If you’re a recent (or soon-to-be) college graduate, you’re probably already on a quest for that all-important first job. You’re likely looking for employment in the field you majored in, and you’re better qualified than you ever have been thanks to your coursework and degree. That’s the good news. The bad news is, your diploma doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find a job in your field, or even quickly. That part is up to you.
What Matters to Employers
Of course, the same standards from 30 years ago apply now: dress appropriately, show up on time for an interview, and know your stuff. But living and working in the digital age creates another layer of challenge that didn’t exist for job-seekers a generation ago. Success in the job hunt nowadays is dependent on how you navigate the digital landscape. Job seekers today are looking for employment in the digital age.
Now, as then, these things matter:
- Grades – If you’re trying to gain employment with a large company, your GPA is definitely a factor: 67% of employers screen candidates by their GPA. It’s less of a factor with smaller businesses, but overall, employers want to know if you are capable of excelling in a challenging environment.
- Internships – Employers like to see relevant experience in your chosen field, and one of the ways to get this experience is through internships. Internships help employers to see that you have at least some practical knowledge about how business works.
- Involvement – Leadership roles in organizations and clubs, volunteer experience, and even holding down a job while also attending classes will show an employer that you’re engaged in a larger community as well as able to multi-task.
Your Personal Brand
Like it or not, the job hunt involves a great deal of marketing, and that means you need to establish your own personal brand. Since it’s pretty much guaranteed that potential employers will do some homework on you, your personal brand will need to answer a central question: who are you?
You may not realize it, but you already have a digital footprint – most of us do these days. Your choices are to a) let your brand be defined by default or b) build and refine your brand yourself. I would recommend Option B. Included in your personal brand should be:
- Resume – Customize your resume to each job you are seeking, and use it to highlight your skills, capabilities, and education. And don’t forget, spelling, grammar, and design are all very important.
- Online Persona – More than half of companies use social media to screen job candidates because it gives them a reasonably accurate picture of someone’s personality. The type of content you choose to share, where you choose to share it, the conversations you have with others online, and even the content you create in a personal blog are all part of your personal brand.
- Interview – This is where you have the opportunity to flesh out the “you” that you’ve presented in your resume and online. Make sure that all three areas align.
Polishing Your Brand
Companies invest a lot of time, effort, and expense in hiring and retaining the right person for a position, so the more they know about a candidate ahead of time, the more cost-effective it is for them. Your GPA and experience might help push you into a pool of candidates for a position, but your digital footprint will help them to decide if they want to pursue you further. Up to 37% of companies are searching candidates on social media to see what other people are posting about then, and more than 20% of companies look at a person’s online presence for a reason NOT to hire them.
Be proactive. If you haven’t paid a lot of attention to your online persona during your college years, you’ll want to attend to that before you start your job search. At the very least, you’ll want to remove or make private anything that reflects poorly on you. Google your own name and see what comes up, and set up Google Alerts or use a service like TalkWalker to monitor your online presence.
And finally, make some contacts. Follow industry leaders on social media, reach out to individuals in the local business community, and treat every interaction as if it’s part of a job interview. Be courteous, professional, and appreciative.
So, you’re all ready – you’ve got your resume highly polished, you’ve amassed some good, relevant experience in your field, and your online persona is fine-tuned. Is there anything that might hold you back?
You might be surprised to learn that a lot of job seekers stumble on simple details. At LT, we have a very clear path toward employment, which Pat Heck covered in a series of posts on the subject:
These topics matter to him, to me, and to a lot of others out there who need to hire good, qualified candidates. The effort you put into your job search affects the outcome in many, many ways. The competition can be fierce – getting the details right can make all the difference.