You have one semester left of college, and you still don’t know what you’ll be doing after you graduate. It seems like many of your fellow soon-to-be graduates have already gotten job offers, and the pressure is mounting. You’ve sent out resumes to several companies, but nothing’s panned out. What else can you do?
Several things, it turns out! If you haven’t received a job offer yet, don’t worry. We talked to career experts to find out what you can do between now and graduation to increase your chances. Here are eight last-minute things you can do during your final semester to land an awesome job.
1. Make sure you have a detailed LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the go-to social networking site for business professionals. For anyone looking for a job, having an updated profile is key.
Job search strategist and consultant Rick Gillis says that he’s finding a lot of college students don’t have LinkedIn profiles. “LinkedIn owns the job search market,” Gillis says. “It’s the best game in town.”
To get started with LinkedIn, make sure you have a well-written bio that explains what you have to offer prospective employers. Make sure your profile picture and cover photo are professional and high quality. Completely fill out your profile with relevant information, and avoid posting things that don’t contribute to your professional persona (such as Internet speak, a link to your quirky blog or references to that killer party you went to last night).
Gillis also suggests making your profile very easy for recruiters to find. “Every word and every term on your LinkedIn profile is searchable,” he says. “Your profile has got to be rich in those keywords relevant to your studies and what you’re looking for.”
Load your profile up with these keywords: In your summary section, include a paragraph labeled “Specialties” and list descriptors related to your major, your skills and your career field of interest. LinkedIn has a candidate search tool that lets recruiters sort through profiles using specific search terms. By listing your specific qualifications, your profile will be a prominent result for recruiters looking to hire those with your interests and abilities.
2. Use your campus’s career services
Your college’s career center is full of resources to help you find jobs, update your resume, prepare for interviews and connect with people in your future industry.
“Your search will be most effective if you utilize this diverse set of resources,” says Mindy O’Mealia, a career development specialist at Rutgers University. “These include career services appointments, network events, workshops, online job search tools and personal connections.”
To help get some guidance in your job search process, set up an appointment with an adviser at your university’s career center. He or she will help you learn how to tailor your resume and cover letter to specific companies as well as direct you to places where you can find job openings.
Your university also hosts career fairs and other networking and recruiting events. “Attend career-related seminars, employer events and information sessions to establish employer contacts,” O’Mealia suggests.
At these events, you’ll interact with recruiters face-to-face and get a chance at making a great first impression. Recruiters are more likely to remember you for future opportunities when they can put a face and a vibrant personality to the name on your resume.
3. Target companies you’re interested in and reach out to them
Gillis suggests identifying 15 to 20 companies you would genuinely want to work for to start targeting. Doing a targeted job search can be much more effective than simply sending out a generic resume to as many companies as possible.
First, identify the kinds of companies you would want to work for. Then, cross-reference this list with the kinds of applicants they are seeking: Do you have the skills and qualifications the company is looking for? Narrowing down the list to companies that you are excited about will make the job-search process easier for you, and focusing on businesses that want the skills you have also increases your chances of getting an offer.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to reach out! It’s important to let these companies know that you’re interested in working for them. Gillis encourages job seekers to use LinkedIn to find people who work for those companies and reach out to them. “Click on the profiles you’re interested in,” he says. “If someone looks at your profile as well, you can send an invitation to connect! This is a great way to start building your network.”
Personalize your invitation to connect with a message like, “Thanks so much for looking at my profile. I’d love to connect with you!” If this connection can help you in any specific way, don’t hesitate to request an informational interview to learn more about the company or a shadowing session to see what the job is like. It’s important to have an established network in your industry. Making connections now can help open doors for you down the line. You never know when someone will remember you for a future opportunity!
4. Talk to alumni in your field of interest
Vicki Salemi, author of Big Career in the Big City, says that alumni are a great resource to tap into during your spring semester.
“Definitely visit your career center on campus and ask for alumni in your geography, industry and/or company so you can network with them,” she says.
If you’d like to go into a field that’s relevant to your major, contact graduates in your major to figure out what kinds of jobs they’ve had and how they went about finding them.
“Reach out to alumni for advice, for next steps in your search, for connections,” Salemi says. “Ask if they would do anything differently now that they’ve been in the industry for a while. What was the biggest mistake they made when they graduated? What would they do now if they could do it all over again? Learn from their failures as well as their successes.”
Alumni have gone through the same process you’re dealing with now. They can tell you how to find jobs in your industry as well as give you a look at what it’s like from the inside. Alumni can be a vital part of your job-search tool kit!
5. Leverage your personal network
How will people know you’re looking for a job if you don’t tell them?
