Five Steps for New Graduates in the Job Hunt

Alan R. Ludmer

Alan R. Ludmer

I see a number of new collage graduates.  I know it’s a rough job market, so you will need to work harder to find a job, and be more flexible about how you’ll acquire experience. Let’s cut to the chase; if you’re graduating and want a job, here are five steps you can take immediately.

Remember, outside of some education-specific fields, most employers hire talent, not majors, so your talents need to shine in the job search. The steps I recommend might seem basic, but they are the ones most often overlooked by new job seekers.

1. Visit your career guidance center before you leave college. Don’t just show up for a 10-minute “walk-in” and then leave frustrated that they weren’t helpful or “didn’t have a job” for you. Finding a job is a process and they will help you through that, but you will find the job yourself. Schedule an appointment with a career advisor, and arrive with questions about the steps you need to take. Verify what services you can still use after you graduate and then plan to use the services.

2. Know your strengths and personal characteristics.

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  • What experience have you already acquired?
  • What are the strengths of your education?
  • What career fields are you considering?
  • How do your experience and education fit that? If they don’t, then start thinking about a 2- year plan to develop the background you need to succeed in your chosen field.

Don’t have a “chosen field”? Then focus on how you’d like to spend the next year or two while you learn more about yourself and decide on a field. This is a time to experiment and try new things.  Don’t pressure yourself to know everything about what you want to do or find the perfect job.  Research various jobs and career fields using the Internet and other sources.  Move forward on anything that looks interesting. 

3. Create the best possible resume, cover letters, writing samples, and other marketing tools. Show them to friends, relatives, or anyone who will look at them. Make sure all typos, weak phrasing, grammar issues, etc., are gone. If you have “responsibilities include…” anywhere on your resume, dump it. Use action verbs and take advantage of bullet points to show highlights and accomplishments, not duties.

4. Create/enhance your social media profile. Not on LinkedIn yet? Has it been awhile since you updated your profile? Then that’s a great way to spend this evening. Create your profile and make sure it highlights your skills, talents, and successes. Watch the tutorials on YouTube, post a professional picture (even if you just get a friend to take a photo of you in front of a blank wall). Use LinkedIn actively—join groups related to your career interests, join your college’s group (many have alumni groups for networking), look at employer profiles, etc. LinkedIn can help you create a network faster than almost any other source. Clean up any lingering issues on the internet. Tighten up the security on your Facebook profile. Make sure your Twitter feed isn’t going to show you in a negative light.

5. Be professional at all times. The most common complaint from employers about college students is their lack of professionalism in three areas: dress; knowledge of company; and ability to identify and articulate their talents. So now you know what you need to do to beat your career competion.

  • Buy a professional interview outfit. Appropriate interview clothes vary according to industry, but it’s generally better to err on the side of too conservative than too casual.  Better to go with a blazer and matching slacks or traditional suit in navy or other conservative colors with medium heels or flats. No low-cut or sheer tops, and no high hemlines.
  • Practice professional responses to interview questions— you can find lists of sample questions all over the internet and on my blog. Know your three top strengths and present them as a story or in a conversational manner.
  • Research companies before you go to job fairs or interviews.

Job searching is a process. It takes time and you have to hear many no’s before you get that yes. Following the 5 steps above, however, should significantly reduce the time on your parents’ couch this summer. And, if you’re on the couch right now? What could you do instead that would add to your resume and make you more desirable to employers?

About the author

Alan Ludmer is the president of ARL, LLC; specializing in individual career transitions, outplacement, and career and executive coaching, search/recruitment, corporate marketing and branding. He is the lead consultant for the JF&CS LifeLine Program which has helped numerous members of the St. Louis Community successfully navigate difficult career transitions.  He is a frequent speaker and author on career transitions,  employment issues, and entrepreneurship. For more information contact ala[email protected] or visit his blog at