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Armed to Get a Job!


5 Weapons for College Grads to Attack the Job Market and Win

The new college graduate is eager to get that first professional job! Degree in hand and four or more years of hard work to get an education in their chosen field, they are anxious to put it all to good use. As they face a dampened 2009 job market as predicted by the latest National Association of Colleges and Employers’ survey, they need to be armed for competition.

Colleges and universities offer career services and bring employers on campus for job fairs and interviews, but students are often preoccupied with their course requirements or do not fit the needs of the employers on campus. So when graduation nears, and even upon receiving their diplomas, they often find themselves jobless and unprepared for their final assignment – get a job!

Donna returned home after graduating and having lived on campus during college. She felt a sense of failure when she communicated with her classmates who had successfully placed. She kept in touch with her former classmates, but felt disconnected from them and the daunting new job world she desperately wanted to enter. She was at a loss on how to “network,” as everyone suggested without providing any specific approach or help. Donna was out of her comfort zone and in fact, felt defeated in the job search battle.

If that sounds a little like how you feel, then you are not alone! Going from college to a job search campaign can seem like going to war! If you feel shell shocked in your job search, do not despair — following are 5 essential weapons that college grads need to get the position for which they prepared in college. The first weapon is a realistic assessment of your passion and capabilities. Second is a realistic assessment of the job market — where your passion and capabilities are needed. Third is an effective strategy to get a job. Fourth is a positive and aggressive plan of action. And last but most important, is the determination and will to succeed! Let's take a look at each offensive weapon in your job search arsenal for successful placement.

Weapon 1: Self Assessment

It may seem incredible, but vast numbers of college students go through college clueless about careers and even less aware of their own career fit. They may have wandered into a major or double major based on an interest in the subjects they were taking and clearly that is a good thing. Having an interest in the body of knowledge required for a degree program is one good indication that they are headed towards the right career path. But many degree programs have multiple career paths. Some do not have clear destinations at all and some do not fit the real world of opportunity. Students would do well to consider their future career fit long before selecting their degree programs. However, degree in hand, the graduate must proceed with what he or she has chosen.

A career assessment can be very helpful to validate the directions you are considering. Your college career center may offer these to help consider your behavioral preferences and interests. Job Search: The Total System has a self assessment in chapter 1 and TCS University offers a career assessment. Hone in on where your passion lies — what excites you! Enthusiasm is the most important motivator in any career choice. If you can't be enthusiastic about going to work, then it is not the career for you.

What are your capabilities? Besides the degree, what do you offer? Knowledge is but one element of competency. What are your skills? What are your strengths? Are you a leader? Do you have a knack for customer service? Do you have a way with numbers? Are you a “born” sales person? Do you love deal making and negotiating? In your pre-graduation jobs, internships and extracurricular activities, where and how did you excel? What do people say about your strengths? What do people approach you about when they need help?

Before you start targeting jobs, consider what industries and careers match your degree. Explore associations for those industries and careers. What appeals to you and why? Check out the job boards for those industries — what kinds of jobs are available? The Occupational Handbook can be a great resource to learn about a wide range of careers and jobs.

Weapon 2: Job Market Assessment

Once you have an idea of what kinds of jobs you fit, you must assess the market. Are those industries and careers in demand? Your exploration in the professional association for that industry can be very helpful in pinpointing the opportunities and geographical areas that you will need to target. If you are limited to a specific geographical area, then connect with the local association for specific information in that area. Once you focus in on a specific city, you can check out the chambers of commerce for that region to learn more about that market. What are the companies in the area? Are not-for-profits or government agencies a possibility? What size company interests you? How do the various opportunities compare in compensation? How do these match with your compensation needs and goals? What is the potential for growth both in compensation and in learning and skills development? What are the cultures of these various opportunities and how do they fit your preferences?

Weapon 3: Effective Job Search Strategy

Before you launch a job search, you need a job strategy. Remember when you selected a college or university? What did you consider? What was important to you? Maybe you always wanted to go to a certain college, or maybe it was just a matter of convenience. Perhaps it offered the degree program you sought or the prestige you valued. Maybe it was a tradition in your family or where your friends were going. They may not have been the best reasons for selection, but they were part of your strategy for getting an education. When it comes to job search, you also need a strategy. You don’t want just any job, so the strategy must be effective to get the RIGHT job for you! What are your goals? If you completed your self assessment and job market assessment, you now should have your goals spelled out in specific terms.

