6 Tips to Secure a Job One Month After Graduating College

This post is authored by Bobby Smith. Bobby Smith is a regular blogger at SelectAware, an online coupons site. Find coupons and savings tips like this Infographic, A Year in the Life of a Savvy Shopper at SelectAware.

If you’re reading this article, it’s clear who you are and the questions you have. You’re worried because you might not have a job waiting for you after you graduate college. Read through the end of this article, and I’ll outline 6 steps to almost guarantee a job offer comes your way one month after graduation.

Jim and Friends on Graduation Day

First, here are some statistics to put your worries at ease.

  • On average, it takes college graduates 3-7 months to land their first job.
  • Nearly 50% of college graduates move back home upon graduation.
  • The current average salary for college graduates is around $45,000.

If you did okay in school, then based on averages alone, you’ll have a job. But you’re reading this article because you don’t want to be average. You want a job now! Follow the six steps below:

1) Establish Your Strengths

Right now, write a list of 5 personal strengths that could be relevant to the professional world. Once you have this list, now ask yourself, “Would I hire me?” Develop a list of quality strengths that’ll make an employer say “I want someone like that as part of this company.”

Tip – I hope you didn’t write common, cliché strengths like “hard-working, motivated, team player, independent, and dependable.” Don’t think you’re the only applicant who describes themselves as the previously listed traits. Think of strengths that’ll benefit your employer.

2) Make a Superior Resume and Cover Letter

This is a commonly known step in the job-finding process. However, it’s under-rated by many applicants. A quality resume and cover letter is the key to getting your foot inside companies’ doors.Keep your resume to one page and cover letter to half a page.  Remember that employers and hiring managers get TONS of resumes and cover letters.  Your resume and cover letter need to capture their attention.

Write up a draft of your resume and cover letter.  If you don’t know how to, just search in Google for resume and cover letter templates. You’ll find lots of information that’ll help you. Once you have your drafts written, ask yourself these two questions:

1)    Did this cover letter and resume catch my attention?
2)    Would I consider hiring this person?

If not, make the proper revisions so that “yes” is the answer to the above questions.  Since you already figured out your strengths (as done so in Step 2), it’ll be much easier to create a quality resume and cover letter.

Tip – Crafting a resume and cover letter is a lot of work. But you only need to do it once, and you can pretty much use the same template for the rest of your professional, working life. However, be sure to always modify your resume and cover letter for each job. Fortunately, these modifications are typically brief and simple.

3) Find High-Status References

This is another commonly known step in the job-application process. College graduates are usually quick to just grab any teacher, parent, or manager from their previous jobs. Students – do not have reference letters written for the sake of having them. This is an under-valued part of the job-application process.

Have two reference letters in place that describe your character and strengths. The key here is not the content of the letter, but the reference instead. Have one reference from school and a professional reference. (If you don’t have a professional reference, then make do with two references from school). Aim for “high-status” references. Instead of asking your teacher, ask your Dean. Instead of asking your manager, ask the Director or Vice President. A high-status reference will illustrate that you were an integral part of the company. This is the type of employee that a company wants to add to its team.

Tip – By going for a higher-status reference, the reference “may” not know you very well. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to ask. Simply asking is demonstration of determination and “high-status” professionals will think highly of you and be happy to help.

4) Clean Up Your Social Profile

It’s very common (almost expected) for employers perform a Facebook background check. Evaluate your social profile for any inappropriate posts or pictures. Don’t worry about going overboard with this. It’s perfectly acceptable to have pictures of you socializing and having a drink in your hand. Just simply put yourself in the employers’ shoes when they’re looking at your profile. Would they say “I don’t want someone like this to be part of this company.”?

Tip – This can also work in your favor. Have pictures of you participating in charitable or human events. This’ll illustrate positive character.

5) Look for Jobs in the Right Places

I’m going to share with you a secret here: Do not use sites like Monster or CareerBuilder.  Here’s why:

  • Too much competition
  • Lower quality jobs
  • The best jobs out there are not listed on these sites.

