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Tough Love Tips for College Seniors Entering the Job Market

Hannah P. Morgan

Graduation is a time for celebration. It also induces stress resulting from uncertainty about which career path to embark on, the pressure to land an enviable job, and even the fear of living at home without a job.

The good news is that this year's graduates are predicted to fare better than those graduating in previous years have. According to a recent Job Outlook survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers plan to hire 13 percent more new college graduates than they did last year from the Class of '12. The bad news is we are still in a competitive job market. It is going to require more work and effort to land that first job out of college. Spraying and praying your resume all over isn't enough.

The real world's first lesson. Time is scarce. Between taking final exams, writing papers, and enjoying your last days with your campus friends, it may not seem possible to cram anything else into your schedule. Welcome to the real world where time is limited and your first priority is having an income. You will find a way to create and launch your campaign for a job. What other choice is there?

Get job search smart. If you haven't looked for a job before, then it is fair to say you don't know how the game is played. In the remaining time on campus, seek out job-search workshops, read current books by respected authors, and talk to recent graduates who have secured jobs to learn how they beat the odds. Learn the art and science of interviewing, learn how to build an online reputation and how to network. These are valuable life skills that will always need development and updating.

Do more than just apply online. Conventional wisdom suggests that all you have to do is apply for a job. The harsh reality is that you will compete against hundreds of others doing the same thing to get that one job. Applying for a job is now only one step in the process. To stand out, you must find people inside the hiring company to refer you. How? Through networking.

Alumni goldmine. You share something in common with thousands of others who have graduated from your college. Sharing the same school name can be a powerful connection and one that can open doors. You can find alumni on LinkedIn groups, through your school's magazine or newsletter, even on Facebook. Many alumni even return to campus for events. Seek out alumni who are in your field or area of focus and ask for their professional advice.

Ask for wisdom, not a job. You're looking for a chance to break into the workforce. It may be helpful to learn what a day in the life of the jobs you're interested in really looks like. The best way to acquire this information is by speaking with people who have held those jobs. Advice is something we love to administer. Most of us do not have a pool of jobs we can offer, therefore, asking for advice is more likely to result in a positive conversation than asking for job.

Get real. You are not likely to land your dream job right out of college. In fact, your first several jobs are stepping stones. Learn from each experience what you like to do and what you don't. Don't hold out for the "perfect" job. The longer you are out of work, the tougher it may be. Build skills and experience any chance you can get.

Show your skills. Experience trumps education for most employers. This means you should highlight internships, summer employment, and any other work experience on your applications, resume and LinkedIn profile.

Will you be lucky? Luck does have something to do with it, but not as much as you think. Those enviable graduates who secured a job did something right: they knew someone who gave them their first break, they had an internship which gave them valuable real-world experience, or they happened to be at the right place at the right time. Vary your job search tactics. Have more conversations with people in your desired field. Don't just ask for someone to give you are break. Prove you are the person worth investing in.

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.

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