9 Essential Job Searching Steps for New Graduates

job searching on a laptop

Congratulations, new graduate! You successfully navigated the hallowed halls of education and are now ready to dive into your first professional job. However, while you may know a lot about your new field, it may still be a struggle to formulate a specific job search plan.

Use this checklist to make sure your job search hits the ground running…

  1. Let everyone know WHAT you are looking for

Yes, all your family and friends sent congratulations cards for your accomplishment. Tons of people hit “like” on your cap and gown picture on Facebook and Twitter. But do they even know what your degree is or what job you want now?

Be forthright and let them in on the specifics for your target job. You would be surprised with how well connected and helpful your relatives, friends, and acquaintances can be when they know what types of job leads you want.

  1. Research relevant key words for your chosen field

Computers and recruiters alike rely on key words to search for candidates as well as cut them in the screening process. In fact, your resume needs to match 60-70% of the key words to get to the point where a human being will actually read it.

To increase your chances of surviving the HR black hole, research the relevant key words for your chosen field. Plus, don’t forget the “stupid” key words, such as “excellent communication skills.” Yes, I know that is a boring cliché. But if HR is using stupid key words in the job description, you must put them on your resume somewhere or be cut for not having enough key words.

BONUS TIP: some computers search for “Bachelors,” while others are programmed to look for “BS.” Using both, such as “Bachelors of Science (BS),” increases your key word count and avoids being screened out because of the degree formatting.

  1. Write your resume

Once you know the key words, write your resume based on what the employers are seeking. Make sure that everything in your resume is relevant for the job you want, not just what you have done in the past.

  1. Fix up your LinkedIn profile

Your LinkedIn profile is NOT the same as your resume because they work in different ways. LinkedIn works more like SEO (Search Engine Optimization), where your high value key words need to be repeated in a natural manner. Plus, every section is searchable, so be sure to load up your transferrable skills relevant to your target job.

  1. Join LinkedIn Groups

The easiest way to build your network and earn a good reputation is by joining large, active Groups on LinkedIn. You can have up to 50, so mix it up to include your alumni group, industry-specific groups, and job seeker groups, just to name a few.

  1. Set up job search alerts on the employment websites

While we know that there is a lot of competition for jobs on sites like Indeed.com and others, you don’t want to ignore these resources for job leads. However, don’t waste all of your time pouring over them for hours on end. Instead, automate the process with key word rich job search alerts, also known as job search agents. This way, the website can send you notifications based on what you really want.

BONUS TIP: only post your resume on these sites as “private” to reduce the amount of spam jobs that get emailed to you, such as 100% commission sales jobs.

  1. Identify target companies

Beyond the job boards, you want to tap the hidden job market by creating a list of target employers that you are interested in. They may not even be hiring right now, but that’s what’s great about the hidden jobs: it is all about anticipating their future needs. Set up Google Alerts to track their activity, and when they announce a major event – gaining a new contract, moving to a new headquarters, etc. – consider these your trigger events and an opportunity to reach out to hiring managers.

  1. Start networking strategically – both in-person and online

Networking is indeed critical to your job search. But this is more than just showing up to a large after-hours business event. Networking means any activity that builds relationships with other people. This definitely includes expanding your LinkedIn network or even exploring some of the more casual get together on Meetup.com

  1. Reach out to hiring managers

Finally, you should always reach out to hiring managers whenever you apply to a job, especially as a new grad. HR may cut you, but the hiring managers can still insist on the interview if he or she was impressed enough.

In fact, this frequently happens for my clients. In one case, I was helping a client who had a successful career in IT but didn’t feel that it was her calling. She went back to school for Marketing. Before graduation, she started to apply to jobs, but wasn’t getting any interviews. We changed the direction of her resume to emphasize her transferrable skills and then got it into the hiring managers’ hands. They were impressed, and the subsequent interviews turned into a job offer. Even better: she was missing one of the critical skills they needed, specifically, experience with InDesign. To prepare her for the job, the company paid for a class in InDesign before she started working with them. Sound impressive? You only know the half of it – this was during the height of the Recession, when jobs were hard to come by in the first place.

Never underestimate the power of reaching the hiring manager!