Instead, search for the type of companies relevant to your degree. If you’re a public relations graduate, simply search “pr companies city name.” Look for a “Jobs” or a “Careers” page, and you’ll find job listings there.

Tip – Use Google’s “inurl” operator to perform advanced to find relevant companies. Type “job industry city name inurl:careers” and you’ll be shown career pages for relevant companies.

6) Looking for a Job is a Full-Time Job

Keep this in mind: You’re going to be rejected a lot. Even if you’ve completed all the above steps to perfection, you’ll still probably be rejected. Once you accept this fact, it’ll be much easier to go through with this process. Applying for jobs is a numbers game. The more you apply, the greater your chances of getting a job.

Tip – Most college graduates don’t realize this fact. They place all their eggs on that first interview then get down on themselves once they don’t get the offer. Treat this process like a full-time job. Apply for 1 job an hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. That’s 40 applications a week. After one month, you’ll have 120 applications. I can say that with 99% certainty, you’ll have a job after 120 applications that included the process I’ve outlined above.

Follow this 6 step plan, and you’ll find yourself with a job far quicker than the “average” college graduate.

Photo by Jim, the Photographer.

Heather’s Experience at Her First Post-Grad Job

This post was written by former Career & Leadership Development social media intern, Heather Schwartz.


Cute lunch bag — check. Fashionable, yet work-appropriate ensemble — check. A brand new notebook and pen placed firmly in my leather briefcase — check.

When the first day of my big-girl job arrived I was, surprisingly, very confident and ready to hit the ground running. I felt on the top of the world, like I could do anything; I was going to take this company to the next level!

Yeah, those feelings lasted about five minutes.

But before I scare the pants off of you in regards to the corporate world (totally kidding – but not really), let me take you back about six months.

When I graduated in May, I had an internship under my belt, my own photography business, and a pretty strong grasp on the things I had learned in my college courses. I was ready. I was ready to let go of the carefree college lifestyle, late nights devouring Toppers sticks, and living in my tiny, prison-like apartment.

But one thing I wasn’t ready for was what awaited me six months later. After what seemed like hundreds of applications and dozens of interviews, I finally got a full-time job. This position was everything I was looking for – social media, writing, marketing, it was right up my alley! However, I had a lot of false expectations for what the real-world had in store for me.


After my second day at the office I remember calling up a fellow intern from UW-Whitewater and it took everything in my power to not bawl my eyes out. The work was faster paced, expectations were 10 times higher than I thought, and I pretty much had to start from a clean slate and learn everything all over again. I think this was the moment I had a true quarter-life crisis. “My fun life is over. I’m going to fail at life!”

So, once I kicked the dramatics down a notch, I started to get a grasp for what it would take to survive in this new world. Here are a list of strategies I used to stay calm during my transition from the college world to the corporate world, and hopefully they will help you, too:

  • Be flexible. Sometimes job descriptions change and you will be asked to do things you didn’t expect right out of the gate. Just roll with it. Showing you can stay calm and collected during a stressful or unexpected turn of events will be strongly in your favor.
  • Be a sponge. The first couple weeks at my job, co-workers would ask me in the middle of meetings how I was doing. I always responded the same way, “Just being a sponge – soaking it all in.” When you’re starting a new job it’s important take in your surroundings and all of the information presented to you. Bring a notebook everywhere so you can jot down notes, reminders, and tasks to complete!
  • Ask questions. Unless your employer hired you completely in the dark, they know you are a recent college graduate. And that means you have very little, if any, corporate work experience. Don’t feel bad about asking questions; it shows you’re interested in learning and making yourself a valuable asset to the company.
  • Have an outlet. Sometimes the workplace can get a little overwhelming. I work with a small company so there are a lot of in-house meetings, a lot of personalities working together in a small space, and sometimes I just need a little time to ground myself. Everyone has their own ways of doing this but I found that playing relaxing instrumental music while working at my desk puts me at ease very quickly (even after an intense meeting).
  • Make connections. Don’t go all “Mean Girls” and try and create an office version of The Plastics. But get to know your coworkers. Maybe instead of eating at your desk one day during the week you ask some coworkers to grab lunch. Keep topics light, and use that as a time to create bonds with the people you work with.
  • Make your space your own. I’m not saying bring in your fuzzy pink rug and giant fish tank into your office the first day. But bring a photo of your dog to place on your desk, your favorite notebook, or a colorful mouse pad. Bringing some of your personality and belongings to your workspace will help you feel like you’re really a part of the company, and it can induce conversation between you and a coworker.
  • Don’t take criticism to heart. This one was a toughy for me! I had never been in a job where the majority of my ideas weren’t accepted or that I wasn’t trusted with tasks. I’ve finally accepted that those things all take time. Whenever you feel really upset about a piece of criticism or your ideas weren’t chosen for a certain project, repeat this to yourself: “It’s just business, not personal.”
  • Showcase your assets whenever possible. As a new employee, it can be difficult to find opportunities to really jump in. But keep an eye out for them! I really enjoy event planning and I found a way that I could use that passion and skill in my new workplace. Since the company I work for didn’t have many in-house activities in the past, I took the lead and set up a Halloween Potluck for October. My boss really liked the idea and now I am taking on some new community service ideas for the company. Find ways that your passions and ideas can be linked into the workplace.
  • Lean on friends and family. You are not in this alone! It’s important to remember that when you start a new job it may seem like it’s taking over your entire life. That’s normal (at least that’s what my dad told me). I’m still getting used to having a 8-5 job and not being around friends and family as much. But it’s important to know that when you leave that office you still have loved ones there to help guide you.

My final word of advice – don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. But try not to get yourself down.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “The expert at anything was once a beginner.”

From one Warhawk to another, don’t worry…you got this 🙂


Photos by Heather Schwartz.


How to Be a Leader in a Technology-Driven World

This post was written by Career & Leadership Development Leadership Advisor Melissa Grosso.

Being a leader can be tough in the most perfect of circumstances…add technology into the mix and it can be a downright pain!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are always on their phones or tablets in meetings or while they are having conversations with you and it what they are doing on their said phone or tablet has nothing to do with your meeting or conversation. My second pet peeve is that we have forgotten about the old school “face to face” meetings.

Cell Phones

Not everything can be communicated or solved through technology. Here are my top 5 tips for being a leader in a technology-driven world:

Not everyone has a smartphone or uses social media, believe it or not!  Branch out and use other “old school” methods. For example, if you want to communicate a conference schedule to the group, using an app like Involvio or Guidebook is great for those who have smartphones, but also remember that not everyone does. Have a handful of paper copies available for those who don’t have smart phones.

There is nothing better than a face to face, in the same room conversations! Understanding when to have an in-person conversation is a skill that many people, due to technology, are lacking. Don’t send a text or email to ask how your performance at a job has been or that you need to resign from your position. It’s always best to have these types of conversations in person. Intent or meaning can be lost when NOT communicating face to face.

LinkedIn is a great tool to network with, however, it drives me nuts when people I don’t know try to connect with me and they keep the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” Well that’s awesome, but why should I connect with you, especially if I don’t even know you? I know there isn’t a lot of space in the box, but give the person you are trying to connect with a reason to connect with you – they will be happy to connect with you once they know the reason why.

Everyone learns or hears about things differently! Don’t always use just one form of communication when trying to connect with others. Try to figure out their preferred method of communication and use it. It might take longer, but in the end you will have a much more connected group with individuals who know you care.

Put down technology and have an honest uninterrupted conversation. These conversations can be the most powerful conversations where both people are engaged. The meaningful conversations that can come from being technology free are priceless.

Do you have any other tips or tricks of the trade for living and leading in a technology-driven world?

Photo by Irving Martinez.

Social Media – Friend or Foe?

This post was written by Career & Leadership Development staff Nicole Golden and Jan Bilgen.

For each of us, social media technologies create a number of opportunities to share, foster, learn and connect. With each opportunity there is a chance you might enhance your life or complicate it. Here are a few suggestions to insure that your social media interactions enhance your personal and professional life.

