Summer job search for new graduates – Twin Cities

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Amy Lindgren

Congratulations graduate! You finished school — got a job yet?

(Wince). Those may not be the exact words people say to new graduates, but they’re pretty close. Even when the question is better-phrased, it’s still wince-worthy to be asked about future plans within seconds of being congratulated.

That doesn’t change the value of the question: What are your plans, exactly? If the answer is something vague like, “I’m going to hang out for a while and then probably look for a job,” you should expect follow-on questions. For the empathetic listener, the answer sounds too similar to, “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing and it scares me to death.”

Try this answer instead: “I’m going to take the month of June to be with my friends before everyone starts working. Then I’ll start my job search using this 12-step plan I read about in the paper.”

Another wince might be called for here, based on that answer sounding so pat. Even so, just knowing you have a plan is enough for most people; they’re willing to wait for next year’s holiday card to learn how things turned out.

So – what about that 12-step plan? This is actually a 12-week plan, with a new step introduced each week, ultimately ending in job offers.

Week 1. Confirm what you want to do now that you’ve graduated. Job? Internship? More school? Business startup? The steps in this plan describe a job search, but they can be modified for internships and business startup as well.

Week 2. Decide what you want to work in/as. A general topic or concept, such as “technology” or “nonprofit work” will suffice, as the next steps involve honing the decision. If you can’t come up with even a general idea, ask a career advisor for suggestions. At this stage, any idea is better than none; you have to start somewhere.

Weeks 3 and 4. Research your idea thoroughly, using Internet searches, government studies and statistics (start with and, industry magazines and newsletters, informational interviews, etc. Don’t forget to talk with your teachers and the career center at your school.

Week 5. Clarify the actual job target. For example, IT project manager instead of “technology,” or development officer instead of “nonprofit work.” Having a specific title helps you uncover lesser-known opportunities.

Week 6. Make a list of all the people you can contact as part of your network. Dig deep to include past or current bosses, neighbors, your parents’ friends, high school coaches, teachers, etc. You can use this list for bcc group emails asking for generalized help (“Does anyone have a contact for me at xyz Company?”) or for individual requests for advice.

Week 7. List all the companies you can envision working at. You can build this list by conducting an Internet search, referring to industry directories, talking with advisors, etc. In the following weeks, you’ll be reaching out to these organizations to ask for meetings and interviews, so concentrate on finding the names of relevant department managers whenever possible. Refer to your contact list from Week 6 for help on this step.

Week 8. Finalize your résumé and a template cover letter, as well as your LinkedIn profile. Chances are, you’ve already developed these materials. Now is the time to revise them to incorporate the information from your research, such as the skills favored by your target employers.

Weeks 9-11. Send out your résumé and letter (by email or post) to 10 department managers each week; follow up in a day or two with a call asking for a meeting to discuss the possibility of working in their department. Track your results so you know who to follow up with.

Week 12. If you have no strong prospects at this stage, pick up a part-time or interim job while you fine-tune your search methods. Then talk with a job search strategist to look for flaws in your process.

Now that you have a schedule of steps, here are five pitfalls to watch out for:

1) Delaying the decisions needed in the first weeks; 2) Relying primarily on online postings; 3) Disregarding campus resources; 4) Not using your personal network.

And 5, the biggest pitfall: Giving up. It’s disorienting to be on your own, talking to new people and trying to fit into the work world. If you find yourself slowing down or dropping the process altogether, it’s time to get help. Timely feedback and advice from a family friend or professional career advisor can be all that’s needed to keep you on track.

Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at [email protected].

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