As a member of the Class of 2017, you’re ready to make an impact on the world. Your final exams are behind you, but one important question remains unanswered: “What do I do now?”
After years of tough economic challenges for college graduates, recent data show a strong market for 2017 graduates (National Association of Colleges and Employers). Although opportunities are increasing, the job market is more competitive than ever for new grads.
PASSHE’s Career Professionals Association, which held its annual spring meeting at Edinboro University on May 18-19, provided some advice for new graduates.
1. Experience opens doors.
According to Monica Clem, director of the Center for Career Development at Edinboro University, it’s important to have your dream job in mind but also to remember that everyone starts somewhere.
“You may need to gain experience to help you move forward,” she said. “Don’t turn down opportunities just because it might not look exactly like what you envisioned. They might end up leading you exactly where you need to go.”
2. Take personal ownership of your professional development.
Clem said that college grads must embrace frequent and disruptive change and new technology – regardless of professional industry.
“Realize that your education does not end when you walk across the stage,” she said. “Read. Be engaged in your industry. Participate in professional development opportunities. Those who develop transferable skills and engage in lifelong learning will see the greatest professional gains in this economy.”
3. Be willing to meet everyone.
Nearly 80 percent of jobs are acquired through a person’s network, said Dr. John Rindy, director of Career Education & Development at Slippery Rock University.
“If you are relying upon job boards, newspapers and randomly-mailed resumes for job hunting, those methods combined are probably less than 15 percent effective,” he said. “Only 15 out of 100 people will actually have a job after a year of searching using these methods.”
4. Be 100 percent professional 100 percent of the time.
“From being a good digital citizen, to professional dress, to meal etiquette, language use, manners, follow up – a person must be 100 percent professional, which means very different things depending upon one’s field,” Rindy said.
5. Be appropriately bold.
“Approach life with confidence – even when you're not feeling confident,” said Dr. Tammy Manko, director of Career and Professional Development at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Challenge yourself. Take action toward your goals every day. And keep those goals in front of you so you don't lose sight of them.”
6. If you’re not using LinkedIn, you’re missing out.
LinkedIn allows you to email contacts with your career questions, said Margo J. Sassaman, associate director of Career Management at Millersville University. If an individual’s profile is public, you can review their career path and plan a direction for your own career.
“Professional groups can also help you keep current with what is happening in your field and will often have jobs posted on their websites,” Sassaman said.
7. Follow up with potential employers.
“The biggest complaint I hear from employers is that job applicants do not follow up throughout the interview process,” Sassaman said. “If you attend a recruiting event and collect a business card from the hiring manager, send an email to them to mention where you met, highlighting your skills and why you are interested in working for the organization.”
Always remember a thank-you note after an interview.
8. Surround yourself with people who challenge you and inspire you.
You become the average of the people you spend your time with, said Daria Wielebinski, director of Career Development at East Stroudsburg University.
“Be mindful of how your own actions are influenced by your environment,” she said. “If you surround yourself with people who don’t share your goals, you can lose clarity and focus.”
9. Be persistent.
Career Professionals Association members agreed that in addition to staying active in your job search, you should continue applying even after you secure an interview. It can also take much longer than expected to hear back from an employer after you apply or interview. The worst thing you can do is apply for a job and then wait to hear back before continuing to apply elsewhere.
10. Identify your unique qualifications.
Advice from the Career Professionals Association: Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. He or she has a position to fill and is looking for a particular set of skills and experience. Take time to research the position and organization, identify what sets you apart from other candidates, and include the information on your resume. Make sure the employer sees how your skills match the job requirements and research the company and position well before applying.
PASSHE Career Professionals Association is comprised of career center directors and career professionals from each of the Pennsylvania’s State System schools. The career professionals of the 14 PASSHE universities work diligently to help connect students with employers and opportunities.
EU’s Center for Career Development provides students and alumni with career coaching, resume and professional writing support, career search mentoring, graduate school assistance and seminars and workshops throughout the academic year. To learn more about career development or to connect with the department staff, visit tartanedge.edinboro.edu.
Photo Caption: Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Career Professionals Association, which held its annual spring meeting at Edinboro University on May 18-19, provided 10 tips for the Class of 2017.