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Ask the Experts: I’m trying to find a job for after graduation in another state but my career service office isn’t being helpful.

Posted February 25, 2020 by

Question:

Graduation is fast approaching and I’m stressing out as I don’t have a job yet. My career service office is focused on jobs from local employers and so isn’t of much help as I attend an out-of-state school and want to move home after graduation to be close to friends and family. I’ve applied to dozens of jobs but after weeks I’ve heard back from only a few and those were automated responses confirming my applications. No interviews. No emails from recruiters. No job offers. Help! I love my parents, but I don’t want to share a room with my little sister again.

First Answer:

Maybe it’s time to expand the way you are searching for a job. It sounds like you’ve been applying online to various companies and you’ve also visited career services. Those are two great starts. But I would consider adding a third type of job search–asking your parents, their friends, their contacts, and anyone else you know in your hometown that can help. The best way to find a job is through old-fashioned “word of mouth.” Start with your parents. Do they know anyone in the field of your dreams? If so, reach out to that person and ask him or her to meet you for an informational interview–to learn more about the field. While you’re there, ask for 5 additional contacts in the field. Reach out to them and ask to meet for coffee. Tell them you will be in town from such-and-such a date till such-and-such a date. Go on the informational interviews (promise each person you will only use 15 minutes of his or her time). In this way you begin to have a true network of people who are thinking about you and looking for opportunities for you. It’s called the “hidden job market.” This job market knows of jobs before they are advertised online. Using this approach helps you avoid competing against hundreds of grads for the same position. It also gives you an advantage because you hear about the job earlier. I hope this helps, and good luck!

Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005) and Power Sales Words: How to Write It, Say It, and Sell It with Sizzle (Sourcebooks, 2006)

Second Answer:

 Keep in mind that most job openings aren’t advertised because a lot of businesses prefer to hire from within the company or through word of mouth. If you’re coming in from off the street, you could be out of luck.  Instead of working harder, work smarter. Use online resources and business trade publications, such as The Wall Street JournalForbes, and Fast Company to target desirable companies in your home area. Then, prepare to infiltrate these companies by making the transition from outsider to insider. Here’s how:

  • Get to know individuals already employed at your target company who are in a position to hire you. 
  • Apply for an internship position that will land you inside the company and provide you with an opportunity to build your skill portfolio.
  • Secure referrals from anyone you know in your chosen field—either people with years of experience behind them, such as old professors and your parents’ friends, or recent graduates who will have sympathy for your plight and might also be more familiar with a company’s lower-level job openings.

Using a combination of these approaches, you are much more likely to gain access to unadvertised job openings in the companies you desire. However, it probably won’t happen overnight. Be persistent and don’t resort to laziness, even if you’re not seeing immediate results. Keep your expectations realistic and remind yourself of the end goal every day. Above all, don’t doubt your own abilities. Ignore all of the folks who tell you that the market sucks and that you should take any available job, even if it’s not what you want or need. Learn to take rejection with a grain of salt—it’s all part of the process. If you take the right action patiently and efficiently, an opportunity will come along that’s a good fit for your skillset.

— Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.

Third Answer:

While it likely doesn’t feel like it, this may be a great opportunity. Chances are this will by no means be the last time you’re looking for a job – according to the US Department of Labor, on average college grads will hold 10-14 different jobs between the time they’re 18-38. Right now you have the benefit of resources in your midst that can help. So use them and learn how the process works. Start out by getting clear on what you’re looking for:

  • What skills do you want to use, which do you want to learn? 
  • What are the values important to you and that you’ll be looking for in an employer? 
  • What types of things do you love to do – and what about them do you enjoy? If you love playing video games you might be hard-pressed to find someone to pay you to play but when you identify that you’re drawn to the graphics or to the storytelling, now you’ve got some ideas to work with. 

Just because career services doesn’t have lots of prospects in your geography, it makes sense to consult them on your resume, your cover letter and your applications. They are likely to help you on improving your chances of getting a response to blind outreach. While you’re there, ask to get connected to alumni in the area you’re going to. Having an internal referral makes it anywhere from 3-14 times more likely to get the job, so tap into this group – whether for networking to learn more about an industry and organizations within it, or once you’ve earned it, for help in getting an interview. 

Then tap into your own network – if you’re going back to your home town, chances are you know folks who can help. Do you know people who you volunteered with or through a past summer job? Can friends’ parents provide some useful insight into opportunities? Remember – networking is a two-way street. When people help you, commit to paying it forward. You might not know how right away but actively working to help those who help you is the best way to build a lasting network that not only grows over time, will be there when you need it, but will also be your champion if they’re asked about you. 