“Network with friends, family, neighbors, local business owners,” O’Mealia says. “Get your name, resume and the word out there!”
Gillis agrees that networking is essential to the job search process. Opportunities can come through second or third connections. Maybe your friend has an uncle who works in a field you’re interested in, or a classmate’s mom is the hiring manager at that company you’re eyeing.
Leveraging this personal network can be very fruitful, and Gillis definitely recommends taking advantage of it. “Let people know you’re graduating soon and are looking for opportunities in your career field of interest,” he says. “Get people interested in helping you.”
Be wary of sending out mass messages—you don’t want to seem like you’re spamming your friends. If you know a specific friend, acquaintance or family member who has connections to the types of jobs you’re interested in, send him or her a message through Facebook or email. Keep it personal but brief. Let him or her know that you’re looking for a job and would appreciate his or her help. Do you need an introduction to someone at your aunt’s company? Would you like to chat about what her job is like? Do you want her to keep you in mind if she hears of any openings? Be specific about how she can help you.
6. Have a new experience
Your academic record may be stellar, but your extracurricular activities may not be that well-rounded. Believe it or not, this could definitely impact the way recruiters respond to you.
“Chances are your resumes and experiences are extremely similar to classmates who have landed jobs,” Salemi says. “Learn from them. What are they doing differently?”
You and your fellow collegiettes may have followed a similar trajectory as far as academics go up to this point in your life, so it’s important to do what you can to make yourself stand out.
If you see lots of classmates getting job offers, Salemi recommends examining their behavior to see what makes them stand out. “Maybe they’re working their connections harder, maybe they had an experience like being an RA or studying abroad that gave them an edge,” she says. “Learn from those experiences and try a new experience this spring semester to put you ahead of the pack.”
It’s definitely not too late to get involved with extracurricular activities on campus or start your own student group. If you’re interested in volunteering, take an alternative break with United Way or Break A Difference instead of hitting up Cancun for the fourth year in a row. The leadership experience and community involvement will not only look great on your resume, but you’ll also be able to meet new people who could point you in the direction of job opportunities.
7. Apply to internships and contract agencies
At the very least, you can always apply to internships. The career experts we spoke with all agree that this is a good last-minute strategy.
An internship will hold you over during the summer months if you don’t manage to find the job you love before spring semester is over. It may give you a sense of fulfillment and direction while you continue to look for more long-term employment.
Lesley Mitler, founder of the college career coaching service Priority Candidates, says that if you know an internship has “a proven track record of leading to full-time employment,” it might be good to consider.
Mitler also suggests becoming a contract employee. Temporary job agencies are looking for contract workers to work for short periods of time, usually on small projects. Temping offers the same benefits as internships, with one explicit perk: You will get paid.
Salemi used this method herself when she struggled to find work after graduating. “I landed my first ‘real job’ in November after having graduated in May,” she says. “Most of my friends were already employed by Labor Day, but I stuck to the search and ended up with what I thought was the best employer as well as job at the time. In hindsight those eight weeks didn’t really matter, as I kept busy temping.”
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t stop your job search once you’ve found an internship or temp work. Remember, these are stepping stones to future employment and not necessarily the be-all and end-all of your career.
8. Keep calm and continue the search
Last but not least, if you’re struggling to find a job, do not panic.
“Panicking is not going to serve you at all,” Gillis says. “What you need to do is put together a plan. You need to aim that energy.”
Use these ideas to come up with specific steps to help you on your job search. Don’t forget that what worked for someone else may not work for you.
“You must remember that you are on a path that is defined by your individual set of career criteria,” O’Mealia says. The job hunt is a highly personalized process that should be tailored to your interests, skills and abilities.
That means you shouldn’t worry when it seems like everyone else is getting job offers. The hiring process is vastly different depending on the industry. “Some companies, like financial institutions, accounting firms and consulting firms, are proactive about hiring students well in advance of their start date,” Mitler says. “Many other companies hire and advertise positions on an ‘as needed’ basis. In this case, you will have to be close to your graduation date or already a graduate to interview for these opportunities.”
While you’re waiting, don’t stress! “Definitely keep your spirits up,” Salemi says. “You never know when you’ll make a new connection, so the best thing you can sport is a smile and a positive attitude.”
She suggests several activities to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind: eating healthily, exercising, sleeping well, reading inspirational blogs (Prolific Living and Penelope Trunk offer touching words of advice) and—most of all—enjoying your last semester of college!
“Continue to put feelers out and make contacts with alums, continue the job search, continue the networking swirl,” Salemi says. “Don’t give up; just keep going. And don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself—you will become employed.”
If you follow these eight steps, you’ll be well on your way to finding a job during your spring semester. Good luck, collegiettes!