The tough labor market has left many 2013 graduates still looking for jobs.
Many employers have played it safe – opting not to hire full-time employees quite yet and instead taking on part-time workers or no workers at all.
In fact, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, employers plan to hire only 2.1 percent more new college grads from this year’s class than the class of 2012.
Despite relatively flat hiring numbers, experts say there are certain steps college grads – and anyone looking for a job – can take to maximize their chances of landing an interview and job.
• Use that alumni status to your advantage.
Several universities and colleges in the area have a Career Services department. These departments not only help current students, but alumni as well. Services include everything from resume writing to career assessment, which helps students and job seekers narrow down possible career paths.
“You can say you’re a business administration major, but what does that really mean to you?” said Sharese Dudley-Mora, director of career services at Indiana University Northwest.
• Set a game plan.
Shelly Robinson, director of career services at Purdue University Calumet, says setting a game plan is an important first step.
“What are your true interests, skills and desires?” she said. “Start researching opportunities in areas of interest. Start identifying possible career employers and positions.”
Once you have a game plan, Dudley-Mora says it’s important to stay organized and have a goal of applying for a certain number of jobs each week.
“The job search is a job in itself,” Dudley-Mora said. “You have to make sure you keep track and follow up.”
• Retool your resume.
Your resume is the first thing employers look at, which is why Elaine Spitz, human resources manager at NIPSCO, says job seekers must include more than just job descriptions.
“We look for resumes that display results or outcomes from previous jobs or educational experiences that demonstrate the candidate’s ability to achieve goals,” she said. “It’s not enough to list what has been done in previous work experiences. We want to know the results of a candidate’s work in achieving goals and targets that move an organization forward.”
Join professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Dudley-Mora said.
Connect with alumni, especially those at companies where you’re seeking employment.
“Do professional networking, letting people know you’re looking for employment,” she said.
• Fill the gaps.
Robinson suggests taking an extra class, volunteering or independently learning a new program or skill that is lacking on a resume.
“Don’t wait for people to tell you that something is missing from your skill set,” she said. “Most importantly, be committed to lifelong learning.”
• Know your match.
Each position at a company requires a set of skills, Spitz said.
“For example, engineers must possess a high level of technical knowledge in addition to problem-solving skills,” she said. “Since they work frequently in teams, we look for a highly collaborative individual.”
Technical school graduates must have strong safety awareness and an excellent energy level to get a job done, Spitz said.
“Team leaders must display characteristics that engage and develop others,” she said.
• Look for internships.
Internships are one of the best ways to get a foot in the door at a local company, Dudley-Mora said.
She remembers one particular business major at IUN who interned at Speedway America.
“They hired him for the internship, which led them to offering him a position before he even graduated,” she said. “That would be the ideal situation for all our students.”
Even if you’ve graduated, several companies still hire interns who have completed school.
• Consider your options.
For those thinking about returning to school, Dudley-Mora suggests meeting with career services staff at colleges.
She says she often works with alumni thinking about furthering their education, and she offers them the opportunity to take part in career assessments that help present them with options.
For those who want to be in the work force, Robinson suggests staying persistent.
“If you are sitting back and waiting for the perfect job to come to you, you may be waiting for a long time,” she said. “Start sending out at least 25 to 30 resumes a month and track your efforts so that you can follow up. This will usually result in one to two phone calls. Bottom line: effort and direction equals career success.”