Remember that you’re likely to do the job search again, and again, and again. Take note of what helps you and what doesn’t. And remember to make the most of the journey and stay curious along the way. You may be awfully surprised at what you’ll find.

— Pam Baker, CEO of Journeous

Fourth Answer:

Here are some things you can do, without delay, to find a great job “back home”, if your college is remote:

  • Resume: Make sure your resume focuses on job or internship accomplishments related to your major
  • LinkedIn: Get help doing your profile. If you college is not helping with this, get a career coach; you can work remotely with most. LinkedIn is THE way most companies and organizations find talent like you. Use your home city — since that’s where you want to be starting your career — not your college city, so local companies there can find you more easily. – On LinkedIn, follow companies in your target city and sign up for job alerts from them.
  • Create Google alerts for news about job titles your after and company names you’re after.
  • Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, others: Follow target companies here so you’ll see any news and job postings they put here.
  • Create a job search business card: Your name, phone number, email address, LinkedIn address, possible titles or major-related work topics. You don’t yet have an official title nor a company you’re working for but having a card is a serious sign of professionalism. Keep it simple, and get them printed for you; don’t print them on your home printer on that flimsy paper. Few things make you feel more like a professional than giving someone your business card!
  • Network! About 60%-80% of jobs are found this way, a statistic I see proven true over and over again with my clients of all ages. Ask about your desired companies when you talk with friends, family, neighbors in your home city, fellow students, Internship supervisors, faculty, and business people at any business gatherings in your home city. Ask them who they know in your target companies, and ask if you can speak with these people — not to ask about immediate openings, but to learn more about what they do and who they know. If they detect your interest is in THEM, they will help you! So start developing a database of contacts and keep it fresh.
  • Subscribe to the online business publications in your home city to see which companies are growing, which ones are fading, who’s expanding, who’s adding buildings (and thus, people).
  • Google “Best Companies to Work For” in the local business press there, and learn what you can about these companies and organizations. Why not work for a great company!
  • Join professional organizations in your major, in your target city. There are engineering societies, biology clubs, Public Relations groups, Sales and Marketing groups, Operations…you name it. College senior memberships / new grad memberships are usually much less expensive than a full membership yet you get all the membership privileges.
  • Join professional groups on LinkedIn to see what people in your future career are discussing today.
  • Keep checking in with people on your networking database or they will forget you.
  • Do practice interviews on campus or with a coach, in person or via video conferencing.
  • Check with your college’s Alumni Office for earlier graduates who are in your target city. They’ll enjoy meeting you and will want to help.

— Joanne Meehl, founder of TheJobSearchQueen.com.

Fifth Answer:

The strategy of pushing out mass mailings is a very passive and never ends with a positive result. SO you must become more proactive quickly.  First, don’t make assumptions about career service offices.  Unless you are going to a regional state university the majority of career professionals have connections beyond the immediate area of the institution.  So first get an appointment with career staff and go over your job search strategy – it is not focused.  Second use the resources available to you.  First really check your institution’s employment portal – this will require some research skills.  You will find opportunities back in your home region – but you cannot simply drop them a resume.  You need to reach out to them – best to ditch the spring break plans and head home for some informational interviews. Next, since you are probably not the only student from your home region to come to this institution, use your institution’s LinkedIn  alumni site (or People Grove or whatever alumni software they have) and see who from your institution resides in the area.  Make connections with alums who are doing the kinds of things you are interested in.  Again use information interview to collect the information you need to target prospective employers.  Nest, you should have friends from high school who still live in the area or are returning from college themselves.  Connect with them in LinkedIn or Facebook or however and learn from them who they are connecting with.  Finally, ask your parents, relatives and mentors at home to suggest folks you can talk to.

As you make these connections, research, research, research.  Find out what companies are growing the fastest,  What sectors of the economy in your home region have been expanding.  Go to the local Chamber of Commerce webpage, the regional economic development office – groups like these have information on hiring.  Through these sites you may find special career/employment events, information sessions.   Finally check to see if there is a young professional  club or a SHRM chapter in the area – go meet people, learn what they are doing.

In short, your current strategy will not work.  Employers do not come courting you even though you think they.  They want candidates with initiative – and the job search is one way to demonstrate this.  The job search is hard, requires planning, and solid research.   Best thing about doing this – when the economy eventually weakens and you have to find yourself looking for a new job – you will have the skill to do so.  Your class mates who seemed to have an easy time – career fair, interview, job – now have to really dig deep and hustle to find their next job.

Have fun, smile – patience.

Dr. Phil Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University

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