This week, a young nurse from Southeast Asia completed her MPH degree at a major university in New York and sent me her resume for review. I discovered during our conversation that, because of visa restrictions, she may not be able to pursue a career right away, despite our dire need for experts in her field. Nonetheless, she had some questions about how to prepare for a job search in the United States, so I spent a few minutes answering her questions.
Here are some of the ideas I briefly discussed, along with other ideas for new graduates. Specifically, new graduates should:
- Select a job target,
- Estimate your market value,
- Network with school contacts, and
- Prepare a career marketing campaign.
New graduates and other job-seekers can begin all these steps now. The “lockdown” situation is changing rapidly in many localities, so now is the time to get ready.
Select a job target.
The most important first step you can take, based on my experience, is to set your job target. You cannot start off in the right direction if you do not know where you are going.
A college career advisor I spoke with some years ago pointed out to me that her students could be in the workforce for 50 or more years. This is a long time to be in a job or career you are not suited for or do not like.
My prospective client with a new MPH degree and a nursing background brought to mind one of my favorite articles on selecting school majors and careers—Major Decisions, published in the November 2, 2012 New York Times. A professor pointed out, in this article, that being “kind-hearted” is not sufficient for being a nurse. It is a very technical job, so prospective nurses take some of the same science classes that pre-med students attend. In other words, you need to possess an aptitude for the job you want, and not just an interest. It is, in my view, even more important to consider this point when you select your job target today than it was when the article was written 8 years ago.
Job target selection, I’ve found, is also important at the practical, resume-writing, level. It is difficult to select the correct keywords to include in your resume if we don’t know what job you are applying to fill. For example, a school principal asked me to write a resume to target a specific job—Professor of Student Teaching. We emphasized her core competencies and experience as a performance evaluator for elementary school teachers. The retired principal landed the first job she interviewed for and remained at the job until she retired again.
On the other hand, a former Starbuck’s Manager and NCAA Division II coach asked me to prepare a Federal resume for her even though she had no idea what Federal job she wanted to target. This left us with no specific job posting to write against and use for keyword selection. She has not found a Federal job.
Overall, my experience indicates that you will get a better job in less time if you pursue a specific job target.
Estimate your market value.
It’s a good idea to estimate your value before you go to market. Your salary will be determined by the economy, and not by your student loan payments and other expenses. Another way to look at this, and most other aspects of job search, is that the process is about the needs of your prospective employer, not your needs.
Many Web sites offer salary and wage information including Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, and the US Department of Labor. Large corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies may also have entry-level salaries or salary-ranges right on their job announcement! Make sure you know these numbers before you apply for jobs, because you will be asked about your salary needs at some point in the application process. You will be eliminated if you request a number outside of the employer’s range.
The wage or salary you want to earn is largely irrelevant. You will be paid the rate your employer decides you are worth
Network with your professors, classmates, and alumni.
It’s difficult to do traditional face-to-face networking during the Pandemic but, if you have just finished college or graduate school, you’ve already done much of the “in-person” part. Your professors and classmates have already met you in person. They know your work. Contact them now to share information, ideas, and job leads.
I reminded the nurse I spoke with last week that many of her classmates are probably working in her field already. She should make them aware of her interest in a healthcare quality assurance position, so they will let her know about any relevant jobs they learn about.
Alumni networking is also important although you may not have the opportunity to meet alumni in person now. Most colleges and universities have alumni groups on LinkedIn. Recruiters I’ve spoken to say that alumni are more likely to consider recent graduates from their schools, even if they have not met them. I was hired into my first professional job in part because one of the hiring managers attended my graduate program.
It is important, then. For recent graduates to take full advantage of their built-in network of contacts.
Prepare Your Career Marketing Campaign.
A recruiter and career coach told me several months ago that the job search is now a career marketing campaign. This is because your LinkedIn profile and other social media are more like advertising. You cannot count on being found through your LinkedIn profile although it may show up in recruiters’ searches. Recruiters and hiring managers will search for your LinkedIn profile and other social media after you apply, so the information they find must be consistent with the information on your traditional resume and cover letter.
The career marketing materials you should prepare include;
- Your traditional resume,
- A basic cover letter you will edit for each job application, and
- Your LinkedIn profile.
Other blog posts will offer detailed suggestions on preparing this material.
Certain industries expect job candidates to have additional marketing materials. For example, a fashion design graduate will need a portfolio. Journalism graduates will be expected to offer writing samples and recordings of their work.
The “stay at home” period offers and unprecedented opportunity to prepare the presentations you will need for your job search without the constant interruptions of daily life.
How can we help?
Job search is your full-time job until you land your first position. Enjoy a few days off, and then start planning your career marketing campaign.
Our specialty is writing your career marketing documents, including resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. Start the process by scheduling a free consultation. Then, download our free report; 5 Ways You Can Disqualify Yourself Before Someone Reads Your Resume! to get some valuable insights.