Once you have established your goals you need the right approach to achieve them. This weapon requires an entire tool kit to be effective. Start with an A+ resume. Regardless of your grade point average in college, nothing less than an A+ resume will do. Everyone can have an A+ resume. It is a matter of presenting all your skills, competencies, accomplishments, credentials and background in the best light. Job Search: The Total System™ explains the process and TCS University has sample resumes to fit every background. Then you must have references — former employers are best, but if you lack them, references from advisors who know you well can also work in your favor. People who can validate your skills and work ethic are the key. Your transcript and certificates will also be important in your tool kit.

No job search strategy is complete without networking and interviewing skills. Students are masters of networking with one another. This takes networking to a whole new level. Now you must network and communicate with potential employers and association members and others who can lead you to the right job opportunities. The analogy we like to use is that of the iceberg — 80% of the networking opportunities are under water! If you focus on search agencies and online listings you are just chipping away at the tip of the iceberg.

Preparing for interviews is strategically essential. You may have gotten away with passing tests in college without preparation, but when it comes to interviewing, the stakes are too high to risk failing. You may only have one shot at getting the offer! And don't forget, you will have competition. And in this test, only ONE person passes — all others fail. Job Search: The Total System™ presents two chapters on networking and lead generation to find the jobs you want and another chapter on interviewing with 100 tough questions to prepare you for getting offers.

Your job search battle strategy is not complete without negotiating. This weapon is one of boldness and stealth! It must be a win-win for you and the employer. Remember, it is not the potential employer who you must beat, but your competition. Entry job or not, there is usually room for negotiation even in a tight job market — once they want you, the tables are turned and you are in a command position. Do your homework and research the compensation levels for the job offer you are considering. Study the negotiating chapter in Job Search: The Total System™ for many more techniques to gain the best pay.

The integrating element of your strategy is what we call “linkage”. Each step of your strategy must be linked together to optimize your effectiveness. So your resume is linked to your assessment, your references to your resume by validating your accomplishments, your networking to your research, your resume and assessment and references to your interviewing, and so on. Link every step to excel and watch your competition fall as you over take them in the job search battle!

Weapon 4: Plan of Action

View the job search as your job, realizing that like any job or project, it takes a plan and hard work to complete! Developing your unique plan to implement your strategy is essential. Identify your daily goals and actions, track all your contacts as well as follow up letters and email. It must be a concerted, ongoing process until you land the right job for you. Lying around the house, running errands, and text messaging your friends do not count as j ob search actions. During the day you should be networking with all the contacts you can and in the evening you can research new contacts and leads and draft your follow up letters to networking contacts and interviews. Job Search: The Total System™ and TCS University have a comprehensive organizer with forms to help you implement your plan.

Networking and lead generation build your momentum as you expand your job search. Your interviewing skills improve as you prepare your responses to the 100 tough questions and have the opportunity to interview. Having someone you trust help you practice and improve your interview skills is an important tactic as well.

Your plan of action is your tactical weapon of implementation. It is as important as your broader strategy and requires determination and a positive attitude to be effective. Job Search: The Total System™ and TCS University includes an audio version that is motivational as well as a great reinforcement of the techniques in The Total System book.

Weapon 5: Determination and Will to Succeed

No strategy or plan is effective without total commitment. You must be positive about yourself, about your abilities, skills and accomplishments, and about your future. You must be positive about your career opportunities, your potential employers, and your chosen industry and field. You must be determined to achieve your goals and passionate about your future work. A positive attitude breeds success. Employers value a positive attitude above all else. And if you can not be positive about yourself, how can you expect an employer to be positive about hiring you? Your determination and will to succeed is your greatest offensive weapon in finding the job you seek and ultimately achieving your career aspirations. It is the explosive of your job search arsenal.

If these 5 weapons seem like overkill, think again. Each is essential and requires you to learn a new set of skills to wield effectively. Are they worth the effort? Thousands of Total System users who have achieved better jobs for better pay have proven their effectiveness and value in job search and career success. Develop your arsenal now for your first professional job placement and a life time of career success and prosperity.

References: Job Search: The Total System™, 3rd Edition and TCS University

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