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Good, Fast, or Cheap: Pick Two

While many people cite the fact that Millennials buying habits are destroying traditional industries, it does not necessarily address this long-standing business truth. For example, it is possible to order a mattress online and have it delivered to your house. You can even try it out for up to 100 days to make sure it’s the right bed for you. Those mattresses are frequently arriving fast and cheap – but are they of the same quality as a local source?

Personally, I bought an adjustable mattress a few years ago. It certainly wasn’t cheap, but it is definitely good. Plus, the quality is backed up with a 20-year warranty. By comparison, some of the online mattresses have a 10-year limited warranty which only covers half as much as my adjustable bed.

Looking beyond mattresses, the “Good, Fast, or Cheap” rule applies to any situation…

Good and Fast – but not Cheap

Everybody wants something good and fast, but those often come with a premium price tag. For example, at my business, we are a top ranked resume writing and career coaching service. However, if a client needs a very fast turnaround, there is a premium fee to pay. This is because you are pushing back all the rest of our scheduled work to serve you first.

Just like at Disneyland, if you want to jump to the head of the line, you must pay for the Premium Park Pass.

Fast and Cheap – but not Good

Fast food is the ultimate example of something being fast and cheap, but not necessarily good. I know, you may loooove Taco Bell – Burger King is my greatest weakness – but let’s not fool ourselves: fast food restaurants are not using the top-quality ingredients for their recipes. Otherwise, there is no way that they could make their margins, turn a profit, and stay in business.

Plus, we all know that fast food is not good for our bodies. Just compare the price of salads and fresh vegetables at the grocery store vs. all the chips and junk food. If you want quality, nutritious food, you will end up paying more.

Cheap and Good – but not Fast

Items or services that are both cheap and good may not have the fastest delivery time. One key example of this actually comes from small businesses.

Last year, my car got into a pretty big accident, causing over $11,000 worth of damage. I worked with a local shop that had great reviews. It did take over 6 weeks to get the car back, mostly because of demand for parts in my area. However, my car drives like a dream and you can’t even tell anything happened to it. Plus, their prices were very competitive, even though everything was paid for by insurance.

Even with my own company, it takes about two weeks to get a resume and LinkedIn profile finished. However, we devote a lot of time in getting to know our clients, conducting a thorough key word analysis, and two-stage editing before finalizing a project. As a result, our clients see marked improvements in their job search. For all the hours we put into every part of the process, the overall fee our clients pay is very competitive.

Custom Work

In the modern marketplace, custom work falls into its own category. While online shops like Etsy or Fiverr give the impression that you can receive a custom piece very quickly and very cheaply, it’s often a scaled down version or the provider is producing things in a streamlined manner. For a truly custom piece, you need to pay for it – unless you can make concessions.

For example, artist David Irvine is known for his unique redirected old paintings. Specifically, he finds paintings in thrift stores and adds pop culture references to them. https://www.redbubble.com/people/gnarledbranch/portfolio

Sometimes, he will take on a commissioned piece. These may take him a month to complete. However, once done, prints are often available. The original commissioned piece certainly falls into a different category, as it is both expensive and not fast. However, the prints can be considered fast and cheap – but they certainly aren’t the original canvas.

Think of it like a Picasso: you can pay $5,000,000 for an original, or $5 for a cheap print.

The Ultimate Value

The true value of any item or service is what someone is willing to pay for it. Case and point: anything on eBay.

As a toy collector, one of my favorite gifts this year was Lego’s Saturn V rocket for advanced builders. (NO, I didn’t open it! That’s sacrilege!) Now retired, the sealed boxes from July 2017 are being resold on eBay for anywhere from $129 to $206. The original price was $99. Not a bad return for a 9-month investment. But what makes the difference in those price points since the product descriptions and item conditions are identical?

It’s what you are willing to pay.

The higher priced item may carry more weight because it comes from a reputable, long-standing seller with excellent reviews. Maybe the lower priced one is just a broker who isn’t inspecting every single item. A middle-of-the-road price may come from a fellow Lego enthusiast like you.

In the end, as with life, you choose what is most important to you: The Good, the Fast, the Cheap, or the Custom.

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During your phone or online session, we will address your specific questions about the job search, such as resumes, job search strategies, or interviews. We also evaluate your current tactics to make sure that you are using best practices for searching online, building your LinkedIn network, and dealing with recruiters. Afterwards, you will receive specific strategies to improve your job search overall.


