It’s unfortunate that this year’s group of college graduates are facing one of the most challenging job markets since the great depression. I’ve had a number of college seniors contact me in recent weeks for career advice regarding this unique situation. Here is the advice I’ve passed on to them.
Enjoy the time you have left:
There are only a couple months before your life will change forever. The friendships that you’ve developed over the last four (or more) years and the memories you’ve made can last a lifetime. But the days of everyone living in such close proximity will not last past graduation. Even if you go directly into grad school after you get your degree (like I did), most of your classmates will scatter off to other parts of the country (or world). You’ll have the rest of your life to find a job, but you’ll never again have the chance to develop these close relationships and create memories like you have now.
Build your network:
Take a look at the people in all your classes this week as well as the familiar faces that you see in the hallways of your dorms and the cafeteria. There’s a good chance you won’t see 90% of these folks ever again once you graduate. If you want to connect with them – now is the time. I still keep in touch with fifty or so friends from college which is a small fraction of the 800 people in my graduating class or 600 or so people I had actually met throughout my college years – and I’m big on networking and staying in touch.
So now is your chance to build your network. Yes, these people may just be other students but ten years from now they may own successful businesses, be leaders in their fields or have influence in hiring decisions. And with tools liked Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, it’s so easy to create that network and keep in touch with people.
Attend alumni events:
Check your school’s alumni website for events and get to at least one of them (more if you can). If you are looking for work, this is probably your best bet for finding a job. Yes, most of the people attending them are job seekers, but you’ll stand out in a very positive way and build your network by attending these events. If you’re not sure how to handle yourself at these events, check out my articles on networking. Just make sure you bring a notepad, something to write with, at least twenty copies of your resume and some business cards.
Establish a positive online presence:
Positive is the operative word here. Now is the time to take down any incriminating photos of yourself or articles with your radical viewpoints. Some people go as far as deleting their Myspace (and/or Facebook) accounts because of the postings about all the stuff that they thought was cool at the time but not so cool now that they’re trying to market themselves as responsible adults. Many employers will search the web and social media to learn about potential hires. So if there’s anything up there that you don’t want seen, then take it down. If you have question whether you think it should be taken down, take it down. Any references to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. or related photos should be taken down.
On the positive side, now is also your chance to put some things up that will help you. If you haven’t already, start a blog related to your field of study. If you have some examples of your works and projects, post them. If you’re a talented artist and/or singer, then post some samples – employers like well-rounded people. Collect recommendations and awards and post them on your blog. Get people to say nice things about you and post them as well. And search for your name on all the popular search engines and social media sites.
If you’re entrepreneurial.:
Now is the best time for you to start a business if that’s what you desire. Honestly, it’ll probably take the same amount of effort that your friends are expending to find a job, and you’ll most likely find it more rewarding. Plus, it’s a lot easier to start a business when you’re not walking away from a high paying job, worried about making your mortgage and car payments and have a spouse and kids to factor into the equation. Even if your business fails, it’ll be a good learning experience for you and you may walk away from it with some connections you may not have otherwise made.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.