According to the New York Federal Reserve, 86% of students choose to go to college to improve their job prospects, but 44% of graduates are underemployed. And student debt makes the need to get a job upon graduation even more important. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 43 million borrowers. The average 2015 graduate had over $35,000 in student debt.
That puts a lot of pressure on students in their final year of school. And the pressure mounts as graduation day approaches. Here are some activities that will help you land that ideal job faster. In fact, if you take action before graduation, you’ll be ahead of the pack. Students who wait until June to start applying face more competition from all the other May grads.
1. Get clear on your goals. Don’t seek a job, pursue the right job for you. If you aren’t focused and clear, you will seem almost good enough for a lot of potential roles but perfect for none. Although it seems counterintuitive, the more you focus, the more opportunities you will have and the easier it will be to search for and find that perfect gig. Put strategy before action!
2. Get your digital house in order. This helps jobs find you. When you build a stellar profile with all the right keywords, you can be found by hiring managers seeking to fill jobs you don’t even know exist. In addition, when hiring managers are pursuing you, your online profile will be evaluated. If it isn’t compelling and differentiated, it will likely eliminate you from the running – even if you are the perfect candidate. To make your virtual brand shine, follow these steps:
• Evaluate your current online profile. Google yourself and see what comes up. Make sure it positions you for the role you seek and doesn’t do anything to turn off hiring managers and recruiters. Remove all digital dirt – unflattering, inappropriate or irrelevant content. Try to keep your online search results 80% professional, 20% personal.
• Build or refine your LinkedIn profile. Use a quality headshot (no selfies!), a compelling headline (include all the keywords you want to be associated with) and an authentic and differentiated summary (use as many of the 2,000 characters as you need to tell your story and capture the interest of the reader). Use the Experience section to highlight proof of the skills and accomplishments you tout in your Summary.
3. Network like crazy. There’s truth to the phrase “Life is who you know.” Most hires are made through a network connection. Make building and nurturing your network a priority. Here are some actions to take:
• Join relevant professional associations and attend live functions. Get to know as many people as you can. Volunteer so you have access to more members. Be prepared to talk about who you are and what you want.
• Connect on LinkedIn with all your fellow students, professors, internship managers, etc. Don’t leave school without a complete set of connections. Start to use LinkedIn as your single contact management system.
• Join LinkedIn groups focused on the type of role you are seeking. This is a way to network with tens or hundreds of thousands of relevant connections.
• Follow thought-leaders in your area of expertise on Twitter. Get to know them. Find a mentor who can help you with your job search.
• Follow target companies that interest you on LinkedIn and pay attention to what they are publishing on their company page.
4. Take action. Do some job searching every day. You may be preparing for finals and moving out of your dorm, but effective job searching takes a consistent and steadfast effort. Do something every day that will help you land that all-important first job. Put job searching at the top of your daily do list.
Perhaps the most exciting opportunity has come along at just the right time for members of the Class of 2016 – the LinkedIn Students app. LinkedIn took insights from their database of 400+ million members to help job seekers discover jobs that are a best fit for them (matching the student’s major with companies that tend to hire from the soon-to-be alma mater, and drawing on career paths of recent alumni with similar degrees). LinkedIn calls it “your personal job exploration guide, providing tailored jobs related recommendations based on real data from the career paths of hundreds of millions of successful professionals.” This tool is something you can access daily, and it will help you take regular steps toward securing your ideal job. Learn more about it here.
Landing your first job is pivotal moment in your career. Good luck as you embark on the journey of a lifetime!
This article was written by William Arruda from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.