Starting your first job search is exciting, intimidating and, above all, confusing. Chances are that you've received plenty of career-related advice from parents, friends and even people you hardly know. One person may encourage you to pursue an administrative position with a large, well-known firm since having a recognized name on your resume may serve you well in the future. Someone else may feel it's best for you to apply for jobs with small companies because you could quickly advance your career. Confused about which fork in the road to take? Here's some advice that's virtually guaranteed to point you in the right direction:
Leave your parents at home. Your parents are one of the best resources for job-search advice, and it's wise to pick their brains on occasion. After all, with years of experience under their belts, they can offer suggestions for starting on the right foot and guidance for avoiding the mistakes they've made. But be careful not to rely on them too heavily. It's not unheard of for parents to accompany their children to job fairs and even call hiring managers to convince potential employers their son or daughter is right for the job. These so-called "helicopter parents" can do more harm than good, however, since employers look for entry-level professionals who can think strategically, make sound decisions and eventually develop into leaders. Your proficiency in each area could be called into question if you show potential employers that you lack the independence and confidence to conduct your own job search. The bottom line: Tap your parents for advice, but make sure you run the show.
Don't focus on 'perfection.' Everyone wants to land the "perfect" job -- you know, the one with a good base salary, generous time off and, if it's not too much trouble, a corner office and personal assistant. Unfortunately, these jobs are few and far between. But that doesn't mean the right job for you isn't out there.
When evaluating employment offers, don't overlook those that fall a little outside your idea of ideal. For example, if the pay is less than you would like to earn, consider if other aspects of the job, such as the benefits offerings or advancement potential, make up for the slightly smaller salary. If you place too much focus on a single element of the offer and fail to grasp the big picture, you may pass up a promising opportunity.
Stay true to your school. If you're a recent college graduate, don't say goodbye to your school just yet. Your university likely has a number of resources that can prove valuable during your job search. Consider your college's career center, which may offer resume-writing advice, interview preparation and other services. Also consider joining your university's alumni association. These groups often host career fairs and networking nights that involve past graduates, giving you an inside edge with potential employers.
Make friends. One of the best ways to uncover job leads and learn about prospective employers is to talk to the people you know, including friends, family, former coworkers and even your workout partner at the gym. It's likely that someone can point you toward a firm that's hiring, has been employed by a company you would like to work for or can pass along the contact information of a helpful recruiter. Also, look for opportunities to expand your contact base. For example, you may be able to leverage current online acquaintances to meet new contacts through portals such as LinkedIn. More traditional networking avenues include joining a local professional association or participating in industry conferences and seminars.
Remember, honesty is the best policy. Entry-level professionals often have little work experience that can be used to convince employers of their qualifications. That's why some are tempted to enhance their application materials by embellishing certain details. An applicant may exaggerate the duties performed in a previous job or claim to have completed a degree that is still unfinished, for instance. The best advice: Don't even think about doing it. Companies perform background and reference checks on prospective employees, and even a small white lie is enough to disqualify the most talented candidate. It takes only one call to a previous boss or the office of the registrar to uncover a falsehood. If you really wish to stand out, tailor your resume and cover letter to the position you seek, clearly explaining how your work history and skill set match the exact requirements of the job.
Above all, remember that finding a new job can take weeks or even months. Try not to become discouraged. Take a smart, careful approach to your job search, and you will land your first position before you know it.
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