As a former Career Services Director, and Regional Job Development Specialist, for two colleges, my first piece of advice to any new Grad is to jump-start your job search, 60-days prior to graduation.
While some grads may choose to "take a break" after completing their degree program, it would be ill-advised to do so. Some people lose momentum and become less motivated during downtime.
A job search could take some time, and the search process is a semi-downtime period, as you are not in college and you don't have a job yet.
It's important to have realistic expectations and remain optimistic during the process. It could take up to six-months and what seems like a heap of rejection. Take it in stride and focus on the end result, which is securing gainful employment.
Avoid anxious or obsessive behavior in frantically searching for a job, as this may create stress. It will happen for you, just be patient and persistent.
The following tips have been very successful in "real life" for new grads seeking their first career position.
Tip #1 Resume Writing:
Experience as a Volunteer counts. If your only jobs were in retail or fast-food? Customer Service experience counts, and such jobs should be listed on your resume as "Customer Service" versus "Clerk" or "Cashier."
Search online to find various styles of resume templates or create your own. It's perfectly okay to review sample resumes in your desired field to use as a guideline, in creating your personal resume.
Consider some of your college coursework as valuable experience where applicable.
Tip #2 Job Search:
Before sending your resume to a company, take a moment to review the company's website for details about its mission or philosophy. Read the job description carefully and measure which job duties are within your skill-set.
Aimlessly sending out resumes for jobs that you are not close to qualifying for, is time consuming and may lead to further rejection.
Where required send a cover letter along with your resume. Create fresh cover letters for different jobs. Don't cut corners with a blanket cover letter, unless the job duties are virtually the same.
An easy way to create a cover letter is to select four duties from the job description, and match each duty with your professional or college experience, as it pertains to successfully handling the job function.
Tip #3 Networking:
Check with relatives and friends of your family to find out about possible jobs available where they work, or if any of their business associates have any job leads.
Check out your local business Chamber of Commerce for networking events or mixers to make contacts. If the job industry that you seek has a local association of professionals, check its website for job leads or networking events.
Tip #4 Out of the box job search:
Checking job boards are the primary search option for employment. In addition, newspapers, job fairs, and non-fee staffing firms, are other options. Search online to find a list of the top companies in your City or State and comb those websites for entry level jobs.
It's a good way to find unadvertised jobs with respect to job boards. Getting your foot in the door at a great company could have much potential for future promotion within the company.
Tip #5 Job Interview Process:
Dress like a professional, be well groomed and cover tattoos whenever possible. People don't get fired for having tattoos, but may be labelled at the interview as an applicant with excessive tattoos.
Search online for Top 10 or Top 20, most commonly asked job interview questions. These questions vary greatly depending on the industry, medical, business, legal, finance, IT, social service etc. Check out this Forbes link.
Write your personal answer for each of the common questions. Memorize the answer much like you would do for a test. This way you have concise, well thought out answers ready.
Even a seasoned pro can fumble with interview questions. If you nail those questions with strong answers, you can actually outshine the fumbling pro.
Tip #6 Starting Salary:
Be flexible. Check out salary.com or other salary websites to see the "suggested" starting salary for the position, in your state. Again, be flexible.
Tip #7 You got the job! Now what?
Celebrate! Be prepared to follow a work schedule and be on time! Leave home early, and don't rush, this way you arrive at work calm and relaxed.
Read the company's organizational guidelines and code of business conduct very closely, to avoid breaking the company's rules. This is usually discussed at orientation.
Be careful or avoid surfing the web while at work, even on lunch or breaks, some companies monitor web and email activity.
Avoid sending personal email messages from your company email.
Be friendly, approachable and professional. Learn as much as you can if the company provides training. Do not take constructive criticism by a supervisor personally, use it as a learning experience, make the correction, and keep moving forward.
Work smart, master your job no matter what it is, and look forward to other positions within the company in 12-16 months.