Career Planning

The Secret to Landing a Job after Graduation

It has never been more competitive for new graduates to find a job after college. This spring, 1.8 million students will earn their bachelor’s degree and try to enter the workforce.

In recent years, as many as 40% of graduating classes were still looking for a job within six months of leaving school. 49% of those who had found a position considered themselves to be “underemployed” and in jobs not requiring their college degrees. While America’s unemployment rate continues to decline, the millennial generation (inclusive of recent college graduates) makes up about 40% of the unemployed in the U.S.

For parents (and students), these are extremely troubling statistics, especially after they’ve invested thousands of dollars in their education. Fortunately, there are several ways that students can increase their chances of finding a job, and there’s an important role for parents in this process too.

Michael Sherman is the founder of Graduate to Employment, a firm that helps juniors, seniors and recent graduates navigate today’s intense job search process to find meaningful employment after college. Michael has over 20 years of experience in the Staffing field. Most recently, he led Global Recruitment for Bank of America, which included hiring more than 5,000 students annually.

“Looking for a job out of school is one of the more stressful times in a young person’s life. This work allows me to satisfy my passion for helping young people by providing nuanced advice they can’t get anywhere else,” Michael said. “Over my 20+ years of leading hiring teams in corporate America, I’ve been “in the room” when managers discuss what they liked and did not like about applicants and interviews. I work with students on employment strategies that help them stand out, leading to strong interviews and ultimately job offers.”

The biggest mistake Michael sees people make is starting too late in the job search process because the competition for entry-level positions is extremely tough. For every entry-level position opening, there’s an average of 23.4 applicants.

“One of the most important steps your student can take is to find an internship, preferably their sophomore or junior year,” Michael said. “An internship is like a 10-week job interview.” It gives both the student and the employer a chance to get to know each other and to test cultural fit.

Of course, all internships are not created equal. “To find the right internship, target companies that match your particular skill.” Michael said. “It is critical to find an internship that will showcase what you’ve learned and allow you to make a contribution to a company that interests you.”

If you’re not sure where to start, take an aptitude test. Many campus career services offices will offer these tests for free, and it is a great way to start understanding how your strengths line up with potential careers. If you need help identifying companies that hire recent graduates in the area with your skill-set, Michael recommends first checking with the campus career services office. The office should know which companies target their students and graduates, and may also offer a database with internship opportunities, or host on-campus job fairs.

Beyond understanding which companies hire recent graduates, students should solicit introductions to any recent graduates that work there now. Conversations with recent graduates will provide a deeper understanding of the company and the internship program. Make it a goal to regularly reach out to alumni at companies that interest you. This will also help you build your network.

“Networking is not asking someone for a job – but having conversations that will help lead you to employment options,” Michael said. “According to The Wall Street Journal, up to 80 percent of jobs are never advertised, either online or anywhere else. The majority of jobs today are filled by word of mouth; that’s right, networking.”

Here are a few questions Michael recommends students ask when networking:

  • Ask what they do. Do they enjoy it?
  • What’s your day like?
  • Do they see you in that particular vocation? (If they know you well)
  • How did they get into it?
  • Do they have any advice for you?

Michael also recommends talking with professors and cautions not to limit yourself to those whose classes you took. “Leverage all of your school’s academic resources. Ask them about their former students and where they work now. See if they have suggestions about companies or positions that you might be a great fit for,” Michael said. Professors can also provide strong recommendations throughout your career search. Make sure to take time to get to know them.

Think of your in-class performance like a prequel to the job interview. If you have guest speakers from companies that interest you, make sure to introduce yourself to the speaker, and follow up with a thank you note. This will help you stand out, and help you connect with professionals that have a connection to the school.

Because the internship is like a “10 week job interview,” there are several things students must do to make the experience worthwhile (See also 10 Tips for Impactful Interviews).  First, dress appropriately. Starting with the interview, assume that the required attire is a professional business suit for men and for women. “No one ever talks about someone being overdressed, but when someone walks in and looks casual, it shows poor judgment,” Michael said.

Besides dressing appropriately, make sure to really perform in the internship. In order to do that, have a clear understanding of your role and responsibilities. Treat each day like it is a chance to show the company that you’re making a meaningful addition to their team, and to their business. Build relationships with your peers at the company, and respectfully ask lots of questions about what it is like to work

The reason it is so important to perform well during your internship is because for many companies an average 70% of students that participate in their internship program are offered full-time employment.
That means that your chances of getting a job after graduation nearly double. Plus, you have also experienced what it is really like to do that job and in that company, making the chances for both career success and enjoyment even higher.

Another way to stand out in your job search is to build a working resume that really tells your story. What makes you unique? How are you better and different from other candidates that are competing for the same position?

According to Michael, “The number one job of a parent is to be supportive.” This means not asking, “Have you found a job yet?” over and over. Instead, ask how you can help. Offer to make introductions to people in your network that could provide a unique perspective. Once you’ve connected your son or daughter with someone in your network, then step back. Let the student meet with them one-on-one.

Additionally, be there “as a sounding board.” Take time to really listen and support your son or daughter through this process. “It can feel very challenging and stressful. Use the opportunity to reinforce how proud you are of them and what they have accomplished,” Michael said.

Michael ShermanAbout Michael Sherman

Throughout his career, Michael Sherman has been accountable for hiring thousands of recent graduates and students directly from college campuses. Leveraging his knowledge and expertise, Michael has coached and mentored countless college juniors and seniors to be in the best position to find substantive internships and full time employment as they enter the workforce.

About Graduate to Employment

“Graduate to Employment” is the most constructive gift a parent or grandparent can give their child as they begin their journey from campus to career. The program is ideal for current sophomores, juniors, seniors, and recent graduates who still have not been able to find that ideal job. Participants will differentiate themselves from classmates ensuring they are well prepared and confident for their job search process.

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