Ways to Help Your College Senior Jump start Their Job Search
School is back in session. For many parents, these are magical words, but they may cause some anxiety for mothers and fathers of college seniors. Graduation will be here before you know it and if uncertainty is still clouding the economy in May, what will the future hold for your graduate? Parents may worry that despite a significant financial investment, their child will return home jobless, uncertain or dejected.
Come graduation time, there will be thousands of young people looking for work. And the time to start preparing for that first job out of college is now. Here are some things your college senior can do to get a jumpstart on the job search process and set him or herself apart:
Networking is all about establishing relationships. People do it all the time without even realizing it. When you need a new doctor, plumber, real estate agent, snowboard shop or restaurant, what do you do? Ask your network for advice. During a job search, networking can mean asking for a meeting, interview, introduction or career advice. This can be intimidating to many people, but college seniors need to get over their fear of asking for help. Parents can assist by explaining that we all do it — networking is how the world works — and by helping their kids put together a potential networking list.
Most college kids are already familiar with social networking, because of sites like Myspace and Facebook. While these technologies are a great way for kids to stay connected to friends, they can also be useful in the job search. Encourage seniors to reach out to friends who may already be in the workforce to seek their advice.
As for the social networking sites themselves, all job seekers should set strict privacy controls to limit access to their profiles. Employers will often “look up” prospective employees on these sites. Seniors should also keep their profile page, posts and photos professional. A picture of last night’s keg stand might amuse friends, but it won’t impress employers!
Seniors may also want to consider creating a LinkedIn account since that networking site is business-oriented. Friends and family can help seniors make connections with others on the site who may help them in their job search. In fact, family and friends are a great source for networking. When kids are home for Thanksgiving, encourage them to talk to family and family friends about their careers. Uncle Ned may just have an “in” at your child’s target company.
Seniors should also visit their Career Development and alumni offices at school. There are often job and internship listings in the office, as well as information about alumni in the workforce who welcome being contacted by students. Getting together with alumni is a great opportunity for seniors to meet with people in the working world without having to make “cold” calls.
Before your senior contacts alumni, a friend, or even Uncle Ned, he or she needs to prepare. Seniors need to be clear in their purpose. What are they asking for: an interview, an introduction, or more information about a certain field, industry or career path? What are they hoping to get out of the phone call or meeting? Seniors should also do their homework — research the field, the company and the specific job. This will allow them to ask better questions and get more out of the meeting. When they do make contact, they should get to the point. People are giving up their valuable time to help, and your child should respect that effort. Emails and phone calls should be concise, and meetings should last no more than 30 minutes. Seniors should also write a thank you note (via email or hard copy) to anyone with whom they’ve met or who has helped them. And be sure they proofread it!
Find a Mentor
Encourage your senior to seek out counsel from someone other than you and your spouse. This person could be a professor, older sibling, or family friend — someone your child would feel comfortable asking any type of question. This person’s role would be to help your senior figure out what he or she wants from a first job, brainstorm employment ideas and give advice.
Build That Resume
Resumes are a great way for college seniors to showcase their strengths and accomplishments. It is the document that employers see first; therefore, seniors should share their “wins.” This is not the place to be bland or modest. They can highlight their GPA or their major GPA if that is higher. But resumes shouldn’t just be academic: they can talk about internships, work experience, impressive school projects, sports or club involvement, travel and civic or volunteer contributions. While these may not directly correlate to a senior’s dream jobs, they give insight into their personality and what kind of employee they will be.
Graduates with work experience — especially in their field of interest — have a distinct leg up on their fellow job searchers. A proven way for students to get targeted experience is through internships. Whether paid or not, internships provide students with the opportunity for gaining valuable experience as well as deepening their networks and evaluating different types and sizes of companies and corporate cultures. If your college student does not yet have an internship, you should highly encourage them to find one. A good place to start looking is their college or university’s Career Development office which will have a listing of local, available internships.
Encourage your college senior to explore many different opportunities: talk to lots of people and take meetings at places even if they don't seem like the right fit. They may be surprised at what they learn. For a college senior, there is never any harm in interviewing; it is always great practice and a good learning opportunity.
Remind your senior that he or she doesn’t have to figure it all out just yet (remember your first job?). Statistics show that most of us don’t end up at the job or even company where we started. The first job doesn’t have to define a career, it is usually just a step in the work journey.
If college seniors get started on the job search process now, they may not land their ideal job next spring, but they will have given thought to what they want out of work, researched different opportunities and established important relationships in the working world. These efforts will put them far ahead of their peers come graduation day, and help ease their transition from student to employee.