How to Conduct a Job
Search in a Tough Economy
down your biggest fear about graduating in today's
How to Manage Your Career During an
Current College Grads Status
Graduating from college is supposed to be one of the most
hopeful times in a person’s life. Upon receiving a
degree, the world is supposed to become your oyster and the
job market is supposed to be a vast field from which you can
choose the job that you like the most. For the roughly 1.5
million people graduating in 2009/10, however, the prospect
is a bit different. While the dream scenario has been
true for many graduating classes, 2009/10 college graduates
find themselves entering the
job market at the time
when there is the least money available for hiring new
This is not to say that there are no jobs for new
graduates, as there are certainly many. What is to
say is that there are far fewer jobs, making competition
much stiffer. While many businesses will be actively
seeking 2009/10 college graduates for their enthusiasm and
malleability as well as their fresh outlook on their chosen
field, they will also be looking for the best candidates
available. Where a company may have previously taken on
ten graduates a year, there may now only be room for two.
Because of this, it is more important than ever for
graduates to find ways to excel and to stand apart while
exhibiting resilience and determination.
College graduates face the challenge of needing to
potentially apply to many jobs before finding an interview
opportunity. The truth is that even qualified applicants
will find that they are up against
hiring freezes and budget
cuts. This means being able to take not getting a job
while maintaining the ability to stand back up and apply for
another. When an interview is granted, be professional,
be early, and above all, stand out. Tell prospective
employers exactly what advantages you bring to the table and
be sure to point out assets that help you stand out from the
It is important for college graduates to know that the
economic situation is temporary but that finding a job is
important. Resilience pays off and accepting a job at
lower pay or benefits now may work well when the economic
crisis is over, painting you as a willing part of the team
even in hard times. In addition, for many students finding a
job is imperative in helping to repay student loans, which
can quickly default and permanently damage credit ratings.
While finding employment will be harder across the board for
2009/10 college graduates than for previous classes, it will
be different for people in different fields. People in
retail management, corporate finance, and banking will
likely have a harder time than people in constantly demanded
industries such as health care that are needed in any
economic climate. While there are jobs available in any
field, some are certainly more highly demanded than others,
and some students face the possibility of a job outside
their chosen field until the economic tide has turned.
In short, 2009/10 college graduates face many challenges.
With that said, however, resilience and determination will
likely be enough to help these new graduates find employment
and make use of their degrees. Times are tough, but a degree
is always an excellent investment, even in turbulent
Consider the following tips:
Evaluate your professional standing and key trends within
your industry, company, and profession.
What do you need to
change? How can you do it? How does your profession look
five years from now? Two years from now? What threats do you
foresee? What opportunities exist?
Based on your analysis, develop a comprehensive action plan
that will help you leverage your strengths and overcome your
Networking is not a post-layoff or
when-you-feel-like-doing-it activity. All successful
professionals incorporate networking as an integral and
active component of their career management plan.
Tradeshows, conferences, industry and social events, online
networking tools—networking opportunities have never been so
What is your value proposition? What is so unique about you
that employers will want to retain you irrespective of what
happens to the company financially? We all have something
unique to offer and if you can develop a powerful value
proposition demonstrating how indispensable you are, you
will be in a much better position that most professionals.
Invest in professional development:
This is the Information Age, an environment in which
information becomes obsolete faster than fashion. Through
continuing education programs and other professional
development efforts, it is very important to stay abreast
with the cutting-edge of your profession.
Demonstrate leadership and the
ability to take on challenges:
The economy inevitably imposes financial strains on any
company and under such conditions every employee is expected
to do more—take more work, manage multiple tasks, lead
projects, and epitomize "cross-functional" in every sense of
Try to volunteer on projects and take on leadership roles.
The key is to demonstrate how you can contribute toward the
organization’s success and deliver an optimal ROI for the
Update your resume:
Update your resume every month, if not every week.
your recent accomplishments and create a powerful document
that will position you as the perfect solution for any
Keep your options open:
With all the above strategies, keep your eyes open to
opportunities. Through a portfolio of job search strategies,
including networking, you should generate a steady stream of
Effective career management is an ongoing effort. Once
employers recognize how valuable you are, recession or
growth, they will do everything they can to retain you.
Nimish Thakkar is a sought-after career management coach and
professional resume writer.
