The Job Hunter’s Career Checkup for Graduating Seniors

May 2, 2011


By Deborah Federico, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Services in the School of Management – Boston University

Ah, it’s spring semester of your senior year. If you’re like most college seniors, you’re probably in a mild state of panic right now about finding a job. Wow, how did this happen, you’re probably wondering, as you start to think about what’s next. Wasn’t I just a freshman trying to maneuver an uncooperative rolling cart, jam-packed with “dorm essentials,” into my new dorm room? It’s hard to believe that in a few short months, you’ll be expertly maneuvering that same cart as you leave your cozy college cocoon to embark on this scary thing called life. And just like Peter Pan, you may be inwardly declaring, “I won’t grow up. I don’t want to wear a tie. Or a serious expression in the middle of July.”

To make matters worse, I’m sure you were barraged with questions and advice from your parents and other adults about getting a job while you were home over winter break. You probably found yourself dodging questions such as, “So you’re graduating this May, do you know what you’re going to do?” Other “well meaning” relatives may have grimly shared the most recent unemployment statistics with you or said things like, “I heard there are no jobs in (insert your major here).” You might have even had to smile and nod as someone told you how his super-star son or daughter just landed a highly paying job with a prestigious company that involves traveling around the world. Ugh! It’s enough to make you want to turn that rolling cart around and stay on to get your master’s degree.

But wear a tie you must (well, maybe not in July), as well as do other grown-up things, as you go about this scary process called Looking for a Job. As an undergraduate career counselor in the School of Management at Boston University, I have seen my share of seniors who are feeling pressured and anxious about find a job and making the transition into the real world. Undoubtedly, part of my job is to calm them down, to give them inspiration and to motivate them to move forward. In addition, a large amount of my time is spent dispelling myths. I often hear statements like, “All of my friends already have jobs,” or “There aren’t any jobs,” or “I know I won’t get that position because of [fill in the blank].” After I debunk their myths with true information, bolster their confidence and provide them with a positive action plan to move forward, I can quickly see their anxiety melt away, and they leave my office recharged and reenergized.

So if you’re feeling anxious about finding a job after graduation, don’t take up permanent residence in Neverland. Rather than avoiding the issue and hoping it will go away, the best thing to do is to take action. Make an appointment with your school’s career counselor who can give you a career checkup and coach you onward to success. According to the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) 2010 Student Survey, “…the more frequently a senior used career services, the more likely he/she would receive a job offer.  In addition, the study found that the likelihood of getting a job offer increased with the frequency of use.”

Here are some things that should be included in your career checkup, as well as things you can do to move forward in your job search:

Have your resume reviewed. Although you may think your resume is ready to go because there are no misspellings or typos, your career counselor can help you write your resume more strategically to target the career/industry in which you want to work by rearranging the components of your resume, highlighting accomplishments and using key words relevant to your industry.

Have your cover letter reviewed. I always tell seniors to come in and meet with me after they have written a cover letter for a real position.  (Remember: never use a cover letter template! Recruiters can spot them in a minute.) If their cover letter does a good job of stating why they’re a strong candidate, why they want the job and why they want to work at the company, then I usually send them off to write subsequent cover letters on their own.

Conduct a mock interview. Even if you think you’re a terrific interviewer, I would highly recommend that you schedule a mock interview with your career services office. There may be one little thing you’re doing or saying (or not doing or saying) that could mess up your entire interview.

Start thinking outside the (computer) box. Many seniors think that searching for a job means sitting at your laptop, latte in hand, and applying to as many positions as possible. It’s so easy to sit there and apply for positions, simply by clicking “send.” Remember I said you had to take action above?  This also means getting away from your computer and networking with professionals in your industry.

Attend events. Attend company information sessions, professional association meetings and career fairs, both inside and outside our school.  This is another great way to start building relationships with professionals in your industry.

Develop a list of target companies. Do some research and make a list of the companies you would really like to work for. Once you have your target list, bookmark the career pages of these companies, so that you can continuously check them. If there are no advertised positions, then you can send a prospecting cover letter and your resume to the HR departments of these companies. 

Establish a profile on LinkedIn. Establish a profile on LinkedIn, invite people into your network and join your college’s alumni group, as well as professional groups. Join in discussions and post questions in your groups in order to gain visibility and credibility.  LinkedIn is also a great way to find and reach out to alumni for informational interviewing purposes.

Have an open mind!  Explore all opportunities available in your college’s database and external job databases. Look beyond the brand name companies and explore opportunities at lesser known firms. Don’t just read a job title and assume you know what the job involves. Read the entire job description. When I have students do these things during counseling sessions, they are usually very surprised (and pleased) to discover the amount and variety of jobs available.

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After obtaining your clean bill of career health from your career services office, I guarantee that you’ll be feeling confident and energized about embarking on your job search. Soon enough, you’ll be whistling, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.” The ultimate cout d’état will be when you can look your relatives in the eye at graduation and proudly declare, “I have a job!”

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