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Networking Tips for the Recent Grad

You’ve just graduated college in the top 10 percent of your class. Great! Now comes the fun part: finding a job. Even though the unemployment rate for college graduates is lower than the overall unemployment rate, you could still find yourself job searching long after you’ve retired your cap and gown.

How do you increase your chances of finding a job after being unemployed for an extended period of time? Start by developing your personal brand and improving your professional skills.

Spend your time wisely

Though you’ll likely be spending most of your time applying for jobs, it’s a good idea to fill your time with other useful pursuits. For instance, doing regular volunteer work builds character and stands out on a resume. Keeping up with the latest news in your industry shows potential employers that you’re well-informed and genuinely interested in your field. Taking classes is probably the last thing you want to do after just graduating, but employers will be impressed by your desire to learn more about your profession.

Get your name out there

Whether you’re working part-time at the local fast food restaurant or job searching non-stop at mom and dad’s house, it’s never too early—or too late—to start creating and advertising your personal brand. One way to get your brand out there is by distributing business cards.

Business cards are useful tools for networking among professionals, but did you know they’re useful for the unemployed college graduate, too? These cards won’t have the same information as company-issued cards, but they’ll include credentials like your personal website, email address and area of expertise.

For a card that stands out, ditch traditional design and go for more creativity in your business card design. Your future employer is more likely to notice a computer keyboard with your credentials on it than a plain black-and-white design. If you’re new to designing and creating business cards, consult a design-savvy friend or company that will help make your ideas happen.

Networking for dummies

Putting yourself out there and connecting with potential employers can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. Start by looking up networking events in your city. There are a number of sites that can aid you in this quest: LinkedIn, Meetup and Eventbrite inform you of networking events in the area, or allow you to create your own event. For more specific searches, check out sites like Mediabistro, for media professionals; or Women For Hire, a site where female professionals can connect.

Although these events can be great for meeting people in your intended field, they can be disastrous if you show up unprepared. Here are some supplies and tips you’ll need for most networking events:

·         A portfolio with a few copies of your resume, a pen and a notepad

·         Remember those business cards you made? Bring plenty of them to hand out to those you connect with

·         Practical items like mints or gum (avoid smacking or popping), perfume/cologne and hand sanitizer

·         Research the event beforehand to get an idea of which businesses will be represented and how many people are expected to show up

·         Lastly, don’t be a network jerk—that desperate guy who goes to every networking event and only looks out for himself

Don’t let unemployment after graduation get you down. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of not having a job, focus on what you can do to develop your skills and build your professional network. By taking initiative and making professional connections, you’ll soon be able to move out of mom and dad’s for good.

Emily Miller is a marketing and small business blogger who contributes regularly to Professional Intern. She recently graduated from Indiana University with degrees in English and Small Business Management, and has been advising her friends on their resumes, business cards, and networking skills as they search for post-grad jobs. Connect with her on Twitter @e_millr

Career Crossroad: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Where your career takes you geographically is as important as your career itself. After all, as an under-30 professional, your next move might be the place where you stay long-term. That can be a great thing if you’re looking to put down roots and establish yourself in the community, but if you’re unhappy with the choice, it can make you feel tethered somewhere you don’t want to be.

Here are some suggestions for a few things you might want to consider in deciding whether you want to relocate or stay put.

1. Who?

Is it just you, or does this move involve other people? If you have a partner or family, of course you need to consider how the move would affect those relationships. Your partner’s profession might be an issue in deciding where to move – would he or she have employment options? Is it necessary for him or her to get any additional degrees? Would your partner even agree to move? If you’re not in that kind of relationship, perhaps there are other people to whom you want or need to remain close; if you have parents or siblings who need attention, whether you’re far away or not could affect their well-being. If you have children, you would want to make sure that a move won’t be detrimental to their schooling or other needs.

2. What?

What is the opportunity that you want to uproot your life to pursue? If you’re planning to relocate, do you have a prospect waiting for you, or are you hoping to find a job when you arrive? The job, itself, is a leap of faith. Certainly, you can never be sure that a job will be a good fit before you’re actually there. If you’re going to pack up your entire life and move to a new city, though, you want to be confident that the odds are in your favor that it will work out. Once you move, if the new gig doesn’t work out, you either (a) have to find a job in the new city (where you might not have many connections), or (b) pack your life again, perhaps break a lease or sell a home and re-start the relocation process back to your original (or another) city.

3. When?

When is it a good time to make a move in order to advance your career? Check the job market in the city to which you’re considering relocating. If you’re going with the hope of finding a job (as opposed to relocating for one that you’ve already accepted), try to gauge what the opportunity is in your field. If you’re a recent law school graduate and you know that three large firms in a particular city just laid off associates, now is not a good time to pursue a legal career there. You would be not only applying on your own merits, but also competing against more experienced associates who just lost jobs – not good odds.

4. Where?

Are you moving to something, or away from something? Perhaps you were born, raised and educated on the West Coast, but you’ve always wanted an East Coast experience; you’ll be thrilled to have a job in D.C., Boston or New York – you just want to move East. Or, maybe you’ve recently been let go from a job or suffered a relationship breakup and you need a change of pace… to start fresh, reinvigorate your career and your life, but it doesn’t really matter that much where you go. A little research can go a long way. Again, determining whether jobs in your field are plentiful in your chosen city is a huge factor as to whether it will be livable for you.  If you don’t have a specific destination, research your field and let that dictate where you move. Are you in a high-tech field like nanotechnology? Consider a location where there’s a nanotechnology college or research being done in the field, because that’s where the jobs are.