor.  He sent out an email to his students on behalf of his daughter who was hiring. I credit having known him to finding out about the position. BUT, knowing him did not gain me the position. I was told that my prompt response (I was one of the first to respond) and my professional bearing during the interview process helped me earn the offer.

I also believe that knowing someone helped me acquire my current position, which I began this past April. I interned with a company that works very closely and co-owns a separate company with ours. Being able to reach out to my previous supervisor and have her touch base with the hiring manager (not to mention being able to list her on my application and being able to find out who the correct person was to address my cover letter to) helped immensely.

I’ve also found staying involved in professional organizations and volunteering with their committees (jobs committees can get first wind of job openings) or for other places of interest goes a long way. Not only will you exercise and build upon your current knowledge, but employers love to see that you were doing something proactive with your time during your job search.

Does not work:  Not including a cover letter with your resume. If there is no spot for it on the application, combine it in a PDF with your resume. Trick the system.

Does not work:   Not writing your cover letter to a specific person. In this day and age there is no excuse not to track down the name of the hiring manager. The days of “to whom it may concern” are in the past. Call HR, use LinkedIn, etc. Do what it takes.

Online services I’ve found useful: Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, Salary.com, LinkedIn

I don’t know if many people routinely check company websites for job openings. When job searching I feel like many people dead-end at the search engines. I’ve found an effective way of discovering available positions is to start by visiting your local Chamber of Commerce website to identify and make a list of the companies you’re interested in working for. Then, visit each company’s individual website and browse their listings. It also helps you quickly acquire knowledge about the company if you had little to none, and it looks better on an application if you can say you were seeking them out, rather than just saying it popped up in a search.

Career tips submitted by Communications Coordinator for The Medical Group of Ohio, Natalie Leber. You can connect with Natalie at LinkedIn.com.

Recent Grad: Be careful with your social media posts.  You never know who is reading them

Works:  Treating the job search like a full-time job and spending 8 hours per day searching for jobs, crafting tailored cover letters and resumes, following up, etc.

Works:  Opportunities never just happen, and you have to make opportunities happen for yourself. If you are serious about finding a good first job out of college, you have to put in the time and effort. You can’t just send the same generic cover letter and resume for each position. You stand out more by tailoring BOTH the resume and cover letter for each job, and it shows your dedication and enthusiasm by highlighting exactly why you are a fit for that particular job. You will get back what you put out, so if you only spend an hour or so each day on your job search, you are not going to get much response from good companies.

Does not work:  Posting about the job search on social media – Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.  You never know who is reading your social media websites. I assumed it was just my friends, so I disclosed a little bit too much in one of my blog posts about how I just had a great interview that I was really excited about and hoped would turn into a job. When I went to an interview for a different job a few weeks later, the person interviewing me mentioned they read my blog and saw I was excited about another job and voiced their concern with if I really wanted their job. It’s always good to be discreet until you have an official job offer because you never know who will find your Facebook status, tweets, and blog posts.

Career tip submitted by May Medallada, Public Relations Account Executive.  Please visit May at MayMedallada.com

Recent Grad:  After a long road of trial and error . . .

Stephen Rifai graduated from with a degree in Marketing and Management and he shares this after a long road of trial and error when it came to finding a job out of college.

What didn’t work:  Online job searches.  I tried going online and applying to jobs through sites such as monster.com, etc. and found that the leads that I was getting through theses sites were either for a job that I was overqualified for, or was being masked as one thing and then turning out to be something entirely different!

Example: Sports Marketing Position – seeking self-starter, very outgoing, and enthusiastic about the Sports industry.

Me: “Awesome! I majored in marketing and played Division I soccer in college!”

What it turned into: Me going to businesses door to door by foot inside the loop of Houston, selling coupons for sports packages. THAT’S NOT MARKETING!

What worked:  Networking, both with family and friends and through local job specific groups.  I joined some groups that were job specific and local. It was at one of these new member meet ups that I met with someone, one of the members holding a position within the group, that knew of a position at the company that she was working for.  It had not been advertised yet and I had an interview the next week! This turned into a three stage interview process and me happily working for the company five months later, still learning and growing!

Career tips submitted by Stephen Rifai, SEO Specialist at TopSpot IMS.

Recent Grad: Ask 5 professionals, some in your target field, to go over your resume looking for errors and ways to improve

Works:  I graduated in 2010 with a B.S. in Marketing.  I have found that the first thing you MUST do is have a clear, concise and easy to read resume. I had five people who I respected review my resume, some in the field that I wanted a job, some not but in executive positions. This helped eliminate repetitive words and really focus my bullet points for each job.

Works:  The biggest pointer I would have is before you graduate, have at least one internship in your field. This assisted me in landing all of my jobs as I had material I had helped produce in addition to work experience. My first internship was unpaid (which is common) and not for school credit but without it I would not have landed any position.

