20 College Grad Job Search Mistakes


20 College Grad Job Search Mistakes

By Valerie Mekki

As a college grad on the search for their first job in a new career, you're bound to make some mistakes as a job seeker. We can't blame you- you were never taught how to write an effective resume or how to build a personal brand online or network like a pro.

You were too busy trying to graduate.

But now it's time for you to search for that job in the industry or field you worked so hard to enter.

So, how do you know if you are requesting a connection the right way or making the most out of your internship?

We share the 20 most common mistakes college grads make with their job search and some helpful tips on avoiding those mistakes.

Ready to find out how to make things right with your job search?

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1. No College Grad Update Email  

Graduating from college is a huge deal. And you probably made a post on social media, but you may have missed the opportunity to inform the most important people in your network, the ones who could help you with your job search. You can't rely on a social media post to announce to everyone in your social network (personal and professional) that you've graduated and are ready for your next opportunity. Take the time to write a thoughtful email to previous managers, mentors, and old colleagues, letting them know how excited you are for this new chapter and how you should keep in touch.

2. No Linkedin Profile  

If you haven't yet created a LinkedIn profile, the time is now. LinkedIn is the number one global professional network with over 722 million members, and here is a fun fact- four people get hired on LinkedIn every four minutes. That's some undeniable motivation for any job seeker! Think of your LinkedIn profile like a personalized billboard, where you can choose to highlight your skills, work, and project experience. Here is a LinkedIn Profile template that can get you started.

3. Job Search By Yourself

The pressure to land a job right after you graduate can be intense. And the added intensity of applying and interviewing for a position on top of it all can make a person feel like they're Sisyphus, the man from the Greek methodology, pushing a rock up a hill. But you don't have to be a solo job seeker. Reach out to your fellow graduates and search together. The camaraderie of a cohort effort of a job search will keep you motivated through the process and give you a community to lean into to learn from one another.

4. Believing in the "College Grad Syndrome"

You've heard of imposter syndrome, the feeling of being a fraud and not believing your abilities warrant your place at the table. A common feeling most people go through in the workplace. But “college grad syndrome” is the belief that your college student experience isn't enough to go after that role or to make a post on LinkedIn. You believe your thoughts and past experiences don't qualify you to be in a conversation with one of the top CEOs in your industry or to leave an insightful comment on a post from a highly regarded influencer on LinkedIn. Stop self-rejecting your way out of an opportunity. See how Jerry Lee was able to do just that here.

5. Missing Out on Informational Interviews

Your job search goals may only focus on landing a job interview, but another type of interview is just as valuable- an informational interview. Different than a job interview because the intention of this interview is not to ask for a job. But an opportunity to learn more about the field/ industry directly from a professional who is precisely in the same role you want to be in the future. To get first-hand intel on the ins and outs of the position, tips on who you should follow for thought leadership or which organizations to join are valuable information that you would not be able to get from an online search on Google.

6. Sending Thank You Notes is not a Priority

Emailing or sending a note of thanks to a person is not just about having good manners but should be a part of your job search practice. And sending a thank you note isn't just after an interview, it should be the first steps when looking for a job. Take a page from the CEO of Wonsulting. Jonathan Javier’s paybook. He took the time to handwrite thank you notes to previous employers and mentors who have impacted his career early on. Showing gratitude and sharing with another person how they made a difference in your life is a lasting impression that could lead to future conversations and invitations to opportunities.

7. Believing Job Boards are the Only Way to Land a Job

Your way of applying to a job means submitting your resume to a job board or a company's website, then you wait and hope it makes it through. A common mistake a college grad makes, the submit and hope approach. You may be unaware of more effective ways to get your resume into the inbox of the right people. You have access to top recruiters and hiring managers with strategic research and networking- right at your fingertips. There are four tiers to applying for a job. Learn how to make your way to the top of the tier that gets you closest to the people who matter the most in your job search journey.  

8. Neglecting your Personal Brand

87% of recruiters and hiring managers use social media platforms to find candidates for non-management and salaried roles. That means if you aren't being intentional with your posts, your profile is already being reviewed, and someone else's perceptions are creating a personal brand for you. Take a moment and do a social media audit on all your public profiles and ask yourself - do these posts represent me as a career professional? If you think they need a little updating, archive some posts and start making new posts with a new intention of building a personal- yet professional brand. Need a little help? Click here to learn how Jonathan Javier has taken personal branding to the next level.

9. Only Have One Version of Your Resume

You are submitting the same resume believing it will suffice for each job opening. But even opening with the same job titles will have variances from one another. If you aren't making minor adjustments or tweaks that satisfy each job opening, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage by not aligning your resume to the job at hand. Before you submit your resume, make sure your resume has some of the same keywords as the job description.

