Job Search Tips for Unemployed College Grads

College grad looking at job listings on a computer
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The news is filled with stories about the robust job market and historically low levels of unemployment. Does that mean it will be easy for unemployed college graduates to find jobs? Not necessarily, especially for graduates in non-technical majors and those with limited internship experience. Research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates that it takes 7.4 months, on average, for a new college graduate to find employment.

How to Get Hired for Unemployed College Grads

Take heart if you are one of the many college graduates who have not yet found jobs. There are many constructive steps that you can take to increase your chances of finding a meaningful post-grad job in the near future. Here are some suggestions for the not yet hired grad:

Contact your college career office and set up a meeting as soon as possible to explore options and make sure that you have tapped into all the resources that are available. Set up a telephone or Skype consultation if you are no longer near your college.

Do not believe the common myth on many campuses that the career office can't do anything to help you. Ask employed friends who have utilized the office whom they would recommend that you seek out for help.

Don't Postpone Your Job Search

Resist the temptation to take several months off from job searching. Postponement will only put you further behind other motivated grads. Set aside at least one or two hours a day, six days a week for job search activities. This will still leave you plenty of time to decompress or work your old summer or part-time job.

Update Your Resume

Update and fine-tune your resume and cover letters to make sure you are presenting the latest and most compelling information to employers. Have career office staff and other trusted advisors critique your documents. Ask employed friends to give you some feedback. Don't obsess over your documents to the point that you don't move forward with other job search activities, however.

Work at Networking

Networking works. It is absolutely true that most graduates who find work after they have left campus do so through some form of networking. Ask your career office and/or alumni office for a list of contacts in geographic and industry sectors of interest. Also, ask these offices if there are any social, cultural, or career events scheduled where you can interact with alumni.

Request an Informational Interview

Approach as many contacts as possible for informational interviews. Ask about their career field and seek advice about your resume and suggestions for finding opportunities. Request referrals to other alumni or colleagues in roles and organizations appropriate to your interests. Thank each contact in writing and keep them posted as your search unfolds since this might prompt your contacts to supply additional referrals over time.

Ask Your Contacts for Help

  • Meet with your favorite faculty members before leaving campus, if possible. Share any career fields of interest and ask if they can refer you to any of their prior students working in those areas of employment.
  • Ask if your faculty contacts would send an email to those individuals with a request that they consult with you about your career. Another option is to send a communication to those alumni mentioning that Professor Jones recommended that you reach out to them for advice about your career.
  • Review your list of Facebook friends who graduated a year before you. Reach out to anyone who is employed for advice and referrals to hiring managers at their firm.
  • Enlist the support of your family network, defined as the people who would be invited to your wedding and/or people on your family's holiday card list.
  • Ask your parents to pull together a snail mail address list of these folks. Compose a newsy flyer detailing some interesting developments in your life, like your travels, school activities, summer plans, etc.
  • Then let them know that you would like to be connected to any of their contacts in fields of interest for informational consultations. You have no idea who they know from college, their neighborhood, company, etc. unless you ask. Include a current photo or two with your mailer.
  • Ask your contacts if you can set-up a job shadow. If you hit it off nicely with any of your contacts during informational consultations, ask if you could shadow them for a day or more. This will give you a nice exposure to their work arena and the opportunity to meet some of their colleagues.

Enhance Your LinkedIn Profile

Create or enhance your LinkedIn profile. Join groups for your college and career fields of interest. Reach out to fellow group members for informational interviews.

Generate Cash with an Interim Job or Consider an Internship

If you need to generate some cash flow, consider getting an interim job that will not interfere with your job search and leave you at least some daytime hours for networking meetings and interviews. Service jobs that involve interfacing with the public can also provide some networking opportunities.

Consider working with a temporary employment agency if you are targeting administrative/office jobs. Once you are inside an organization, try to meet as many staff members as possible and work hard to make a positive impression.

Consider an internship. If your career research indicates that your chosen field normally requires prior internship experience (and you don't have any), consider completing an internship after graduation. Pair unpaid internships (you can often arrange part-time internships) with a paid service job if you need to earn some money.

Review entry-level job sites linked to your college's career office website and set a goal of applying to at least seven jobs each week. You don't need to be 100% positive that you would love the job before applying, so do your research and remember that you can turn down an offer if you decide that you're not the best fit for the position or organization.

By following some of these suggestions and engaging in an active job search, you can minimize the anguish of post-college unemployment and launch yourself onto a satisfying career path.