It’s that time of year. Graduations, caps & gowns, prominent speakers with words of wisdom to inspire newly minted grads as they enter the real world, such as “Go for your dream job!" What does a dream job look like to a recent college or MBA grad? How can a job seeker connect the dots of a dream job with the reality of finding actual job openings?
This year looks to be a promising one for undergraduate and graduate students. In a recent survey from the National Association of College and Employers (NACE), hiring managers plan to hire 11 percent more college graduates than last year, and 42% of hiring managers characterized the job market for the class of 2016 as very good or excellent.
Although the statistics may look rosy, it’s a daunting task for you the job seeker to buckle down to look for a job and find one that fits your talents and interests. Your first job doesn’t have to be perfect, but through a strategic and structured job search, you can set your sights high and uncover terrific open positions that will start you on a path to a successful career.
For many industries and companies, you need to be proactive and seek out opportunities on your own. Although it may feel like finding a pearl in a boundless ocean, these job opportunities can be well worth the effort.
Here are 6 steps to make a game plan for Job Search 2016:
Set up a System to Stay Organized and Keep Track of Your Job Search. The more resources available, the harder it is to get started. A Pew Research Center Study recently found 79% of job seekers are using the Internet for job search and 80% are using professional and personal contacts, close friends and family, and distant personal connections. Through our work as career advisors at Weil & Wein, my business partner, Susan Weil, and I discovered that the biggest frustration for job seekers was the vast number of resources, both online, such as job boards and networking sites, and “old school”, such as career fairs. Although online job boards and career sites have made finding job postings a lot easier, the job search itself has become more daunting. Job seekers are looking for a “how-to” guide for a successful job search.
Jobtreks was developed to help job seekers streamline and organize their job search. Think Salesforce.com for job search: Jobtreks is a personal platform for job seekers to structure and build all parts of job search – target companies, contacts, job postings, documents, correspondence, and interview prep in one place. Four of the five top ranked MBA programs in the U.S. are now licensing Jobtreks for their current business school students.
Make a List of Target Companies. Think outside of the box. This list can include “wish list” companies, firms suggested by your friends or professional network, and companies found from a Google search. Make a target list of companies first without focusing on job postings. Do you love sports, music or video games? Your target list could include ESPN, Spotify and Zynga.
Example – a recent college graduate who majored in psychology and studied human behavior was interested in Media and Consumer Products. Her target list included L’Oreal, Etsy, Pepsi and Dylan’s Candy Bar, all companies with open positions and/or training programs in marketing and sales for recent college graduates. By creating this list, then investigating openings at these companies, she received a terrific job offer.
Look for Job Openings at Target Companies. So, if real estate development is where your passion lies, next step is to start looking on a real estate company’s website or put that company’s name in a job board search box. If you find a posting, turn your attention to your network. If can’t find a posting, keep the company on your target list. Job search involves continually moving parts, and you never know when a position will open up at that company.
Network into Your Target List. Everyone has a network. The process just involves a little detective work on your part. For each target company, try to find a contact that can provide an introduction. Use LinkedIn, your school’s alumni directory, and ask your career office if there are current students at your school who worked or interned at that company. Don’t overlook personal friends and family members — you never know whom they know! For LinkedIn, first connections are best, but it is also helpful to identify second degree connections. Reach out to the connection you have in common and ask for an introduction to the person at your target company. Offer to draft the email introduction to make it easier for your contact to help you.
Plan Your “Ask” When Networking. Once you identify contacts that can help you at a target company, be strategic in what you are asking for. In general, people are usually willing to help others —even strangers. However, the big limitation is people don’t have a lot of time to help. Do the heavy lifting before you reach out and have a specific ask. Instead of:
“Can we set up a call so I can hear your insight on jobs at Amazon”, try
“I am applying to the following position at Amazon (include a link to the job posting). Are you available for a quick call so I can hear your insights about the position or the firm’s culture? Or can you introduce me to the person who is in a hiring capacity for this role?”
Most busy people are happy to introduce you to HR, which often results in an interview. If you set up your “ask" correctly, you will get what you really need, namely an endorsed introduction to the person who decides who gets interviewed.
Keep Notes on the Job Search Process. Not every email or outreach leads to the immediate result you want today. Job search is an ongoing project, for which one action step or correspondence leads to success down the road. Think of it as planting seeds for future growth. Make sure you track where you planted the seeds.