Graduation is just around the corner, but you’re still searching for that elusive first job. You can take some encouragement from the fact that the overall unemployment rate dipped slightly to 7.7% last week, but don’t get complacent. The jobless rate for Millennials (defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) reached 13.1% in January-nearly double the national average.
In preparation for the spring hiring season, here are three essential tips to help you overcome the stubbornly difficult hiring odds.
Step One: Google yourself.
The first thing you need to do is the same thing potential employers are going to do before they seriously consider hiring you: Google your name. (I know it sounds slightly dirty to “Google yourself,” but go ahead and do it anyway.)
Are there any results? If embarrassing things come up, then you’re going to want to scrub those clean, but you should be even more concerned if nothing at all comes up, because that means you’re a digital nonentity. It’s like you virtually don’t exist.
How could this be, you wonder, since you probably spend most of your waking hours online? Well, you’ve probably spent most of your time socializing randomly on Facebook or consuming other people’s online content, rather than deliberately crafting your own digital footprint. It’s time to change that.
Step Two: Brand yourself online.
Speaking of Facebook, why are you still spending time there? You’re in the job market now. It’s time to shift your attention over to LinkedIn, which is where business connections are made. (Don’t worry; your Facebook friends will understand and you can go back and visit.)
Begin branding yourself online by building your personal LinkedIn Profile and clearly stating your career objective. That kind of clarity is essential in moving forward professionally. Now, recheck your Google results. Getting better?
Next, start adding employed adults to your growing professional network. Have you added your roommates’ parents on LinkedIn, yet? What about your adult relatives? Alumni from your college? Then, branch out by connecting with their contacts in your field of interest.
Once your LinkedIn profile is underway, the next step in branding yourself online is to provide solid evidence to back up your resume and LinkedIn profile. You could start by building a blog and a website that relate to your field of interest and career objective. This would simultaneously demonstrate your writing ability, technical facility, and initiative.
The next time a hiring manager Googles your name, he or she will discover a consistent, coherent, and professional online representation of you. By taking the time and effort to craft this consciously, you get to control the message and image you present.
Step Three: Join the right professional association.
Every career field has a national association dedicated to serving those in the industry. These organizations help members meet one another and keep up with the latest developments affecting the field. Professional organizations are one of the best sources of insider info on anticipated job openings, so don’t overlook this incredibly powerful job-hunting tool.
You need to figure out which organization serves your field of choice, join, and then commit to attending their annual conference and local regional meetings regularly. How else are you going to meet the people in your field with the influence and power to hire you? This is absolutely essential if you want to be taken seriously as a prospective member of a profession.
If you don’t know what your field of interest is, well, then you’ve got some serious personal reflecting to do. If you don’t know what the proper organization to join is, then you need to do the necessary legwork to find out. Start by checking Yahoo’s online Directory of Business and Professional Organizations. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, conduct informational interviews with respected members in your field, and ask them to recommend the best association to join.
Most professional associations have “junior member” pricing for students and new applicants. Remember that membership dues and travel to professional conferences are generally considered tax-deductible expenses, which can take some of the sting out of the price.
Few will invest the time, money and effort in these three essential steps to becoming a serious job applicant, but those who do will be amply rewarded. There’s no better time than now to get started!