4 Things You Should Be Doing Right Now if You Graduate Next Month

If you’re among the thousands of students expected to graduate from college next month, at this point, you’ve likely already had your fill of “reach for the stars” advice.

But even with all the “dream big” and “work hard” quotes clouding your Pinterest board, there’s probably a gnawing uneasiness in your gut about the future that awaits you.

And if you don’t yet have a job, those fears are likely to be heightened as you question whether you’ll land one in your industry and do so in a reasonable amount of time.

It probably doesn’t help your morale to know that the fashion industry — and other creative and cultural fields — are highly competitive and have a particularly high barrier to entry compared with other industries.

For context: According to the most recent Condition of Education report by the National Center for Education statistics, in 2015, adults 25–29 with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, electrical engineering, marketing research and nursing had a below-average unemployment rate of 2.3 percent. Meanwhile, those with bachelor’s degrees in the liberal arts and humanities had an above-average rate of 6.2 percent.

Perhaps there’s no better time to re-examine (or create from scratch) your to-do list to ensure that you’re taking the appropriate steps to set yourself up for career success. (And as Benjamin Franklin once said: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” — sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

Here, Holly Caplan, a job placement expert and author of “A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World,” offers her best advice on what soon-to-be college graduates — who want to land promising employment — should be doing right now.

Strategically Sending Out Resumes

“Send out resumes as soon as you can; don’t wait until the day after graduation,” Caplan said. “The market is competitive, so you will need to set your self apart. Being ahead of the game will show your sense of urgency and desire to begin your career.”

Also, when accepting a job, Caplan said recent grads shouldn’t shy away from “stepping stone” roles that get them in the door and lay the foundation for growth.

“We all want the perfect job immediately, but sometimes that takes time,” she added. “Give yourself the permission to know that this will be a process.”

Making Some Not-so-Cold Calls

While Caplan agrees with many career experts about the importance of networking for industry hopefuls and veterans alike, she suggests taking the art form beyond popular websites like LinkedIn and Ladders.

“Personal networking is much more personable and goes a long way,” Caplan said. “People appreciate the human connection, and when they feel connected, they are willing to help those jumping into their careers.”

More specifically, the author offers a rapid-fire approach to this: Make a list of 10 people you know with companies or jobs you admire, and call them.

“Let them know that you are graduating shortly and will be available for hire. Ask them if they know of any hiring companies or anyone else you should speak to,” she said. “Take an hour out of your day to make these calls and you will quickly create momentum for yourself.” (*Editor’s note: If calling is a bit awkward for you — and it could be for the person on the other end of the line, too — a personalized email or LinkedIn message with pointed questions can also be beneficial.)

Stockpiling Reference Letters

Perhaps it’s a no-brainer those who are new to the job market should have three or so references on hand at any given time. But another key way to stand out, Caplan said, is to have a few full-blown reference letters ready to fire off.

“Get at least three letters of recommendation from others you have worked with in your recent past,” she said. “It could be a former manager, co-worker or even someone you partnered with in a school organization. They just need to write a few sentences about how long they have known you, what they know about your character and work ethic.”

Caplan said such letters “reach past” the list of referrals that are standard on a resume, as they are proactively written and can set you apart from your competition.

Spring Cleaning Social

“Take a look at your social networking sites and make sure that your content is something you would want your future employer to see,” Caplan said. “We all know how easy it is to get information on each other by a quick Facebook search.  Hiring employers will be doing this search as well.”

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