(Editor’s Note: The following blog post is adapted by permission from an article by Heather Huhman, an expert in entry-level job preparation, based on her conversation with Brad Karsh, author of “Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider’s Guide to Landing Your First Job.”)
Here are some key tips for finding your first entry-level job:
• Be as flexible as possible in your job search. I work with lots of students who say, “I want to work for a big accounting firm in New York City, and if I don’t get one of the top four jobs I’m not going to be happy.” But the more flexible you are in your job search, the more likely you are to land employment, especially for students. One of the biggest advantages students have is their flexibility – in job title, company and even geography – and the more flexibility you can provide, the more attractive you are to a potential employer.
• The biggest mistake entry-level job seekers make is that they are too focused. Remember that your first job is your first job – so focus on just getting SOMETHING. The other big mistake I see these days is that young workers and recent college graduates rely too heavily on online tools. While Twitter, Facebook, Monster and other online services can be very helpful, remember that they are only a piece of the job search. You still need to get out and network and make connections with people.
• With any candidate, it’s important to have skills that will allow you to hit the ground running. On your résumé, list skills you have that are needed to do the job you’re applying for. Employees are no longer interested in hiring someone they need to train for six months to a year, so any skills you’ve gained, even if it’s from a part-time job or college work, will be what employers are looking for. I work with a lot of universities – most recently DeVry – that offer career-oriented curriculums, and those can go a long way to making sure you have an employable skill set.
• Something that has always impressed me is when someone is really themselves in an interview. Too often people think they need to be stiff, somber and boring in a job interview, but remember that the person interviewing you is probably going to have to work with you, and we don’t want to work with boring, stiff people. Always be honest, interesting and insightful. Do your homework before an interview, know what’s going on with the company you are interviewing with and be personable with the person interviewing you. You always want to be yourself and not a fabrication of yourself.
• The biggest mistake people make is that they write job description résumés instead of accomplishment résumés. If they work at the Gap they write, “Assisted customers with merchandise.” Well, anyone who had ever worked a retail job has done that, so it doesn’t set you apart from the pack. To rise to the top of a résumé stack, you have to write about your accomplishments. Focus on the skills and abilities you picked up that make you unique. Think of the scope of what you’ve done and the results you generated. Infuse your résumé with numbers, and instead of saying you “assisted customers with merchandise,” say you generated more than $35,000 dollars in sales over a two year period. Raw numbers will always jump out and make your résumé catch a recruiter’s eye.
For more career advice, visit HeatherHuhman.com.