Works:  I also asked my parents to send out my resume to their friends. This got my resume in front of a lot more people than I thought it would.

Works:  As far as social media, the MUST DO thing is to clean up your internet presence. The first thing my current hiring manager did was look me up on Facebook.. I also have a Twitter profile and LinkedIn profile. Both of which established me as a credible marketing professional and allowed me to connect to people in which I would not have been able to without those mediums.

Does not work:  Looking for a job every day. I got frustrated, overwhelmed, and disappointed. I eventually set aside certain days as “free days” those in which I would try to network and read books that would assist me in my job hunt without actually applying anywhere.

Career tips submitted by Marketing assistant, Jackie Larkin. You can connect with Jackie on LinkedIn.

Recent Grad:  Don’t jump at the first offer you receive

Does not work:  Jumping at the first job offer you receive. Although your first job offer is not likely to be your dream job, you have to make sure it’s the right position for you. After graduating in May 2010, I quickly accepted a job to start working in July. I was so excited that I did well in the interview and got the job, that I convinced myself to take the job even though it was the one area within my career field that I wanted to avoid. I was miserable.

Works:   A professionally edited resume, cover letters and being able to talk about your experiences. Although you can know someone who may be able to get your resume in front of someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got the job. You still have to impress. Three months later, I got a job at a large consulting firm, as a result of a similar situation.

Career tips submitted by Marketing Coordinator,  Samantha Glass, with F&H Solutions Group, a Human Resource and Labor Relations Consulting Firm.

Recent Grad: Tell others about your career goals and aspirations

Works:  Networking. During my junior and senior year of college, I would talk to anyone that was willing to listen about my goals and aspirations after college. Most of the time, the person knew someone and/or offered to be a resource or future reference. I graduated in May 2012 but already started working at the leading global provider for software and technology for nonprofits, as a temporary employee April 2012. In addition, I was hired on full-time Jan 1.

Career tips submitted Public Relations Associate, Nicole McGougan.  Please visit Nicole at LinkedIn.

Recent Grad:  Don’t look for a job in a city where you have no contacts

Works:  Networking. I started networking with professionals while I was in college. I attended lectures, talks and conference opportunities to meet people in and outside of my field. From there, I kept in touch with them until I graduated, and that’s what led me to have the job I do now.

Works:  Internships (while in college). Prospective employers don’t just want to see random part-time jobs or clubs you were in while in college. So I went through two internships while in college, one in my field and one not. Both, though, gave me real-world experience, which helped when I was interviewed later by employers.

Does not work:  Applying to jobs online: This never worked. Going on a job board and filling out the form didn’t help me stand out to any employers. Even following up with a phone call didn’t seem to help either.

Does not work: Looking for jobs in a city without networking contacts: I moved to a city right after college where I only had a couple of professors as contacts. Since I was looking to be in a field besides education, they didn’t help, and I had no one to speak about prospective jobs in my industry or further connections to employers.

Career tips submitted by recent college grad (2012), Andrea Davis who now has a position as and Account Coordinator with a Website Development, Social Media, Blogger Relations and Press Management company.  Please visit Andrea at LinkedIn.

Recent Grad:  LinkedIn was the most effect strategy to finding a job

Works: I found that frequently applying to job postings on LinkedIn was the most effective strategy to finding a job.  Creating a LinkedIn profile allowed me to expand on the experience and skills listed on my resume. I could also display recommendations from past supervisors and endorsements for my skills/expertise. I liked how LinkedIn recommended jobs for me based on my past experience and profile information. It was very easy to narrow down the job postings by category, title, location and even level of experience.

Does not work: I found that mailing in my application to employers was the least effective way to find a job.  Not only did mailing in my resume and cover letter take longer to get to the employer, but papers can easily get misplaced and forgotten. I rarely got confirmation of the employer receiving my application, even during a follow-up phone call.

Career tips submitted by Alicia Erb, Paid Search Account Manager at TopSpot Internet Marketing.  The company has job opportunities at their site.

Recent Grad:  Pass out networking business cards, make it easy for someone to contact you

Debra Ann Matthews shares how she landed her first professional job after graduating by going to networking events including:

#1  Internship in London, England, at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. While in London, I attended meetings with the European chapter of IABC – the International Association of Business Communicators. I met the editor of the BBC and met a lot of practitioners who worked in Spain, France, and Germany. They impressed upon me the importance of professional memberships.

#2  I attended the professional association meeting in my topic of interest. I met President Clinton’s personal assistant who implored me to value networking, sharing my professional goals and not being afraid to jump into work force with my energy and to share my enthusiasm.

#3  I felt at ease circulating my resume at our local professional monthly seminars in Tennessee. Many of the colleagues sent me job leads via email from their companies and their networks.