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What’s Wrong with My Resume? Word Creep, Google Docs Blowout, Bad Apples, and the Mobile Job Search

Surprise! Your resume may not look like your resume.

There is a conspiracy working against you for your job search: your resume and other documents will not look the same from one computer to another. Even if you send the Word document from one PC to another that also has Microsoft Office, you may become the victim of “Word Creep.” As 40% of job seekers now conduct their job search through their mobile devices, the prevalence of Word Creep has only gotten worse.

What is happening here?


What is “Word Creep?”

Have you ever spent tons of time making sure that your resume fits perfectly on one or two pages, just to email it to someone and have them ask, “Why is there one sentence at the top of the last page?  Couldn’t you format it correctly?”

Congratulations, you are the victim of Word Creep.

Basically, any shift in formatting from one computer to another is Word Creep in action. While some of the classic Creeps were caused from sending a document written on a PC computer to a Mac, this is not terribly uncommon going from one PC to another. Today, we have further formatting shifts that are caused by uploading your perfectly formatted resume onto Google Docs to use in your mobile job search.


Google Doc Blowouts

While Google Docs will tell you that your uploaded resume is still a Word document, many of the advanced formatting features available in Word have been disabled or reinterpreted. Plus, if you need to edit it or change it from your Google Drive, it needs to convert the Word document into a Google Doc. This is where the formatting gets especially funky. In particular, the line spacing on the page is the first thing to lose its alignment.

When downloading the Google Doc as a Word document, the formatting is likely to flip again. In some cases, it will revert to the original line spacing, HOWEVER, that is not what you saw in the online version of the Google Doc.


Bad Apples

Going from PC to Mac environments has been the bane of job seekers for a multitude of years. In particular, Microsoft’s Word documents are not compatible with Mac’s Pages documents. There are ways for someone to view a Pages document on a PC, but it involves multiple conversions including making a ZIP file. Let’s be honest: most of the time, HR is not going to do the extra steps to convert that Pages document into their required formats. And yes, the vast majority of businesses rely upon Microsoft Office, even on their Mac computers.

However, a new problem is on the rise: mobile platforms.

It is possible to create a resume on a tablet, either from a Word app or even the Office online product. The problem is that the formatting is difficult to adjust and some of the features are more difficult to access. Plus, the possibility of Word Creep increases exponentially, especially if the job seeker is using an iPad and sending to a PC.


Making the Most of The Mobile Job Search

The easiest solution for making your resume readable while using your phone or tablet to job search is to always send it as a PDF. Most employers have evolved their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to accept PDFs.

LinkedIn can fill the gap as well, as some of the more cutting-edge companies are letting applicants apply with their LinkedIn profile directly into their own ATS.

Whatever platform you use, it is still best to create the resume in Word on a computer and then convert it to PDF to limit the amount of formatting errors you will encounter. Even PDFs are driven by the original document’s code, such as setting up columns or tables. Then load that PDF onto your mobile devices, making it ready-to-go at a moment’s notice.


Last Tip: Check Your Formatting

Since some ATS systems will drop your resume into a text form of the document, it is good to know how that looks to HR. One of the best – and cheapest – tests for this is Indeed.com. Just upload your resume onto the website and take a look at the preview. This gives you an idea of how HR will see your document.

Not pretty, but effective. Especially if you took the time to concentrate on what really matters most: the quality of the writing and the inclusion of the relevant key words.


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Ask Donna: How can I keep my job search alive during the holidays?

Dear Donna,

I’ve noticed that the amount of jobs posted online seems to dry up around the holiday season – I know I saw a definite drop in relevant jobs for me over Thanksgiving week. I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep my job search alive during the pending holidays. How can I make the most of this slow time of the year?

– Not a Happy Elf


Dear Elf:

First of all, the job boards and employment sites like Indeed should not be the number one focus of your job search no matter what time of year it is. While these are helpful for generating leads, they are just one piece of your entire job search strategy. It is true that many employers hold off on posting jobs until January, however, this doesn’t mean that your job search needs to go dormant. Instead, you should be focusing on the other, more valuable aspects of your job search.

