Monday, March 26, 2012

Preparing for post-graduate job searching

The following is a guest blog by Brent Amundson, an Executive Director for Dell.  He is a 1988 grad of Northwestern and is a member of the Northwestern College Alumni Council.
Many of you have NWC students who are getting ready to graduate this year or next.   As a former NWC business student, I remember vividly how anxious I was to enter the workforce.  And now 25 years later with significant large-company human resources and talent acquisition experience under my belt, I’d like to share some simple professional advice for upcoming graduates that may help those who intend to entering the workforce after graduation.  
·         Create a LinkedIN profile – use it primarily for business/network connections, not purely personal ones. is currently the #1 social site for professional networking and engaging about potential job opportunities as well as connecting with others who hold positions similar to your interest.  It’s a great and growing community and important for new graduates to join.
·         Network, network, network.   Many interviews occur because someone knew someone who knew someone!   Getting the job during the interview is up to the individual – but getting the initial interview often results from networking.   And while LinkedIN and other social sites can better facilitate networking , the concept certainly pre-dates social media – it’s simply social connectivity.   (Incidentally, my first “real” post NWC interview at Cargill resulted from a networking connection – it didn’t guarantee a hire (though I was successful), but it got me in the door to the interview!)
·         Clean up your Facebook and social media site profiles.   We tend to forget the silly things said on our “personal” sites, but often those sites aren’t as personal as many think.   In reality, recruiters and future hiring leaders will likely do a Google search on prospective hires, and while it may not be part of official qualifying criteria – it does and can influence someone’s perspective based on what they see and read.  For a professional position – you want them to focus on your skills more and less on your personal life, so don’t create distractions.
·         Create a great resume highlighting your education and relevant working experiences.  Keep it to one concise page, especially as a new graduate!  Most resumes are now uploaded into Applicant Tracking Systems – so keywords that reflect the job function matter more than ever.  Focus on your education, school activities, and relevant skills and abilities.   Many people ask me if they can include their church affiliation, family details, political affiliation, personal activities and interests on their resume.   My personal advice is to remember that whatever you put on your resume (and your blogs, social media profiles, etc.) can and may be used for or against you in the court of job seeking.  So, I suggest that you focus your resume and professional profiles on skills and abilities (a great differentiator), and less about your personal interests (although community service of any type generally plays well).  Most employers (especially larger ones) generally care much more about what you can contribute (skills and abilities) than your personal choices and interests – so no need to draw focus away from your skills.  One example I often cite is the young man who put on his resume that his hobby was trapping animals and participating in the NRA (neither of which had anything to do with the finance job he was applying for) – and the hiring manager happened to be a strong animal rights activist in her personal life.   He may or may not have been a perfect match skills wise and able to contribute successfully to the company, but he never go the chance to really talk about his skills.
·         Subscribe to online feeds and text alerts for relevant social and news sites to feed you content from your areas of interest.  Knowing more than others about a subject matter can help you win points with a hiring leader.
·         Use but don’t rely solely on traditional “job boards” (i.e. Monster, CareerBuilder, DICE, Indeed, online news outlets, etc.)    Business entities use these as only one channel in which to post their positions.  A few hours of web-surfing will show the new graduate that there’s no shortage of ways and places to find online job postings!
·         Proactively target specific companies that interest you.  Look at their websites and their career sections, and take the time to complete an online profile.  Find out if they have a social media presence (via Twitter, FB, LinkedIN, etc.).  If they do then join their discussion!   If you do join the discussion – don’t just hound them about job positions – actively seek to contribute to the topics to make a positive impression – it may land you an interview at some point.
Certainly the past three years have been challenging for those of us in the business of hiring – but I’m optimistic that the next few years will bring more opportunities for entry-level professionals, and I hope these few suggestions can be used by you and your aspiring graduates better prepare to find an exciting workplace career.

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