By Shannon Lee, OnlineDegrees.com
In the Class of 2014, roughly 1.6 million students will graduate with a newly-minted bachelor’s degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. What can those million-plus graduates expect from the job market? Fortunately, the news is good: The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that employers plan to hire 8.6 percent more graduates this year than they did last year, and the average starting salary for a bachelor’s degree holder is expected to be $45,473, up by 1.2 percent over the Class of 2013.
How to prepare for the job hunt
Your job search is going to be competitive, with many qualified candidates vying for each open position. How do you make yourself stand out from the rest? These 10 tips can help prepare you for success.
1. Polish up the résumé. Now is the time to perfect this vitally important document. Go to student services or hire a professional to look it over, make updates and changes, add appropriate keywords and otherwise polish it to a high shine. The résumé might be a potential employer’s first introduction to you — so make a great first impression with impressive words on the page.
2. Make good use of job-search tools. Turning to the college job placement office and online classifieds has long been the norm, but what about the newest tools on the block? Keep up with the job search on a daily basis through new apps by online job boards. These can help you keep track of job postings, apply for jobs and hunt down that coveted interview.
3. Cultivate the skills you need. According to NACE, employers are on the lookout for candidates with good communication skills, strong problem-solving and decision-making instincts and the ability to plan, prioritize and organize work. They also want to see applicants who can find and process information quickly, including analysis of quantitative data. Work hard to hone those skills while looking for your dream job.
4. Leverage your network. Reach out to professional connections you haven’t talked to in a while. Pick up the phone, send an email, get in touch — do what it takes to set up a lunch, catch up over drinks or simply exchange a friendly hello. Mention you are looking for a job and see what develops.
5. Clean up on social media. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to get one. What about other social media? Employers may check up on your online presence, so make sure any questionable photos and drunken rants are erased from your timelines. Better yet, keep all professional profiles visible and updated, and keep all personal ones private.
6. Do your homework. Thought homework was a thing of the past? Think again. You should thoroughly research any and all potential employers before crafting a cover letter or sitting down for an interview. It’s especially important to know about the company culture — a survey by Beyond.com and Millennial Branding found that 43 percent of human resources professionals ranked “cultural fit” as the most important factor in the hiring process.
7. Better yourself. What are you doing now that college is over? The job search is a great time to step up your volunteer work, take a few classes in your career field, attend seminars, join industry associations and keep learning! Interviewers will be impressed when you tell them how busy you have been these past few months.
8. Prepare for the interview. It isn’t enough to simply rattle off the answers you think an interviewer wants to hear. According to that Beyond.com/Millennial Branding survey, 84 percent of employers look for a positive attitude, 83 percent look for good communication skills and 64 percent want to know you can work well in a team. If you are actually excited about the opportunity, that will shine through in the interview.
9. Don’t get discouraged. Even in a great job market, there is serious competition. This means that your job search could take months. Rather than get discouraged, get motivated — work hard to build your network, update your profiles, and be willing to take a job that isn’t quite what you want until the right one comes along.
10. Always be professional. Address anything that might cast you in a negative light. Be entirely honest on your résumé, record a new voicemail greeting, show up to all appointments on time, never skip out on a commitment, always be organized and prepare well for interviews. Simply being polite, patient and professional can make you stand out from the crowd.
Shannon Lee writes for OnlineDegrees.com. This article was originally published on OnlineDegrees.com.