Here’s a great checklist to make sure you don’t lose traction for the rest of December…

  1. Update your resume, LinkedIn, and cover letters

Now is the perfect time to update your materials. Styles and tactics change over time, so if you are still using an old resume, be sure to look at it with fresh eyes. Look at more than just the format and appearance. You want to make sure you are pulling the top key words for your profession, based on current job postings.

Did you know that 90% of employers are looking at your LinkedIn profile? Yep. [Source: LinkedIn, 2016.] For this reason alone, make sure you are following the current best practices to optimize your profile and drive more recruiters to it.

When was the last time you reviewed your cover letters? While only 50% of HR departments value the cover letter itself [source: Mile High SHRM survey from Personal Touch Career Services, 2017], it is still a valuable component to your job search. Make sure it is well written and appropriate for your target jobs.

  1. Get involved on LinkedIn

Now that you updated your profile, so what? If nobody knows who you are, they have no reason to reach out to you. You need to build your reputation within your industry.

This can be done two ways: sharing or writing quality content and getting involved in the Groups.

First, if you are a great writer, start publishing articles or blogs on LinkedIn. If you aren’t, you can simply share other relevant articles that you find. Don’t worry – it’s not copyright infringement, as the links always go back to the original article. These can be shared both in your newsfeed and in your Groups.

Speaking of the Groups, when was the last time you got involved in the discussions in your top Groups? This is another way to build your reputation and become associated with helpful opinions on relevant topics for your industry.

  1. Take classes to fill in your knowledge gaps

Are you wondering how to do those steps for your LinkedIn account? Are you missing a vital skill for your target jobs? Now is the perfect time to take a quick class to fill in those gaps and make you a more valuable employee.

I highly recommend checking out www.Udemy.com or other online learning sites. These websites feature literally hundreds of thousands of courses that are self-paced, video-intensive, and subject-specific. To give you an idea of what you can learn, check out my LinkedIn class, “Using LinkedIn to Get a Job Without Going Crazy” https://www.udemy.com/using-linkedin-to-get-a-job/?couponCode=FLYER75

Explore the additional classes offered – everything from Microsoft Word to learning Italian – and focus on those courses that boost your value to the employers.

  1. Get in touch with your current network

The holidays are an ideal time to tap your network on the shoulder and let them know two critical things: one, that you appreciate them; and two, that you are still looking for a position. Notice that the gratitude piece must come first. No one wants to be pumped for job leads in a Christmas card, but taking the time to share a heartfelt note about how you value them can breed more goodwill.

  1. Start researching potential employers in the hidden job market

Believe it or not, jobs posted online on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn only make up a fraction of the available positions. Many are only listed on the company’s website. Not only that, some aren’t listed at all, at least not until the company already has a candidate in mind. Collectively, this is known as the hidden job market.

The secret to landing a hidden job is first and foremost paying attention to what is going on in your industry and local market. Start by picking out some companies that have caught your interest, whether they have a job opening or not. Then conduct systematic research to identify their needs, challenges, key decision makers, and standings in the market. Track them with Google Alerts to see the latest news – often times, a relevant news article can be turned into an excuse to reach out to managers and offer your services as a potential employee.

  1. Implement structured networking

Chances are that you have heard the rumor: up to 80% of jobs are found by networking. This is true to some extent, as networking includes everything from contacting a hiring manager for a posted job to Aunt Martha saw a job on Indeed and forwarded it to you.

Structured networking is similar to researching potential employers in the hidden job market, but instead of hunting companies, you want to identify people. Don’t look at just the key managers. Look for potential co-workers or contractors that can tell you more about the company and their culture. Thanks to such tools as LinkedIn, conducting structured networking is easier than ever before, once you learn the tricks.

  1. Spread some joy

Most of all, take some time for yourself this holiday season. Enjoy time with your family and friends. Eat that cookie and drink some egg nog. Along the way, reflect on all the positive things that happened this year and be grateful, no matter how small. After all, a light heart is very attractive – especially to employers.

And have a cool Yule!

Donna Shannon


Got a question for Donna? Just email your question to april@personaltouchcareerservices.com

Want a see how your resume and LinkedIn profile stacks up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free resume review: https://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact

Is your resume a monster?