Need more help with your resume? Check out the free Wonsulting's Resume Templates.

10. Not Starting a Side Project

The days of creating a project for credit don't end when you graduate. A side project is an excellent way to exhibit your skills and passion for a subject that matters to you. Sharing your work online with a self-publishing website, podcast, or newsletter helps develop your personal brand. Combining a stellar resume with a side project is a winning formula to help you land your dream job. Need some ideas on where you can start? Click here for some side project ideas!

11. Keeping Comments to Yourself

As a college grad, you may not have an extensive network, especially not in the industry you are entering. You've sent a bunch of connection requests on LinkedIn, but not many people are accepting. Your best bet to gain visibility on LinkedIn is to add insightful and thoughtful comments on posts from professionals and to the thought leaders in your industry. Commenting on people's posts on LinkedIn creates an opportunity for the reader and their audience a glimpse of who you are and what you stand for.

12. Not Prepared for an Interview

You've made it to the interview round, and you're only relying on your resume to speak for itself. That's the wrong approach. It would be best if you were prepared to share situational stories that demonstrate the different skills you possess and describe what you're like working on a team. That is an example of answering interview questions with the STAR (situation, time, action, and results) method, a format that interviewers want to hear from a candidate. Check out how Wonsulting's CEO, Jonathan Javier, prepared for an interview with Google, Goldman Sachs, and Cisco here.

13. Not Setting Up Google Alerts

As a college grad searching for a job and entering into a new industry, learning the latest news, strategies, and methods can give you an edge over other candidates. To help you stay up-to-date, set up a Google alert about the industry. Staying well informed about your field of interest will be great talking points during interviews or can help with making insightful posts on LinkedIn.

14. Creating Content isn't a part of your plan

Wouldn't you rather have recruiters reaching out to you versus the other way around? Creating content on LinkedIn is your best shot of getting the right people to notice you and to review your profile. Consistently posting on the platform places you in the 1% echelon of LinkedIn members making content. Yes, only 1 % of the people on the platform create posts. That is some excellent odds of getting noticed, automatically standing out from the crowd. See Jerry’s 1st LinkedIn Post here. Go out there and create some content!!

15. Not Leveraging Your Internship

An opportunity to be an intern isn't just to gain workplace experience; it's also an opportunity to build professional relationships inside the organization. Co-workers, managers, and other interns are ideal connections to add to your network. Wonsulting's COO, Jerry Lee, made it a side project to keep track of the people he met as an intern at Google. He shared his project on the Time for Coffee Podcast. He described how he created a spreadsheet that listed teammates and managers and kept track of their interests. He then made sure to email them an article or content related to their interest to let them know he was actively listening. His thoughtful note made a last impression. He was later offered a full-time role at Google at the end of his internship.

16. Having a Fixed Mindset

Allowing job application rejections and viewing them as failures is cutting off your ability to learn from each situation to improve your chances of landing that dream job. According to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck's book, The New Psychology of Success, that's what is described as a fixed mindset, accepting the situation as the outcome and not believing in new ways or opportunities to pivot and learn. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a growth mindset, when people believe they can learn and grow, even if they suffer from setbacks or challenges. They believe in personal development and growth. Which mindset are you adopting?

17. Volunteering is not on Your List of To-dos

Spending your free time volunteering with an organization that you care about adds a layer of interest to your resume and profile. Interest that can catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, setting you apart from other candidates. Volunteering can serve two purposes, personal fulfillment and an opportunity to gain project-work experience.

18. Not Staying in Touch with People

Building a network also means maintaining relationships with the people within it. If you are only collecting connections without a plan to stay in touch with the people, you are basically collecting names. Take time to reach out to several different people each month. A quick note to ask how they are doing or to check in with their life will go a long way. Take a look at Jonathan’s spreadsheet of how he keeps track of his contacts.  

19. Your Resume is Missing Action Words

If you hooked up your resume to a lifeline, it would probably read on a flatline. It's missing action words, quantitative data, and a description of your soft skills. If your resume is just a list of the ordinary responsibilities from your last role, you are missing the opportunity to describe yourself in action. A strategically descriptive resume is your chance to share the value you brought to a previous position or your unique approach to an ordinary task with the recruiter or hiring manager. Take a look at how Jonathan strategically wrote his resume.

20. Not Personalizing Connection Request

Linkedin makes it pretty easy to send a request for a connection, but just because it's easy doesn't mean it's the best approach. Take the time to create a personalized note by reading their bio, mention something that sparked your interest about their profile, and thats' it! An extra 3 to 5 minutes personalizing a connection request will yield more acceptance than a simple invitation without a note.

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