So your kid just graduated from college with a double major, multiple extra-curricular activities, a strong GPA and a few prime internships. The pomp and circumstance of the graduation ceremony is now over and he's living in your basement because you converted his bedroom to a home office two years ago. Your love your son, but it's time for him to get a job and move out of your house and into the real world.
What's the best advice we can give our newly minted graduates as they enter this competitive job market? The reality is that finding your first post-graduation job takes time, persistence, resilience and a lot of pavement pounding by the candidate. Here are some essentials for family and loved ones to share in the form of supportive advice when trying to assist a new college graduate.
• Don't forget the career services office at your alma mater! If you did not utilize them during your time in school, now is the time to connect with them to polish your resume, network with alumni and get serious about interview preparation. If you no longer live near your school, many schools offer phone coaching and online career resources.
• Entry-level job seekers are everywhere, so the new degree holders must identify their special sauce and be ready to talk about their hard skills and emotional intelligence competencies with specific examples from academic and/or summer job experiences.
• Think broadly about applying for jobs and grow your network by starting with warm leads from family and school alumni who are willing to help. You need to know what you are looking for before you begin applying for positions.
• You must become your own best PR agent and develop conversational stories about why you are a value-add to an organization. Ask your family, friends, faculty, coaches, etc. what your top skills are so you can develop a strengths story that is compelling and speaks to what you love to do.
• It's tempting to just apply to positions online, but the hidden job market is alive and well and over 80 percent of jobs are never posted. You must be seen and heard to be discovered as a candidate. People hire who they know and trust, so spread the word of your availability and interests widely to your network -- in-person! Make sure you have a professional profile on LinkedIn that is complete and current so recruiters searching for talent can see what you do best. Remember to scrub your Facebook page so you are 100 percent professional when others research you online.
• Now is the perfect time to volunteer your way into a job. As a new grad, you will gain valuable insight about career fields and if you play your cards right, you can make yourself so indispensible that you might turn an initial freebie into a paid position. It's a great way for you to test drive new career possibilities.
• Everyone wants to help the newbies, since they are the succession plan for the soon-to-be retiring baby boomer generation. Seek out boomers for informational interviews and job shadows. These folks are amazing mentors with powerful and influential networks and they just might help you get hired if you showcase your professional best.
• Create personal business cards with your name, phone and email. This networking tool ramps you up to a professional status and is very important for the crucial follow-up in networking.
• Be patient -- jobs are out there, but it will take time to get yourself noticed in this competitive market. You may not land your dream job with a top salary right off the bat, but every experience helps you grow as a professional and you can always try something new if your first job is not an ideal match.
• Employers are eager to know how you can handle change and if you are a good cultural fit for their organization, so keep this in mind when you meet with people.
There are opportunities for new graduates, but it takes time and effort to sleuth them out. Parents and family members need to remember that rejection will be a big part of this process in the beginning, so support your new grad with positive energy and strategies to showcase their resilience as they network.
Do your part by helping to connect your new graduate. Get to know what they are looking for and how you can illustrate their strengths to your network. It takes a village, and any assistance you can provide in making introductions could lead to a bona fide opportunity.
Your new graduate deserves a shot at making their way in the career world. They worked hard to earn their degree, but it will not be an automatic road to instant success. Parents should be realistic about starting salaries and the fact that junior may need to live in your basement a bit longer, until he is able to support himself on his own. The hard work of earning a degree will pay off, but clarity of realistic expectations for the parents and the newly minted graduate is essential.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is also the Director of Career & Professional Development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.