Does your resume look like a zombie, using old, outdated tactics that died 10 years ago? Or is it like a mummy: dry, lifeless, and stale? Or is a hulking beast, weighed down with too much information? Is it a weird conglomeration of different styles, making it look like Frankenstein’s monster?

Check out these horrifying errors and learn what you can do to breathe new life into your resume:

1. The Zombie Resume
Like old corpses digging their way out of the grave, a zombie resume tries to resurrect old, ineffective strategies that may have been great 20 years ago but don’t really work that well in the modern world. These errors are usually in format, including the visual appearance and the key sections.
The biggest format offender is the “classic” two-column approach, where the section headings are listed on the left and the content is on the right. While it can still be appealing when used correctly, the problem is the WAY that this document is formatted. If you use the template straight out of Microsoft Word, many are built with tables or text boxes. However, computers don’t read these like humans. They process the first column DOWN, then move on to the next column and read that down. The final effect is that the headings are completely divorced from the content.
Have you ever heard that your resume should be “one page only?” That’s another classic zombie resume. Unless you are seeking an entry level job, this tactic died years ago. There is simply no way for an experienced job seeker to layer in enough key words to survive the screening and capture key achievements to impress hiring managers within one page.

Ways to improve:
First of all, understand how different computers and systems will interpret your resume. It is possible to create a visually-appealing resume that still uploads smoothly into an online application. Another option is to save your documents as PDFs, especially when emailing your resume. That way, you know what you sent will appear the same way on the other side.

2. The Mummy Resume
For a mummy, the writing itself is dry, boring, and lifeless. Whether this is a lack of clear achievements or simply repeating such deadly phrases as “responsible for,” these are the things that both recruiters and hiring managers hate to read.
A classic mummy strategy is the Objective Statement. Ever feel like these are boring, generalized statements that could apply to almost any job? That’s because they are. HR hates objective statements because they are vague. Who wouldn’t want “a stable job with a dynamic company that has plenty of opportunity for growth?” On the flip side, sometimes Objective Statements are extremely specific, such as “To become the Production Manager at ABC Company.” In that case, if you miss out on the targeted job, you won’t be considered for anything else.

Ways to improve:
While sometimes we need to use antiquated phrases such as “excellent communication skills” to increase our key word count, your entire resume should not read like the job description. Make it a balance of key words, top responsibilities, and achievements. Plus, let your personality come through in the summary.
Struggling with achievements? Think in terms of top metrics. It’s one thing to say, “led a development team,” but it is much more impressive and informative to write “led a team of 12 developers that produced 3 new CPG products within 3 years.”
Kill the Objective Statement. Instead, write a solid, engaging summary that tells the employers why you are the best candidate for the job.
Bonus points: modernize your contact information. Include your LinkedIn profile and only list your city and state for your location.

3. The Hulking Beast Resume
Has your resume grown to unbelievable proportions, with every new job adding what feels like miles of content? While this can happen to anyone with a long career, some industries such as IT are more susceptible to adding massive bulk.
While spreading out onto three pages is an obvious sign of a beastly resume, the writing itself can be the problem. It is tempting to write in run-on sentences or highly detailed bullets.
Ways to improve:

GET TO THE POINT. Resumes are not the formal, stuffy documents that they were 15 years ago. Read it out loud. If you must take a breath before coming to the end of a sentence, it is too long. You need to either break it into multiple sentences or trim it back significantly.
Not sure what to keep? Read the job description. If your skills, duties, achievements, education, and anything else on your resume doesn’t relate to the job, it is hurting your chances.

4. Frankenstein’s Monster Resume
WAAAAY back in the day, we did things like different fonts, different styles, and other formatting tricks to help guide the eyes. However, modern resumes should be more consistent in their look and feel.
This goes double for the writing style itself. Nothing reflects more poorly on a resume than two distinct writing styles within one document. It can be switching the tenses from first person to third, or being inconsistent with present and past tense. Similarly, if someone else wrote your original resume, you need to either match the writing style yourself or pay a professional to make sure that the tone is the same throughout the document.
Ways to improve:
Pick one font and stick with it. Make sure your voice is consistent throughout the document, especially when drafting your achievements. A pop of color can be effective, but make sure that the colors complement each other and don’t distract from your overall message.

Want a see how your resume stacks up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a free resume review: http://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact