Keep Calm and Carry On, Graduates
by Renee Lee
What do recent graduates mounting their first job search need most?
At least that’s what Yusuf Wilson, a Delaware-based career coach and author, says.
Only 49 percent of 2009-11 graduates found full-time employment within a year of finishing school, a Rutgers University study found. This is compared with 73 percent for students who graduated three years prior.
Wilson, who talks to many students at colleges around the country, emphasizes that students must build resilience against rejection.
“Right now, it’s still very challenging in the marketplace—and even when someone does everything right, they still might not get the job,” he said.
Wilson suggests recent grads keep a list of accomplishments handy to remind themselves of all they’ve achieved, and to keep motivational quotes in the back of their heads.
An analogy Wilson uses comes from his days as a boxer.
“If you get yourself into a corner and you’re taking hit after hit, what are you going to do?” He asked. “If you just stand there taking the hits, you’re going down.”
Small points of etiquette matter. Many people still don’t take the time to send thank-you notes, said Barbara Pachter, New Jersey-based business etiquette expert and president of a business communications training service.
“Don’t just send thank-you notes to someone you interview with, but also to anyone who takes the time to give advice,” she said.
Shake hands firmly at the beginning and end of the interview and be sure to stay enthusiastic.
“One young man had interviewed for a job and the interviewer asked him what he thought about the job,” Pachter said. “He said it wouldn’t be his first choice. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.”
Often, when someone gets turned down for a job, “that can kill their search for another couple weeks,” Wilson said. This is no time for a self-pity party. Evaluate what you’ve done right and what you could improve, redouble your efforts and move forward. Most important, Wilson says, do not take the rejection personally.
Some other tips from Wilson:
- Reward yourself for correct behaviors, such as making a follow-up phone call after an interview. Do something small for yourself. Wilson likes to reward himself with a pound cake from Starbucks.
- If you got turned down, find another way to approach a company. Get a referral or connection and bypass the front door, where everyone else will be clamoring to get in.
Put in the hours. The job hunt should be your No. 1 priority, so dedicate the necessary time.
And from Pachter:
- Don’t just rely on social media. Use your school’s career center, take part in associations related to your field, and make in-person connections.
- Even if an interviewer told you something bad—such as you weren’t qualified—don’t ever show you’re upset. Try to counter what they said.
- Don’t be a pest. Limit yourself to one follow-up email to a follow-up email so as not to bother your contact.