THE BLOG
06/09/2014 07:20 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2014

College Grads: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Marketability As You Enter the Job Market

Congratulations! You've completed your college degree...today is the first day of the rest of your life. Now that you've graduated...are you prepared to enter the job market?

Statistically, nearly 40 percent of graduates are unemployed, and 16 percent are in part-time positions. The hiring process can take months, and getting a jump start, especially with little to no experience, can take even longer.

Sure you've attended classes and read numerous textbooks on the topic; but, how is your MARKETABILITY as you begin your career search? New graduates are facing an extraordinarily competitive employment market; therefore, as a new grad, you must be creative and innovative in order to stand out from the crowd.

Because competition is so intense, employers today are looking for new graduates with the "WOW" factor or total package. In essence, companies both small and large, are looking for top talent. In addition to your college degree, you must also demonstrate marketability as you enter the job market.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Build a website to centralize your work profile. It will enable you to refer prospective hiring managers to your site to review your credentials then as you develop your career, keep it updated with new projects or freelance work, advanced studies, skills and examples of your work.

Think about adding a QR code (Quick Response Code) for your resume that would link your profile to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google's Android, iPhone/iPod/iPad devices and other systems to show employers that you are up on the latest trends. The fact that you have a presence on the platform, it says to potentially interested employers that you are serious about your career and that you know what it takes to get their attention.

Graduates, your resume should be no more than one page unless you have an exceptional amount of experience. Why? The average amount of time hiring managers spend reading resumes is less than one minute. There is every chance that your resume will go through a keyword database scanning system, so the format and keywords you use should be relevant.

Open yourself up to a broad range of possibilities. 42 percent of employers plan to hire temporary or contract workers in 2014, up from last year.

If you are offered a part-time or temporary position, accept it. It could lead to a full-time placement. Immerse yourself in your field by getting involved in organizations related to what you have studied. Read industry-related publications or posts on the Internet and join professional groups online or offline.

2. Leverage social media. Your ability to create compelling content is integral to your success. In today's fast-paced digital landscape, companies are desperate for employees who can create it quickly and effectively. Social media is a great tool to present your experience to many different professional audiences and expect to be judged by your words and deeds as a reflection of your character and reliability.

Take advantage of your network by making it personal. Reach out to professors, co-workers, your parents' friends -- anyone who can assist you with your job search. Networking is about building relationships. In addition, alert former employers that you have graduated and are looking for employment. Look for networking opportunities through local groups that cater to people in your industry. Keep in mind that while you are scouring the web for that great career, employers will navigating the Web to find information about you such as your credit scores, Facebook postings, group memberships and more.

3. Seek out internships. Don't think that you can't intern just because you are no longer a student. If you are having difficulty finding a job, don't hesitate to accept an internship role. It is a great way to obtain direct experience that could land the job you seek.

Internships show employers that you understand how specific sectors work on a day-to-day basis. Many interns make vital contributions while they are learning about the business and build relationships of trust with co-workers and management. Internships are a means to saturate yourself in your potential career, without all the pressure of being an employee. You can make great connections that can open doors for your future.

If you are interested in a company that does not have an internship program, offer to intern in exchange for direct work experience whether it is a paid or unpaid position. Or consider volunteering or working as a consultant until you find what you're looking for. Ideally, don't settle for a career that you are not passionate about.

4. Show your digital proficiency. Working in public relations or marketing for example requires a level of digital proficiency that goes beyond using Facebook or YouTube. You may need to be able to conduct online research, understand search engine optimization (SEO), show expertise with tools that monitor and measure online communications, create and manage an email campaign, build a spreadsheet in Google Docs or Excel and, perhaps, perform simple video editing.

You may be asked to demonstrate an example of creative problem-solving. First, identify a goal or objective, gather information, clarify the problem, generate inventive ideas, build a solution, show how results will be measured, and then create the plan of action for its implementation.

Many employers use LinkedIn to search for candidates. LinkedIn's "Apply Now" function is built into many employers' job listings and, for some, it is the only place employers tread through the applicant pool. Be sure that potential employers can find you there.

5. Make every interview count. You should be able to tell people what you do, what you have accomplished and why getting a particular job is important to you in a 30-second pitch. Once you get that face-to-face interview, be overt in your desire for the job. Answer questions with confidence and ask questions you have prepared from researching the company.

Determine what their hot buttons might be to make a worthy impression. If you are able to secure the job specifications, make a list of the skills, knowledge, professional and personal qualities that may be required and use this information to your advantage. Strong interview questions will require strong answers. What you say and what you do is going to either move you to the next round of interviews or knock you out altogether.

Interviewers will be able to tell whether you prepared or not, and winging it, particularly when you don't have much experience, will virtually eliminate you. Speak to your core personality traits and values and if you happen to have experience that aligns with your career goals, this shows that you are on the right track. Do not hesitate at the end of the interview to ask for the job. Employers want you to want the position enough to ask for it.

Remember to send a letter of thanks. A thank you note is another way you can stand out from other applicants. It not only is good interview etiquette, it reinforces your interest in the position. Even if you just attended a career fair or industry-specific presentation, send the employer representative a note referencing a piece of information from the event and ask to interview for any open position that matches your skill set and experience.

In summary, today's graduates are migrating into a world where lack of ambition is the only limitation to possibilities. Combine your college degree with the necessary marketing skills to brand yourself as the total package in the job market.

Remember, employers today are looking for the new graduate that stands out from the crowd. Maximize your college degree: Be creative, innovative, and utilize all of your learned skills.