You’re ready for a grown-up career, but don’t have tons of experience. Here’s how you can still be competitive in the job hunt game as a recent grad.
Now that you have your diploma, you’ve finally sworn off retail and thrown in the busboy towel. Your resume is a well-oiled machine — clean, efficient and just a little bit sexy.
You’re ready for the responsibilities and rewards of a real-world career. But there’s a problem. You have the training, but not a lot of experience. You want to break into a new career, but so do thousands of other recent graduates whose resumes are painfully similar to your own.
Just like a number scrawled on a bathroom stall, many people have glanced at your application — but no one is picking up the phone.
There’s hope. Check out these lesser-known strategies to set yourself apart from the competition:
1. Rethink your niche
You have a degree in journalism, so you want to be a journalist, right? While this may be your end goal, it’s relatively unlikely you’ll land such a coveted position right off the bat, even if you’re quite talented. Your odds might actually be greater in other fields.
Take time to break down your core skills. Consider other industries that covet those same skills. The results of this strategic move are many: You’ll broaden your options with alternative career paths. You’ll have opportunities to advertise and leverage your knowledge in another field. Plus, you can prove to employers that you’re uniquely prepared to approach their industry with a fresh perspective.
Let’s revisit the journalism example. You could consider a job in the nonprofit sector. Grant writing is a core requirement for many nonprofits, and successful grant writing requires the ability to tell a compelling story. Grant writers have to research and understand many facets of the project or issue at hand, then distill that information to form a convincing argument without sacrificing accuracy. Has your degree prepared you for such a job? If you’re a strong journalist, you’re absolutely prepared.
2. Make the call
Most employers have moved their application processes online. Some companies have even automated their hiring systems and only accept resumes that have been copied and pasted into a Web form. Then your “resume” gets delivered to an anonymous HR technician who coldly decides your fate.
In these cases, it’s easy to feel like a shiny new penny dropped in the grass. You know you have the value — perhaps the penny is a poor example, but who drops a gold bar while they’re out for a walk in the park? — but there’s no saying when or if anyone will notice your online application.
You can remedy this feeling and make a good impression on prospective employers by tracking down contact information for a company’s HR specialist or the director of the department to which you’re applying. Reach out — preferably by phone — to introduce yourself and to confirm receipt of your application materials.
Doing so demonstrates you’ve done your research and are serious about the job. It also bookmarks your name in an employer’s mind, making it easier for them to pin you as more than just another resume in the stack.
Before making the call, be sure to check that an employer hasn’t specifically requested to not be contacted by phone or email. This is rare in most industries, but it does happen. And there’s no faster way to the rejection list than coming across as an ignorant pest. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
3. Give them more
When a company lists an opening, they can expect anywhere from several dozen to several thousand applications. It makes sense, then, that they only want a succinct cover letters and resumes. Anything longer than a page is overwhelming.
You would be wise to heed employers’ length requirements when you prepare your application. Exceeding their maximum, even if you’re highly qualified, can land your manifesto in the trash bin. But if you can’t detail your entire life story, starting when you won the second grade spelling bee, then how do you convey the extent of your awesomeness?
Include a line towards the end of your cover letter inviting the hiring committee to learn more about your work online. This requires, of course, that you build and maintain a personal blog or website with relevant, professional and current content.
Blogging can be time-consuming. But if you’re unemployed, you probably have time to spare. And the investment of your time can pay off. Think of your blog or website as a complement to your resume that not only showcases your talents, but also reflects your character.
If your resume is stellar enough to put you in the running, chances are good the hiring committee will take a peek at your website. And if they like what they see, chances are even better that you’ll be bumped to the top of the candidate list.
Haley Coffman is a recent grad who landed a job writing for eDegree. She spends her weekends writing a novella about a Spanish bullfighter named Isabella.