May 16, 2020

Graduating Into A Bad Job Market— 10 Job Search Tips For Recent Grads

[Forbes, Getty Images]

What happens to recent graduates if job supply decreases? – Gabriela, Class of 2020, Masters of International Marketing

If you’re a recent graduate and eyeing the dismal unemployment figures (worst since the Great Depression!), stop doing that. There are more important numbers to track than general job market statistics (I list 10 such numbers here, such as specific news about markets you are interested in). Similarly, Gabriela asks about the fate of recent graduates in general, but I recommend that she focuses on her prospects specifically.

I don’t mean to encourage everyone-for-themselves thinking, but when you’re starting out in your career, the first hire you should be worried about is your own. This ensures that you take on something doable (i.e., land one job) and not something too overwhelming (i.e., saving the world). When you are gainfully employed, you have more bandwidth to contribute — referring leads to others, volunteering with your alma mater to help younger classes, mentoring others, etc.

Whether you are graduating into a bad job market or the best market in years, there is always hiring happening somewhere, and there is a lot you can do to help yourself to get hired. Here are 10 job search tips for recent grads:

1 – Get your mindset ready for a job search

Spending too much time belaboring the bad market news doesn’t just take your eye off other, more helpful data, but it also primes you to expect the worst. Every job search has down moments – your application doesn’t get a response, your networking invite is declined, your interview doesn’t lead to a callback. I don’t know a single candidate who has had a seamlessly positive job search — this is from 20+ years of recruiting, including hiring thousands of interns and recent graduates as Head of Campus Recruiting for a global media company. There will be ups and downs – pandemic or not – so be prepared for some discomfort but be confident that you’ll persevere to a happy outcome.

2 – Treat your job search like your first job

If you graduated without an offer in hand, your job search is your first job. Spend the 40 hours a week you would have reported to the office to work on your job search – reading up on your areas of interest, researching specific companies, applying to job opportunities, networking with people, updating your marketing material, etc. There is a lot to do for your job search (here are seven suggestions for items to prepare), so don’t wait too long to get started. You might get complacent and lose the enthusiasm and urgency to land a job. You also might let too much time go by, realize your savings are dwindling (or your parents’ patience is running thin) and then feel like you have to land in a hurry.

3 – Control what you can control

Knowing there will be ups and downs, you can’t control for a positive outcome every time, but you can control that you put yourself out there and that you showcased yourself in the best possible light. So instead of focusing on how many companies called you in, focus on how many applications you sent out. Instead of focusing on how many people referred you, focus on the number of people you contacted. You can’t fully control the result, but you can control your effort. Your efforts are the metric that you should track.

4 – Go broad with your options

Always have multiple leads in play, especially in a down market where you can’t be sure who is hiring, how many jobs and how quickly. Companies may have old postings up there where budget has actually disappeared. Or a company may have openings but hasn’t posted anything because they’re so short-staffed because of the pandemic. In a down market, recruiting can be chaotic, so you need to cast a wide net. Go after several industries, multiple companies, even multiple roles. Sure, you might have a dream job at a dream company in mind, and you should go for that. But be open to other possibilities as well.

5 – Go deep with your research

While you’re going broad with your options, you still want to go deep with your research and know enough about companies and roles you apply for. The best applications are targeted to a specific opportunity – with relevant keywords and examples. The best interviews are when the candidate can position their background to what the company and the job opening require. You need deep research to tailor your job search activity effectively.

6 – Be prepared to answer the obvious

Why should I hire you? What do you want? Why do you want to work here? The vetting process will not be easier for you because it’s an entry-level role. Employers still want to know that you are qualified, that you will be enthusiastic about the work and that you will be enthusiastic about working with them specifically.

7 – Lean into your network (yes, you have one!)

Your classmates, your professors, your office of career services, your parents’ connections – you have a significant network. Word-of-mouth referral is significant, even for experienced professionals who have an established track record from previous jobs. As a recent graduate, you don’t have much of a track  record (though internships, part-time jobs and volunteer work do make a difference). Therefore, you want to maximize introductions, referrals and references that you can get from people who already know, like and trust you. Remember to reciprocate as you hear of leads and especially when you land!

8 – Measure your progress and course-correct as needed

As you get your job search going, your results are in your efforts – the number of networking outreach attempts, the number of initial interview meetings. However, as your search extends, those initial efforts should yield additional results that track progress – the number of leads that come out of networking, the number of callbacks that come from the initial interviews. Your search should be leading to job offers ultimately, and if you’re finding that you’re sending out applications but not getting called in, or getting one meeting but no more, you need to course correct as needed.

9 – Be willing to redo and reconsider

If your search is stuck, you need to change something. If you are getting leads to jobs that don’t interest you, you may need to be clearer about what you’re looking for. Or maybe your LinkedIn or resume needs to change. If you are getting that first meeting but no callbacks, you need to brush up on your interview technique. Your progress is market feedback on what’s working. Until you have a job, stay open-minded and curious about what changes to your job search technique.

10 – Celebrate every win

Keep a journal that documents all the work you’re putting in, and every call and meeting you schedule. Your effort should be celebrated. Small wins along the way, like that networking invite accepted, also count. This is part of measuring progress, but it’s also about building confidence and keeping a positive outlook, both of which are critical in your job search. In a down market, your employer contacts are probably anxious about their own jobs. If you’re a joy to interact with, that’s a competitive advantage.

If job supply decreases, each opening becomes more competitive

Back to Gabriela’s original question, “What happens when job supply decreases?”, it stands to reason that each job opening becomes more competitive. However, your aim as a job seeker is always to be the best candidate in the room – however crowded it is. Too many job seekers let a difficult market deflate their confidence and impede their efforts even before they start. If you instead stay positive, put in the work, measure your progress and course-correct along the way, you will that competitive candidate.

By Caroline Ceniza-Levine

Leave a Reply