Recession Proof Your Job Search
When the job market is tight, it may be tempting to cut
corners on your job search, but for the sake of landing a
position, please don’t. When it’s a buyer’s market,
it to yourself to put your best foot forward. To stand out,
there are three key factors you need to concentrate on—your
resume, interview skills, and a follow-up strategy.
for information on resumes
While a homespun resume would have garnered interviews in
the past, in a tight market you have to step up your game.
This isn’t a time to rely on a friend’s goodwill and use her
as your "resume writer."
Search for a professional—a Nationally Certified Resume
Writer or someone who works at a Career Center or One-Stop Center.
A professionally written resume can make the difference
between getting called in for an interview and getting
To ensure the best possible service, ask to look at the
writer’s resume samples. Don’t get caught up in all of the
hype regarding certifications and publications. This advice
may sound strange coming from a Nationally Certified Resume
Writer and published author, but I’ve been in the
career-services industry long enough to know that quality
work trumps credentials.
That said, you can and should add weight to the extras, but
the bottom line is that you have to be comfortable with the
quality of work you will receive.
2. Interview Skills
here for information on
Admit it. How many interviews have you gone on without
preparing? In a job-seeker-friendly market when companies
are clamoring for great employees, the "wing it" method
works just fine. But to compete in today’s market, you have
to invest time getting acquainted with common interview
questions and sample responses.
To get you started, here are a few
Many candidates have submitted their resume for
consideration. Why should I hire you over other qualified
candidates? Keep in mind that the interviewer is interested
in your candidacy. That is the reason you are interviewing
for the position. When answering this question, mention the
three main reasons you stand out from others. Depending on
your position, reasons can include your proficiency in
account management, customer service, and/or strategic
What do you know about our company? There is a difference
between wanting a job and taking a sincere interest in
working for the hiring organization. There are no shortcuts
to answering this question successfully; you have to conduct
What areas of your abilities would you like to improve upon?
This is a tricky way of asking, "What is your greatest
weakness?". Choose an ability that needs improvement but
isn’t an integral part of your job.
3. Follow-Up Strategies
for follow-up letters
The interview isn’t over when you walk out of the
interviewer’s office. Chances are, many candidates
interviewed for the position before you did and many more
will interview for the position after you. To remain
competitive, it is essential that you write a follow-up
This is advice most job seekers tend to ignore. And it’s a
shame because the follow-up letter can seal a job offer.
This is because only a small percentage of job seekers write
a follow-up letter, so those who do take the time to write
one stand out.
Below is a sample of a follow-up letter.
"Thank you for the opportunity to interview for
????????. The level
of professionalism displayed by the associates immediately
impressed me. Each was warm and exuded a level of enthusiasm
that is contagious. My initial impression of was solidified
during our interview. From the information you relayed
during our meeting, my qualities are a direct fit with the
Please know that I remain interested in working at??????????. If
necessary, I’m open to attending another round of interviews
to explore this opportunity further.
I can be reached at (631) 387-1894 or email@example.com.
I look forward to your positive response."
Following the advice above will make you more confident.
Confidence leads to more interviews. More interviews leads
to job offers. Job offers leads to career satisfaction.
So what are you waiting for?
- Linda Matias
Certified in all three areas of the job search—Certified
Interview Coach ™ (CIC), Job & Career Transition Coach (JCTC),
and Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW)
Mr. Endicott's Advice for College Graduates
So, what can you do to increase your chances of finding a
job in a highly competitive job market flooded with
experienced workers. It's a big challenge, for sure, but
there are certain things you can do to tip the scales in
Be Willing to Settle for Less
This is the best piece of advice I can offer to recent
graduates who are entering the job market. If you're
expecting to wave your diploma in the air and have people
offering you management jobs, you'll probably be
disappointed. Why? Because in 2009 and 2010 you'll be
competing with legions of job seekers who have advanced
education and real-world experience. The economy will
make sure of this.
So the first thing you need to do is enter the job market
with realistic expectations. I'm not telling you to aim low
in your job search -- not at all. I'm telling you to realize
what you're up against, and to be open to a wide variety of
opportunities. This is not the kind of job market where
you should pass up an opportunity just because it's not your
dream job. The next opportunity might not come for a long
time. If you have student loans and credit card debts to pay
off, this is even more important.
Leverage Your Network
As a recent college graduate, you may not have an
extensive network of business contacts. But you still have a
network of friends and family, and many graduates before you
have found jobs by tapping into this network. Here are
some tips for using your network effectively. In this kind
of job market, you need every advantage you can find, and
this includes your personal contacts and family members. You
never know who has useful connections until you ask. So put
your pride aside and ask for help.
