Who doesn’t remember their post-college-graduation job search? It’s a milestone and a time filled with anxiety. It’s the time when you most need professional advice, and the time when you are the least likely to ask for help.
It was 33 years ago for me and I’m on my fourth career—in HR, IT, communications and marketing, and now, strategic consulting. When advising recent college graduates, I observe eight job hunting mistakes.
1: Applying for one perfect job and waiting to hear back before applying for more.
Very early in your search, you find the perfect job—it’s in the right location and requires exactly the background you have. You send the perfect cover letter and resume and then…you stop your search. This job is the one, so you hold off applying for more jobs because you’re pretty sure this will come through. What happens next? You lose four to six weeks of time. Perhaps you get a phone interview, but ultimately not the job. It’s a lesson that knots my stomach even now: There are potentially hundreds of people who also are right for that job. Apply for the perfect job and then forget about it. Move on. Keep applying.
2: Misunderstanding the purpose of the phone interview.
Speaking of phone interviews. You will have lots of them and they serve one purpose: to rule out candidates. Of course, prepare and take them seriously. (Google can advise you.) Make a good impression but don’t say or reveal anything that might remove you from consideration. At this stage, your only goal is to avoid getting eliminated; you just want to get to the next round of interviewing.
3: Hesitating to take advantage of personal contacts.
When looking for your first job, tell everyone. Talk to as many as you can about your search; go way beyond informational interviewing and official references. Take advantage of your personal contacts! Maybe you’re uncomfortable about getting a leg up because of someone you know. Get over that feeling quickly. Remember, when your contact puts in a good word for you, they are actually helping the hiring manager. Hiring is risky, and managers look for ways to reduce risk by knowing more about the people they are considering.
4: Applying only for jobs for which you are fully qualified.
You will not find this ad. Wanted: a new college grad with a degree in anything and no experience, good salary and benefits. (Actually, you might see that ad but it’s for a sketchy, all commission sales job.) You will need to apply for jobs that ask for more experience than you have. Stay within the range of one to three years of experience. Why? Because you are competing with only those in the applicant pool. Maybe the particular combination of location, timing, and a personal contact will mean you are just as qualified as everyone else in the pool.