Advice for College Graduates

“O brave new world! That hath such people in it!” … but where are all the jobs?

Graduating from college is an exciting and anxious time for student and parent alike. Most students are thrilled to be relieved from the academic rigor but sad to depart from four years of a robust social life and friendships they have formed along the way. Parents look forward to seeing their child take this next step in his or her life, but are perhaps a bit perturbed that their newly minted graduate only half-listened when given the “you really need to be looking for a job” speech six to nine months ago.

First, some good news. Many college graduates have already started their job searches, and due to the fact that employers are actively recruiting on campuses again and hiring is up 19.3% for 2011 grads, some have secured new jobs. This alone puts them ahead of the Classes of 2009 and 2010 who missed their window for campus recruitment due to the recession.

However, a good percentage of this year’s graduating class is still on the hunt. Perhaps they didn’t focus on their job searches or were not as savvy on the best way to look for opportunities. Maybe they made the brave choice of majoring in English or Anthropology, majors for which most college career counseling offices are embarrassingly ill equipped to assist. For whatever reason, they are unemployed, on the hunt, and most likely living back in your house.

For those of you in this situation, here are a few tips you might find helpful:

  1. Use a variety of approaches in your job search efforts: post on internet websites, answer ads online and most importantly, network – both on- and off-line.
  2. Get comfortable with face-to-face networking. Have personal conversations with a variety of people (friends of the family, former college graduates, members of your community) to let them know of your career interests so they can be helpful to you. It never hurts to ask for a chat with a professional in your desired field over a cup of coffee.
  3. When you apply for an open position online, try to connect personally with someone within that firm so your résumé rises to the top of the pile rather than being buried with hundreds of others.
  4. Sharpen your communication skills. Do you have a 30-60 second commercial that will summarize what type of job will interest you? Do you make eye contact during your interviews? Do you show enthusiasm and express your strengths in a succinct and positive fashion? Do you send a thank you note to those you have met?
  5. Be visible on social media – in a good way. Create a professional profile on LinkedIn. And please, clean up your Facebook page, as potential employers will also look there. Many employers are looking for you—or performing a makeshift background check—via social networks. In fact, a Jobvite survey from June 2010 found that 72% of 825 HR and recruiting professionals polled said their company is using social media to support hiring efforts.


Remember, this process can be a positive experience if approached correctly. As long as you take the right steps, your career will be off and running in no time.

Sally Stetson
Sally brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. The Philadelphia Business Journal named Sally as one of its "2006 Women of Distinction", and as one of SmartCEO Magazine's 2010 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement award winners.

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