Be Flexible With Your Location
Some cities have been hit worse by layoffs and
unemployment than other. So depending on where you live, you
may want to seek work in a nearby city or even out of state.
For example, a recent graduate from Wayne State
University in Detroit might want to look for a job outside
of that city. With the car company layoffs, there's even
more competition for job seekers there.
With this being said, you have a better statistical chance
of getting a job if you apply for positions where you
currently reside. Applying for jobs out of state (or even
out of driving distance) is much harder, because you can't
just pop in for an interview at the employer's convenience.
Take it from me -- some hiring managers won't even look at a
resume that's not from a local resident, and for this very
reason. So start local, focus on the places where you'd like
to live, but be flexible and willing to go where the work
Limit Your Living Expenses
You've just graduated from college, and now you're excited
to strike out on your own and make your own living. I know
how you feel. I've been there. But before you plop down a
deposit for the high-priced apartment, consider how it
affects your job search process. The more bills and
living expenses you pile up, the higher the salary you'll
need to cover them. And the higher you go up the pay
scale, the fewer jobs there are. Living with the parents
might not be the cool thing to do, but it could save you a
lot in the way of monthly expenses. That is, if they'll even
let you back in!)
Go Above and Beyond to Distinguish Yourself
When there's a lot of people competing for a limited number
of jobs, you have to work harder to set yourself apart. You
can do this in many ways, and it doesn't always come down to
past work experience. For example, a marketing /
advertising major who is looking for a job in that field
could set up a creative website where they "sell" themselves
as a product. If I were applying for a position would
show them what i have done on
You should also tailor your resume for each job posting.
This allows you to prioritize certain skills and
credentials to make your resume more relevant for the
position being advertised. Here are some more tips for going
above and beyond to find a job in this tough market we are
in. This one is a must-read for college graduates, so be
sure to check it out.
Communicate Better Than Your Competitors
I've hired for several entry-level positions in the past,
which means I've screened a lot of recent college graduates
who were entering the job market for the first time. More
often than not, I was appalled by their lack of basic
communication skills. Use the Writing Center! I won't theorize on how instant
messaging has eroded communication (that's another article
entirely), but I will say this. The few applicants who
know how to write a polished email and communicate well on
the phone really stood out. I often hired them over equally
qualified candidates for this very reason.
Get out there and make those calls. Do not rely on
email-Call them!. Tell that employer what you can do.
Do not dig a hole and expect the employer to come looking
for you. Those days are over. Greet those people that
can hire you.
Do not be afraid
Employers expect you to contact them - that is part of their
job. Let them know what you can do for their employer.
You'd be surprised how much communications skills can help
when you're applying for a job. In the past, I would check
resumes simply to ensure the person had the basic skills
needed to get started. Then I would used the initial phone
call and the interview to assess their communication skills,
enthusiasm, etc. I have turned down qualified applicants who
could not communicate well, and I have hired barely
qualified applicants who were great speakers and writers. A
lot of hiring managers feel the same way about this.
From Job Monkey.com
Here are five tips to ensure that
you set your career off on the right foot before you even
schedule your first interview.
1. The early bird catches the worm.
It's an old cliche, but it has never been truer. If you
wait until you cross that commencement stage to "commence"
your job search, you are likely to be months behind the
curve. Start your job search this month -- today, even.
A good first step is to meet with a counselor at your
school's career planning center.
2. Lay a strong networking
You may not think you know anyone who can help you in
your job search, but you'd be surprised. Start by
meeting with your professors and department chairs. Have you
interned or volunteered? Write down your supervisors' name.
Have you worked a summer or school year job? Get in touch
with your old boss and former colleagues. If you know just
10 people -- and they each know just 10 people -- you
suddenly have a pool of 100 people to help you find your
first job. That's the beauty of job networking!
3. The 3 Rs: Research, research,
Hopefully your college offers on-campus recruiting and/or
job fairs -- two great ways to start your foray into the
formal job application world. But before you charge ahead,
take some time to really learn everything you can about the
organizations you are dealing with. Read industry
publications. Talk to others in the field about them. Google
them! Make it your business to come as prepared as possible
to every interview. That way you will know what each company
is looking for -- and be better able to convince them why
you are their best choice!
4. Practice really does makes
Most college career planning offices offer practice
interview sessions, either in a group setting or
one-on-one with a counselor. Sign up for these as often as
you can. When your school is hosting an on-campus job fair
or recruitment session, sign up for that, too -- even if
it's not exactly what you're looking for. The more practice
you have with interviewing, the better prepared you will be
to ace it when your dream job comes along. For practical
advice and how to's, see JobMonkey's article on job
5. Flesh out your resume: Volunteer
One of the best ways to gain experience (not to mention
networking connections) is by volunteering or interning.