YES! I was offered a position as a Career Transition Specialist. It took 2 years to receive this job offer, but in those 2 years, I worked various jobs while actively and consistently circulating my resume online, in person, at networking events, at one stop centers, job fairs, company employment information meetings and at church. I passed out my networking business cards making it easy for key people to contact me. Many would tell me that it made a big impression on them.

What does not work: Doing nothing. I understood from the PR professional at Bellsouth that it would take up to 2 years to locate a professional position. This dear man, by the way, called and left me a voice mail message with tips about how to improve my resume and assurance that I would be able to find a job. If I had not given him my resume during his speech at our professional seminar, he would not have called me.

I say, “circulate, circulate, circulate your resume, bio, business cards, LinkedIn profile, and FB content”.

Debra Ann Matthews, Professional Resume Writer and Certified Job and Development Coach, of Let Me Write If For You  Please visit Debra Ann at her blog JobWinningResumes

PRO’s Advice:  Google thyself, build your own buzz, present yourself professionally

Works:  Google thyself.  It may sound a bit narcissistic, but if a potential employer is going to do it, you should too. It can be surprising to find entries tied to your name at such a young age, but as data is cataloged and stored these days just about everyone has a few entries. Whether it’s the time Jane got her name in the paper for winning the town spelling bee, or the time she was involved in a DUI, nothing dies on the Internet. If knowledge is power, make sure you know what anyone with a WiFi connection can find out about you in a few clicks. Better yet, sign up for Google Alerts so that you’re notified when something new about you hits the web. If you’re more scared than inspired by the information you find about yourself online, there are companies that specialize in scrubbing your internet-self.

Works:  Build your own buzz.  If there’s not a lot of noteworthy news about you on the web, or worse, there’s something you wish was hidden a bit further down in the search results, consider establishing a positive online profile. Sign up for LinkedIn, a professional networking site, and complete your profile with as much detail as you can muster. Potential employers utilizing advanced searches to screen potential candidates want to know if you can make magic in Photoshop. It won’t take that long to create a free profile and it will allow your online resume to join the rest of the information swimming about the Web. This is one search result you can manage, so make it glow.

Works: Present yourself professionally. Social Media can be so much more than just a forum to post your picks for the next American Idol. If there’s a field you’re looking to get a foothold in, join online communities. Post thoughtful commentary. And for goodness sake, use proper grammar. Just about any job hunter is going to want you to be capable of writing to a client, customer or co-worker at some point. If your posts are rife with incorrect word use and punctuation errors, it will be hard for them to see you as a solid representative of their company.

Works:  Network… socially:  Many companies maintain a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Twitter. Find the fan pages for the companies that you’d like to work for one day, “like” the page and contribute to discussions. Glean what you can about the people in key positions to hire into the job you covet. Before you check your news feed for the photos from last night’s party, check out the job finding resources available through Facebook. From BranchOut to Simply Hired there are a bevy of job hunting tools that link with your social self.

Career tips submitted by Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service for consumers and businesses.

PRO’s Advice: Get a head start

Does not work:  Not getting a head start.  Students who wait until after graduation to network and apply to jobs are making a big mistake. Recruiters and HR expect to begin dialogue with soon-to-be graduates in the spring, and many go-getters will receive a job offer before they receive their diploma. Besides, getting started while on campus gives you a wealth of opportunity. Campus events are a great place to network, your professors and advisors are a great resource, and the career center is there to assist with everything you need.

While a bit of an over simplification, which sounds better to you, “I will be graduating in one month” or “I graduated one month ago”? The former suggests you’re eager to get out there and are being proactive in starting your career; the latter says that either a) you put your search off or b) you’ve failed to get an offer elsewhere (queue questions about why that is).

Career tip submitted by Rachel Dotson Career Expert, Content Manager of ZipRecruiter.com

PRO’s Advice: Never refuse to use your network because you feel like it’s cheating

Advice: Craft a narrative, not just a bunch of facts. Make sure that your resume tells the reader something about you. When someone walks away from reading your resume, what could they say about you? A narrative says something, facts do not.

Advice:  Every single word must earn its place on your resume. A mistake most people make with resumes is that 50-60% of the words on the page do not need to be there. It’s filler. “Cut the fat, and leave only the filet mignon”.

Advice:  Everyone has a network. Never refuse to use your network because you feel like it’s cheating. Top performers know that the people around them, help them. Invite people to coffee, ask them for advice. Follow up and acknowledge that you have taken their advice but also offer if you can help them in any way. You may be more helpful than you think!

Career tips submitted by Ramit Sethi,  of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. A personal finance expert for the 21st century, Sethi shares his best career advice for navigating these choppy economic waters.

PRO’s Advice:  What does not work is aiming too high with no experience.

