Job Search: 7 Must-Have Tools for New Graduates

Last Updated Apr 28, 2011 5:20 PM EDT

The job market for new graduates is the best in three years. But make no mistake: the hole is deep and we're still digging out. Unemployment remains abnormally high. Graduates will need to be on their game to launch a career this spring.

But at least the trend lines are finally pointing up: Employers plan to boost hiring among new grads by 19%, reports the National Association of Colleges and Employers; and 20- to 24-year-olds saw a 2.4% jump in employment during the first three months of 2011 -- more than any other age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So pack up your diploma and hit the streets new grads. As always, you'll need a great resume, several letters of recommendation and several more references. But that's not enough to stand out. "By integrating other elements into the job search you can add power and professionalism," says Ford Myers, author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring. Here are seven additional tools to help you land that first job:

  • Success stories Write three to five compelling stories about school or work-related successes. Be ready to talk about what you learned and why they make you proud.
  • 15-second commercial Practice an ultra-short presentation of who you are and what you've done and, most importantly, the strengths you bring to a job. Be ready to launch into this presentation when an interviewer asks you to talk about yourself.
  • Big-time bio Write a succinct narrative (no more than one page) summarizing your school, intern, volunteer, extra-curricular and employment experiences. This should be written in the third person, as though someone else were writing it about you.
  • Wish list Describe your ideal employer in general terms, including things like size, location, industry and culture. Then research organizations that meet those criteria. These will become your target list of employers.
  • Contacts Compile a list of people you know who may be able to help your job search. These might include family, friends of family, teachers, and parents of friends. Four out of five openings are filled through this kind of networking.
  • Script key conversations When you know you will be in a position to network, write out the full conversation just as you would like it to go. This will help you steer the discussion and be prepared to make important points.
  • Tracking system It's important to follow-up all leads with a letter or phone call in a timely way. So keep a record of whom you speak with and when, and when you are due to follow up.
Check here for general advice on getting the job search started and here for where jobs are most plentiful. Then get to work on these tools. You want to be ready when opportunity knocks.

Photo courtesy Flickr user swamifred
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  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.