Four happy college graduates standing in a row. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

10 strategies December college graduates should follow for job search success

Posted December 27, 2016 by


As 2016 comes to a close many college students have now handed in their final paper, taken the last exam of their collegiate careers and entered the job market. But according to a study of 503 entry-level job seekers by national career matchmaking firm GradStaff, recent college grads seem largely unaware of career opportunities and unsure of how to apply their skills in the workforce.  So what strategies can December college grads put into action now to create results that land a job? Start by following these 10 strategies for success.

1. Develop a strong value proposition: Start by developing a strong value proposition and identifying those important soft and transferrable skills, says Bob LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff, a company that serves as a career matchmaker for recent college graduates, and companies that are looking to fill entry-level jobs.

“These soft skills – such as critical thinking, effective communication, time management and leadership – are in high demand among prospective employers,” says LaBombard. “Grads should consider how and where they’ve applied these skills during college, whether in classes or extracurricular activities, or in non-professional jobs, including restaurant and retail service positions.”

2. Sell what you want to do next: Next, be prepared to talk about what it is you want to do now that you are graduated.  Everyone that you know, run into, or talk to, is going to congratulate you on graduating, then ask “what’s next?” or “what do you want to do now?” The “I’ll take anything” approach is not a good option, says Kathleen I. Powell, Associate Vice President for Career Development at The College of William & Mary, and President, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Case in point, if you tell someone you’ll take anything, it’s hard for that person to find “anything.”


“If you tell someone you’re interested in arts management, accounting, psychology, now you’ve given that person an area to focus on and they can start thinking of contacts in their networks,” says Powell.

3. Casual conversations can lead to opportunities: Don’t blow off those casual conversations with friends, family members – that wacky uncle just may be well-connected in an industry where you want to work and be able to point you to a job opening, a mentor, or someone with whom you can set up an informational interview. Members of your church, social networks, parents of high school friends, relatives of your significant other, when they ask “what’s next” they are generally interested – so be prepared to effectively sell your excitement of what you want to do next. That’s the only way they can possibly help you, by knowing what you truly want to do.

4. Network, network, network: Because, it really is about networking. Recent ADP employment reports show the bulk of all new job growth – often as much as 70-80 percent in a given month – is driven by small and mid-sized businesses. “These companies often don’t have the resources to recruit on campus, and tend to rely on referrals from employees, clients, vendors and other partners to identify candidates,” says LaBombard. “As a result, personal networking is critical. All entry-level job seekers should seize opportunities to ask parents, teachers, friends, clergy and even former employers for connections in industries of interest, and they should continue engaging with professional associations, alumni groups and others for face-to-face networking opportunities.”

LaBombard offers these additional tips:

5. Search and apply for jobs that fit you: Even if you have a history, English, or psychology major, you can have success identifying potential jobs that fit you. Don’t focus on the job title. Instead, do research on the types of careers that fit the transferable skills that make up your personal value proposition. If you have strong critical thinking or analytical skills, look for jobs that require these skills. Using this approach should allow you to identify jobs you’ve never considered in industries you may know little about, thereby expanding your horizon.

6. Use technology wisely: Technology has completely changed the game when it comes to job searches. Social media networking is widely considered to be the best way for college students to identify and pursue job opportunities. Technology has empowered college students and new grads to tackle job searches on their own. However, students still need to develop a social media networking strategy to have success, and make sure social media profiles are up-to-date with current experience and connections. Technology can be a valuable tool for networking, too. Set a goal to make at least five new connections every week during your job search.

When using social media, be sure to join the LinkedIn alumni group for your college or university, adds Powell. This is where you can sort potential contacts and connections by major, employers and by skills.  “It’s easy to connect with someone you have something in common with, in this case, your alma mater,” says Powell.

7. Utilize campus career counselors – even after graduation: While doing all of this, be sure to circle back and connect with the career counselors at your college career center. They to can connect you with alumni, and can help with resume, cover letter and job search strategies.

When implementing all of these steps remember one simple tip that every college student, recent college grad and experienced professional should follow. This doesn’t take a degree, cost money, or require time. It just requires a little effort.

8. Be professional: “Be professional,” says Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, Director of the Office for Student Success at Touro College in New York. “That may seem obvious, but it really is not so simple,” says Shapiro. “The work world can be very different than the college world and employers expect you to act, well, like a professional.” Pay close attention to how you dress, your punctuality, your cell phone and computer usage, your language, and your social media presence. Holiday party pictures are not an excuse. You are not in college anymore.

Shapiro offers these additional tips for December college graduates embarking on their first job search:

9. Join a professional association: Just about every profession has its own professional association. These associations help set the rules and chart the direction of the profession. Find the association most closely aligned with you career goals and join. Better yet, not only join, but consider volunteering with the professional association as another way to make professional connections. Professional Associations have great resources including journals and membership lists that can be very helpful in guiding you on your way. Many Associations have new membership drives during and immediately following the holiday season, so this can be a great time to join at a reduced rate.

10. Set up multiple informational interviews: Informational interviews are an opportunity to meet with professionals in your field to discuss what you need to do to be successful (it is also a great way to look for a job). No one knows the field better than the people who are working in it! Take advantage of the expertise of the people you already know. “Be aware that most professionals are busiest right after they return from vacation after the holidays,” says Shapiro. “Be respectful of their time and work obligations and wait a few weeks before asking to meet for an informational interview.”

Congrats on graduating – you are now one of thousands of December college graduates searching for a job. Use every angle, and every opportunity to connect with the right people to get an interview, and a job. Use these tips to get started, and get hired before thousands of spring college graduates hit the job market.

Let the job search begin…

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