Advice:  The quickest way to land the job of your dreams right out of school is to create directly related experience before graduation. I encourage students to write out their ideal job description and try to find ways to gain experience within those areas through volunteering or interning. This way you develop all of the qualifications needed for your desired role, and become a much more attractive candidate.

Advice:  What does not work is aiming too high with no experience.  A lot of students these days want roles in strategy, business development, marketing, product design, and product management, without working their way up to these competitive and sought-after positions. The reality is that you typically need to start at the ground floor and work your way up, or at the very least build up relative experience while in school through internships.

Career tip submitted by Megan Pittsley-Fox, GCDF Career Coach and Resume Writer for WorkLifeCareers.com

PRO’s Advice:  Build a personal brand

Advice:   Think of creative ways to show off your value. Since you’re just out of college, you might not have as much experience as the competition. But this doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Take  some volunteer opportunities, put together a portfolio of your work, or  record a video resume showing off your communication skills and  personality. Think outside the box when it comes to applying for the job  you want and you’ll impress hiring managers.

Advice:  Don’t send out your resume en masse. Every resume you send should be tailored to the position and show just how you can use your specific skills to bring value. An un-tailored resume won’t even get the average six seconds a recruiter spends glancing over a resume. Tailor this document for every position and find ways to stand out from the pack, like including links to other relevant profiles online.

Advice:  Invest in personal branding. Your personal brand can be a powerful tool to get you in the door of the companies where you want to work. Use the online space as an efficient way to brand yourself as a great candidate. Make sure your personal branding message carries across your resume, video resume, social media profiles, and anywhere you can be found online. Recruiters are searching for you on the Internet, so make those searches work in your favor.

Advice:  Don’t forget to get out from behind the computer. With all the new technological tools — from social media profiles to video interviews — it can be tempting to stay parked behind the screen. But in-person networking events are great ways to make good contacts and find out about job opportunities companies might not be posting about on the big job boards.

Career tips submitted by Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews.

PRO’s Advice: Every resume should tell a story

Another important element to a strong resume is the story that your various jobs tell. If you were a store clerk and then were promoted to a supervisor, or a bartender and then given additional responsibility as a bar manager, you should note that. Many people’s résumés lack a story. Some people would simply list the company and the time they worked there without properly documenting the progression that occurred during their tenure. The story is important, and employers want to know that you made progress in whatever job you were doing.

Career tip submitted by Bill Hobbs, the author of The WORK Book: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Get Hired.  Please visit Bill at Bill-Hobbs.com 

PRO’s Advice: Keep an open mind

Advice:  When looking for your first job, keep an open mind. Look at not where you are starting but at what you can learn from the position. Every job is a potential opportunity. I have an intern who now reports directly to me and who now someone whom I turn to for many important projects.

Career tip submitted by Elle Kaplan, CEO & Founding Partner of Lexion Capital Management, one of the only 100% women owned investment firms in the nation. Visit us online at www.LexionCapital.com

PRO’s Advice: Your job is to get a job

Works: When you graduate, your job hasn’t ended. Your job is to GET a job. Make a “job plan” for yourself daily. Don’t just apply for what is out there. Apply for the opportunities that interest you. Also, re-connect with all of your professional contacts. Your job is to let everyone that you know aware of you looking for a job.

Career tips submitted by Lauren Berger is known as “The Intern Queen” and Chief Executive Officer of InternQueen.com.   Lauren is the author of the National Campus Best-Seller, ALL WORK NO PAY: Finding An Internship, Building Your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience

Note from Annie (creator of JenningsWire):  I always look for “tells” that is, behavior that reveals more than a resume can tell me.  The big test?  I wait to see who follows up with me and who does not.  I respect the people who follow-up because I realize it takes “nerve” to call me to see if I plan to hire them.  And nerve is one of the top assets in the publicity business.  Anyone who works at our PR firm has to be able to pursue media placements for our clients by actively calling the media and this can be intimidating.  So for me, those who follow-up with me, have my attention.  And I also think it’s OK for candidates to sound a little nervous when they call me (this is actually a positive ‘tell”).

For me, I look for courage, tenacity and the ability to not give up under pressure.

How do I figure out if a candidate has these attributes?  It’s who has pursued their goals and dreams and achieved them.  It’s who has experience “going for it” as they have had to draw on inner strength to deal with the challenges that go along with pursuing anything you really want in life.  For example, athletes are interesting to me as they are OK with taking a hit (in our business that translates to the media saying no to their pitch), getting up again (moving on to the next media call going for the win) and always trying to improve their skill set (evaluating their own performance with the media and being open to coaching on how to be better the next time).  Anyone who has strived and achieved something they really wanted, no matter what it was or how difficult,  already knows what it takes to get the job done.  I like this.

By Annie Jennings, Creator of JenningsWire.  More articles by Annie here.