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Four Not-So-Obvious Job Hunting Mistakes of College Students and Recent Grads

06/10/2014 11:48 am ET | Updated Aug 06, 2014
  • David Horen Passionate about products that solve problems

There is a lot of job-search advice floating around the internet these days, especially for college students and recent grads. Unfortunately most of it seems fairly obvious and not very thoughtful (i.e. check your spelling, dress up for an interview, be on time, etc...). That's why I decided to create a list of common yet not-so-obvious mistakes that are even more costly for young job seekers.

1) Not self reflecting to discover your passions and skills
Many students, especially as graduation nears (and the fear of unemployment grows), simply start browsing and applying to jobs as if they were shopping online. Besides being a waste of time for the student and employer, it often leads to interviews, offers, and worst of all -- actual jobs that a student finds less than thrilling.

A smarter approach involves investing time up front to truly understand your skills and passions. This often involves deep self reflection, conversations with friends and family, and reviewing previous life-experiences to find patterns and lessons. For many, this process is extremely challenging and uncomfortable. However it truly pays off a hundredfold because it can help guide you in a more successful and fulfilling direction. There is perhaps no better use of time in school or early on in your career.

2) Creating a resume that doesn't reflect your target job
When creating a resume, it is extremely tempting to prioritize based on your proudest accomplishments. The problem is that the person looking at your resume probably does not care too much about your thesis award when you are applying to a tech sales position.

Achievements are great and something to perhaps point out at some point, but employers mostly care about achievements that are most relevant to your target job. That summer sales job where you crushed your goals, although less exciting in the academic world, is going to make a bigger statement to your future employer.

3) Not using friends and family to discover jobs
Why bother Mom and Dad when you have a seemingly limitless number of jobs available online or through your college recruiting center? Technology has made it incredibly easy for you to find and apply for any one of the millions of jobs posted online. This may seem great. However, it has also made it easy for the millions of other people applying to those same jobs. As a result, many online postings get overwhelmed with applicants, making them unreliable places to apply for jobs.

A smarter approach is getting information directly or indirectly from the hiring source whether it's the hiring manager, employee, or recruiter. Friends and family are a great resource because they are likely to hear about an opening long before it hits the internet and they may be connected to the person who is hiring. Pro Tip: Create a LinkedIn profile and add all your friends and family. The powerful thing about LinkedIn is that it allows you see how you are connected to any company.

4) Assuming the candidate selection and evaluation process is perfectly effective
Coming from the academic world, you are probably used to being evaluated in a way that strives to be accurate and fair. I have some good and bad news. In the modern job market, this is almost never the case. Whether or not you get hired is product of many things, including how you present yourself, your relationship to the employer, and how much time you spent preparing for the process. Your unique skills, passions, and experiences still matter, but they are only part of the equation. Learning how to be hired, like anything else, is a skill that can be mastered with the right knowledge and preparation.

Take this opportunity to be smart in way you approach getting hired. Investing the time up front can greatly increase the trajectory of your career.