How to be Successful in the Job Market
A Quick Guide for New Graduates
If you’re a recent grad, entering the job market can be intimidating, but you’re not alone. With a few quick steps, we can help you become a prepared, desirable, and professional candidate!
Build Your Resume
For just about any job, you will be asked to produce a resume. You may even have one already. The purpose of a resume is to summarize your work experience, educational background, and skillset. It is important to always have a document that is relevant, up-to-date, and professional. There are many different ways you can format your resume, but when it comes to content, just remember what purpose the resume will serve:
- Does it highlight your work experience, educational background, and additional skills or training? This is the crux of your resume. Be sure to separate each position, and include the company, dates worked, and a quick summary of duties and accomplishments. In a separate section, include your educational background. Include each school attended, year graduated, your major and/or areas of concentration, and any societies or groups to which you’ve belonged. Lastly include your skills. You will want these to be relevant to the professional environment you wish to enter. For example: you may want to include you have working knowledge of Microsoft365, have customer service experience, or possess great problem solving skills.
- Is it relevant to your desired job or industry? You want to make sure whoever reads your resume knows you’re the right person for the job. One way to do this is to explore the work, educational, and skill requirements of the jobs you wish to pursue. You can usually find these on the “position description” or “desired candidate” area of the job for which you might apply. Note the criteria that matches your professional history, and include that in your resume.
- Is it up-to-date? Ensure your resume begins with your current or most recent position, and list them reverse-chronologically. If you’re a recent grad, you may not have a lot of professional experience. That is ok. This is a good spot to include any societies or clubs of which you were a part. Include any summer jobs, leadership positions, family-owned work, or internships. Remember, you want to show a hiring manager that you are a professional, so anything that showcases your dedication to work is sufficient. As you spend more time in the job market, you can pare down your resume to just include full-time, post-graduate positions. If you have any gaps in employment or education, you can offer a quick explanation. For example: January 2019 to March 2019 – Travel Abroad. You should also keep these explanations prepared for potential interviews.
- Is it professional? Ensure you have proper, consistent formatting. This means your resume should be all one font. It is not necessary to title your resume; your full name will suffice. You may choose to make this a larger size or a different color so it stands out, but remember, it’s all about professionalism. Embellishing your resume not only adds unnecessary “fluff”, but it reads to a hiring manager like you are not confident in your professional capabilities and need to make yourself look better than you are. Do not waste their or your time; remain concise, and let your work speak for itself.
Become an Attractive Candidate
A relevant, up-to-date, and professional resume is extremely important. It’s your first impression to any hiring manager. However, your resume will be one of many, so the next step is to ensure you really stand out as a candidate. You may start by building a profile on LinkedIn, the social networking site for working professionals. Many hiring managers or online job applications will ask if you have a LinkedIn account. You can also upload your resume to LinkedIn, and grow a network of professionals. It’s ok if you don’t have a large (or any) network, but keeping this account professional, relevant and up-to-date allows hiring managers to see you are serious about working. It is also a quick and easy link to who you are as a candidate. You can even job search on LinkedIn or apply to jobs using your LinkedIn profile.
While we’re on the topic of social media, you can probably see where we are going next: ensure your social media presence beyond LinkedIn is either professional or private. You don’t want a hiring manager to see or read anything that would potentially make their company look bad. When in doubt, set your personal social media accounts to private.
Being an attractive candidate isn’t just for getting your foot in the door on paper. When it comes to an interview, ensure you are well-prepared. You may want to review commonly asked interview questions, for which you’ll want to prepare relevant answers. In addition to knowing what a hiring manager might ask, it will also help to prepare for what a particular hiring manager might ask. For example: if the job is in customer service, you can be sure the hiring manager will ask to share your customer service experience. Even if you know this answer “off the top of your head”, you will want to practice answering questions professionally. This does not mean you have to memorize your answer exactly. In fact, during the interview, it is okay to take a few moments to think about the question before you answer. It will appear as though you are prepared, but are taking the time to think about the hiring manager's question (i.e. not reciting something you read online). Present yourself as professional, easy to work with, and grateful to be there.
Most hiring managers will also take the opportunity to ask if you have any questions. This is a time when asking questions is a good idea. Not only will you have a chance to learn about your potential employer before you work there, but it will show you have done your research and are interested in becoming a part of this company. You'll also want to research the company for which you are interviewing. Knowing a little about the company goes a long way; it shows the hiring manager you are interested in the company and will be invested in the job. This is also a great way to gather questions about the company you can pose to your interviewer. You will appear more genuine and more invested.
Lastly, after an interview, always write a thank-you card. Candidates who write thank-you cards to hiring managers are much more favorable over candidates who do not. A thank-you card serves to show the hiring manager you think the interview was worth your time, and are equally grateful for theirs. As such, they can be very simple. Thank them for their time, and reiterate your interest in the position. Mailing a card is very professional, but sending an email is also appropriate (especially if you want your message to arrive quickly).
Find the Right Fit and Know Your Worth
When you begin your job search, cast a wide net. Outside of work experience, education, and skills, you never know what “the right fit” could mean for a particular company. Additionally, not every position or company may be the right fit for you. When you’re first getting started (and even throughout your career), you don’t want to have unrealistic expectations; it is important to remain professional and grateful for any opportunities that come your way. However, remind yourself that you are a hard-working, worthy candidate that any company would be lucky to have. Know your worth; you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. If an interview doesn’t work out, consider it great practice. When you do find the right position, it will make the experience all the more worth it, and you will find a company that you will truly appreciate and one that truly appreciates you.
Especially if you are seeking one of your first jobs, you may feel uncomfortable discussing matters of compensation. However, this is an important part of the process. When you apply for a job, make note of any mention of pay, benefits, or compensation. You can also research what pay is expected for an entry-level employee to this position. This way when asked about the pay, you will know what to expect and won’t give the hiring manager an answer that could deter them from hiring you. Too high may indicate you are arrogant or out of touch with the industry; too low may indicate you don’t believe your skillset is adequate for the position; “I don’t know” may indicate you haven’t done your research and are not invested in being chosen for the position. Answers to these questions can be tricky, but try to keep it positive. You want to let the hiring manager give you as much information as possible before you start talking numbers. Other considerations for compensation include benefits, sick leave, and health care options. Not every company has to provide these. Typically benefits and perks also grow with time and experience, so don’t be too critical of these options when you’re first getting started. On the other hand, if you have the privilege of weighing your options, review these benefits carefully, as they could tip the scale. For example: You may have two offers of equal opportunity and pay, but one offers a superior healthcare package.
Now that you’re ready for the job market, there’s no stopping you. Remember that setbacks happen and not everything happens overnight, but with simple preparedness you can be miles ahead the rest. And when you do find a job that’s right for you, you may need extra help with managing your finances. Learn about checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and more. Call us at 614.707.4000 or visit a branch. You can even sign up for free one-on-one financial coaching, free financial education workshops, or explore simple online learning. Good luck!