If you really want to get a leg up on your job search
competition, commit to a 20-hour weekly college internship
throughout your senior year. Your career planning center
and/or your academic advisor may be able to help you find a
suitable opportunity. Consider which career paths most
interest and excite you -- and also look for placements that
will allow you to develop new skills.
Check it out-only the highlights!
Last week, the National Association of Colleges and
Employers (NACE) released another round of discouraging
data. Fewer than 1 in 5 graduates who are looking for
jobs have found one, and employers are planning to hire 22%
fewer graduates this year than they did last year.
"You are graduating into a world of anxiety and
uncertainty," Vice President Joe Biden told graduates of
Syracuse University this week. "But these are the moments
you can embrace … only a handful of us ever get a chance to
actually shape the course of history."
History might need shaping, but now is a great time for
graduates to embrace the positive. The numbers aren't all
For one, bachelor's degrees are still vital for landing
jobs. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the
unemployment rate among four-year college graduates between
age 20 and 24 is 6.1%, while those with only high-school
diplomas is 19.6%.
Serious job-hunters also can take advantage of their
fellow graduates' idleness. Right now, fewer students
are seeking jobs than in years past. By this time in
2007, about 64% of graduates had begun looking for a job. In
2008, about 67% had begun. This year, only 59% have launched
a job search. That's about 130,000 fewer people competing
"Whether they've decided to delay their careers because of
the economy or don't realize how tough the job market is,
fewer grads have started job hunting," said Andrea Koncz,
information manager at NACE.
The Crystal Ball
Last week, Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke forecasted
that the recession would be over by the end of 2009/10. But
what does that prediction mean for job growth? The United
States recovered from its four previous recessions in
markedly different ways. Twice, the job market bounced back
quickly, and twice the nation went through a "jobless
Recession Worst month for job losses After that, steady job
1973-1975 December 1974 5 months later
1981-1982 July 1982 6 months later
1990-1991 February 1991 20 months later
2001 October 2001 23 months later
2007-2010 March 2010 here we are - the recession is
almost over but unemployment rate is still staggering.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor
Another silver lining: Several industries actually are
planning to hire more graduates this year than in 2008,
including transportation, utilities and alternative energy.
"The big openings right now are in the solar industry.
Anything green," said Eric Lochtefeld, founder of
University of Dreams, an organization that seeks internships
for students. "The nice thing is there's not a huge level of
experience expected because it’s a new sector."
Uncle Sam is also hiring. The U.S. government is planning
to hire 6% more college graduates than last year and offer
up to 60,000 internships.
"Not only is the government hiring, it's providing salaries
and benefits in line with the private sector," said Tim
McManus, vice president of education and outreach at the
Partnership for Public Service. "We're in a unique time and
place in this country. Graduates who used to look for
careers on Wall Street, for example, are now seeing that
they can have a greater impact in government."
For graduates who have landed jobs, how much are they
To date, the average job offer to a 2009 graduate with a
bachelor's degree is $48,515, down about 2% from last year,
according to NACE. (Parents who got their first jobs in the
early 1980s had it slightly better. The average job offer
for the Class of 1982 was $22,450 — or, adjusted for
To be sure, an entry-level salary of $48,000 seems high in
this economy. However, that amount represents only the 1 in
5 graduates who have already been offered employment, and
pre-graduation job offers tend to come from relatively
lucrative industries, including engineering, computer
sciences and healthcare.
In specific fields of study, NACE found that the average
job offer was $58,438 for engineering students; $57,693 for
computer science students; $46,973 for business students;
and, $36,807 for liberal arts students.
What about all those government jobs? McManus said most
graduates with bachelor's degrees receive a base starting
salary from $33,000 to $42,000, plus "locality pay," which
raises it between 13% and 34% depending on the cost of
living where they work.
Job seekers' increasing reliance on technology also gives
graduates an opportunity to set themselves apart. Those who
applied the old-fashioned job-hunting techniques have a
better chance of outmatching those who rely solely on online
"Students say all the time, 'I submitted my resume online
and I never heard back.'" Lochtefeld says. "The best advice
that I can give to students is stop playing the numbers
game. Things that worked 20 years ago before the Internet —
direct contact, person-to-person networking — still work
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