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Graduating? Start your job search now

Jenna Johnson

Mike Caldwell is the acting director of Career Development at Grinnell College in Iowa. He compiled this list of tips to help college students get ahead in the job market and distinguish themselves from other candidates.

Develop a plan - and stick with it M. Caldwell.jpg
The career advising process at Grinnell starts the first semester a student comes to campus. In general, the most successful applicants spend time assessing their strengths, weaknesses, values and ultimate goals to create a step-by-step program. Once a career plan is in place, be sure to review it often so that you can stay on track and chart your progress.

Think small, think local, think national
Chances are, you will not miss a job posting from a large employer; it will probably hit all of the major job boards. However, be sure to seek opportunities with small companies and employers, or even start-ups. Also, utilize your networks to identify potential employers who may have been overlooked by other job seekers.

Be sure not to overlook local companies, but if you are open to relocation, consider widening your search geographically to increase potential options. Although a down economy may be an employers' market in many ways, recruiting budgets may be smaller, which means employers may be traveling less to identify qualified applicants. Bring your search to them.

Don't underestimate networking
Networking is one of the more 'tried and true' job search tips - for good reason. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed Class of 2009 seniors who had a job offer. They found that 38.1 percent of students cited networking as extremely useful, ahead of job postings on the company Web site (30.2 percent), the company Web site in general (28.6 percent), job postings on the career center Web site (24.7 percent), and career or job fairs (20.3 percent).

Speaking with alumni and neighbors on an informational basis can help you to get a shoe in the door. In addition, join social networking sites such as LinkedIn that are geared toward jobs and provide existing connections for you to take advantage of through past colleagues.

Tailor the resume for each position
Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all approach works for a resume. To be competitive and stand out to a potential employer, your resume must speak to the job for which you are applying - and must showcase the skills and background you have that will support you in that position. Taking the time to think about why a job is appealing to you and how your past experience will help you be successful in that position is not only worthwhile - it's critical.

Use technology to bring opportunities to you
Rather than losing valuable time to a job search, utilize aggregate search tools to pull listings from multiple resources. Set up alerts and search agents so that you have access to ongoing postings. You do not want to conclude a search on Monday and then miss an opportunity that posts on Tuesday. Also, review blogs such as One Day, One Job, which deliver daily entry-level job postings. Use RSS feeds to make your search even more efficient.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  March 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Real World  | Tags: Grinnell  
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One more tip: Write a cover letter. I have run three hiring committess in the last year. Without a cover letter, we can't really tell why you want to work for us. Use the letter to explain that and to demonstrate that you have done some research about our organization. Uploading resumes to search engines is easy. The hiring manager/committee is likely to be inundated with resumes/applications. So the cover letter really helps you to stand out.

Posted by: drl97 | March 19, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

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