Many of us, upon graduating from college, treat the act of graduating, and the pretty diploma that comes with it, as almost shamanic talismans. We value the diploma as a not-so-minor miracle cure and throw out, with the trash, the real, lasting value of a college education: that huge alumni network, with all of its inherent professional opportunities. (Yes, obviously, the education received is more important in the long run, but right now, I'm talking about jobs.) Thus, if you, as an unemployed college graduate have your diploma framed on your wall, but aren't making full use of all of your school's alumni resources -- resources you paid for...! -- I'm going to suggest that you've gone into staggering debt for a piece of paper.
Not to mention that job-hunting is truly the worst. Job. Ever! It's exhausting, demeaning, depressing and frustrating. You have to force yourself to stay positive and focused, while trying not to burst into tears, in light of the terrifying fact that there's currently only about $4.00 in your bank account. So why not give yourself every advantage? I feel your terror, unemployed college grads, and I promise you that you do have options, and it does get better. Take a deep breath, come down off that ledge and let's make use of all these free resources.
- Your Alumni Network: Think of your college alumni network as a huge barrel filled with fish...fish who can pretty much get you any job you're looking for. (Hello, mixed metaphors.) Therefore today, right now, as soon as you finish reading this article, you should visit your college website, and make contact with whoever runs your local alumni association. Get in touch with that person, have them add you to their email list and make a point of going to as many alumni events as possible. No, you can't go and start begging people for jobs, but you can make up some basic business cards -- name, email, phone number -- and start introducing yourself to fellow alumni. Even better, if you're unemployed, you can volunteer for the alumni association. That's a free, great way to make a name for yourself with older alumni. The sort of alumni who are likely to help younger alumni with a job. Not feeling like volunteering? Okay, how about you still attend alumni events, and before you go, research the guest list, see who's going to be in attendance and where they work? Will there be alumni who work at the companies and/or in the field(s) you're interested in? Would this be an excellent time to put together a 45 second pitch about yourself and what you're looking for, so as to be prepared when you meet those alumni? Would this be a great time to start working towards actually having, one day, employment and a balanced bank account? You bet.
- On-Campus Alumni Services: Many colleges, understanding that unemployed alumni don't tend to contribute to their alma mater, but instead tend to harbor deep rage and resentment for a lifetime, have seen the light and are offering free career services help to recent alumni. If you graduated within the past 2 years, you should be calling your college's alumni services organization and asking what sort of free help they offer. Now, let's say, they don't have any specific services, or you graduated too long ago to qualify. Remember how you gave that school large amounts of cash money in order to receive your diploma? You're an alumni, this is an alumni services office: are you thinking what I'm thinking? Their job is to help you! (Your college desperately wants you to have a job, in fact, to have a great job, because you're a living/breathing commercial for the school.) Now, that doesn't mean you can call your school and say, "I need a job." However, you can research the industry you're interested in, get a list of the companies you're interested in, and ask your alumni services for contact information for all the alumni in your area working in that industry. You can then start reaching out to those people, presenting yourself as a new graduate and fellow alumni, and asking for informational interviews. People who remain connected to their school tend to be passionate about it and tend to be the type of people who will help other people, to paraphrase Barbra Streisand. Especially if the "luckiest people in the world" are asking, intelligently and respectfully, for help.
- The Public Library: If you're unemployed you probably don't have a lot of money, which is why the public library is awesome. You're trying to get a job, you just graduated from college, and you frankly don't have a ton of experience. That's why you need to know as much as possible about your desired industry, so you can position yourself, both online and off, to take advantage of all available opportunities. You need to find out the names of companies in your area, so you can look up other alumni. You also should research these companies, so you can see what their concerns are. Review trade magazines and websites; find events to attend and meet people; use social media. Does that sound like a lot of work? No, what's work is going day in and day out to a job you hate because you didn't take the time to figure out what you want to do with your life.
- LinkedIn: You also should be doing all of the above research, so as to have the information necessary to create a LinkedIn profile relevant to the industry you'd like to work in. I know, Kiddo: you just graduated, you don't have a ton of experience, you have no idea what to say. Okay, but you can still post a professional, smiling photo, with a headline and summary, immediately demonstrating your passion for your chosen field. You can still present yourself as someone who understands the values of your chosen field and fits right in. You don't have to have a ton of experience to refuse to allow your friends to endorse you for "eating pizza," or "pole-dancing," or "watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force." (Some of you think I made up those endorsements...alas, I did not.) You should also join any LinkedIn groups for your school, since people will post legitimate jobs and opportunities.
- Social Media: I had a client say to me recently, "I don't believe in the Twitter." And yet, the Twitter believes in you. If you're job-hunting and not using Twitter and Facebook, you're giving me a sad and wasting your valuable resources. On Facebook, for example, I'd urge you to like alumni pages for your college, as well as for all the on-campus activities you were involved in. Were you in a language club? Did you swim? Were you a College Republican? Awesome. Now, join all the relevant groups and pages because these are the people with whom you already have an emotional connection, the same connection which is essentially the basis for all good networking. These are the people you need to re-connect with, and get yourself in front of, since these are the people, who, when their companies are hiring, will do their best to help you get in. Help these people to help you by posting a concise and clearly actionable paragraph introducing yourself and explaining what type of job you're looking for, and what you bring to the table. (When you do this, and you end up with a great job, feel free to email me at email@example.com and tell me how I was right and you were wrong. I'll be waiting.) As far as Twitter, create a professional profile and start following the people and companies you're interested in. What are they discussing? What issues are important to them? What events are they attending? How can you differentiate yourself and join the conversation? Also, many companies tweet out hiring opportunities.
These are just a few ways to get started. The more you do, the more you'll be able to do. You paid a lot of money for your diploma. I'm guessing you probably worked very hard to get it. Now you've graduated, and it's time to put that diploma to use. Good luck!