Social Media

No matter what, once it’s out there you can never take it back

Just because Facebook has a delete option on your posts and comments or on pictures doesn’t make it 100% true. Anything on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. can be downloaded, or emailed around to any number of others or sites. Think of all the great and witty tweets or posts you’ve seen and how they’ve gone viral. What if that was a picture of you doing something questionable? Or a post or comment that was hurtful? Written in anger? Think twice before posting. Ask yourself, what do I hope to “add” to my presence on social media with this?

Consider multiple profiles

Separation isn’t always as a bad thing. If you don’t want to edit your statuses or think too hard before you click, consider having multiple profiles. Be very sure that those you “friend” or “follow” on each of those profiles should be there. I have a professional Twitter account where I only tweet work-related items of interest. LinkedIn connections that you accept should only be professional contacts if you choose to follow this approach. Because social media is an amazing tool to connect, most people start with friends and then blend in business connections, but consider the opposite. Seek professional connections first.  Starting a professional “profile” on a social media outlets will not only let you create your personal brand it will let you protect it.

Don’t let social media replace face to face connections

In today’s world, it is much too easy to only connect and communicate with people via social media. However, it requires technical interest and resources so might not be everyone’s first choice in connecting. Social media contacts should broaden in number and in quality your relationships. Relationships must have direct connections in order to be improved and maintained. That means face to face opportunities, phone calls, Skype, etc. in addition to what you are posting and tweeting. In order to have impact on what others perceive about you, you must be able to interpret their non-verbals and have a higher chance of being understood.

Know that social media (i.e Facebook and Twitter) can be huge time drains and drama vortex

Time seems to slip away if you’re plugged in 100% all the time. Being too “plugged-in” can hurt the task at hand, like homework or work in general. You may seem distracted to those you are around and is seldom positive multitasking. Use of social media can also impact your friendships in a negative way. It oftentimes is a method that individuals use to drag others into their problems or arguments. They also use it in a passive aggressive manner. Beef with something? Find a non-social media way to vent or clear the air of frustration- talk in person.

Remember, social media was created to connect and make the world more open and connected. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, “We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other and even if our mission sounds big, it starts small — with the relationship between two people.” So take a minute before you click, post and celebrate and make those relationships strong and productive!

Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham.

5 LinkedIn Tips for Upcoming Graduates

This post was written by Thomas Wolff. Thomas Wolff is the Managing Editor of Resume Mastermind, a boutique resume writing firm that works with clients ranging from students to senior executives to create interview-winning resumes, job search letters, bios, and social media profiles.

As upperclassman start thinking about internships and their first position after graduation, it’s more important than ever to start building a professional online presence. Employers want to pre-qualify each candidate, and with the availability of online information out there, even if you don’t share your online profiles, they are going to do a search for your name anyway to see what pops up. So why not point them in the right direction by proactively establishing a professional profile that you can confidently include in your resume and/or cover letter?

While Facebook and Twitter are fun and great ways to share photos and personal information with your closest friends and family members, LinkedIn is the one online platform that can actually shape your future. LinkedIn is the biggest and most powerful social network specifically designed for professionals. With over 200 million users, it is likely that every company you may be thinking of applying to right now will have at least one employee on LinkedIn.

Graduate Commencement 5.4.12

Here are six tips to make the most of LinkedIn as you prepare to enter the professional world.

1) Understand LinkedIn’s Value In The Social World

LinkedIn isn’t necessarily “sexy,” and it’s unlikely that you’ll spend hours each day browsing the site, like you would Facebook. Nor is it a source of immediate gratification or entertainment, as photos, videos, and constant status updates aren’t a primary component of the platform. LinkedIn is basically a dynamic version of your online resume, enabling you to research, connect, and engage with the people and companies who can help propel your career.

2) Write An Informative Profile Headline

Your headline should give people a brief and clear way to understand the professional version of you. Think of the headline as a slogan for your professional profile. You can get creative, using something like, “Emerging marketing practitioner with interests in public relations and marketing communications.” Or, you can include more specific information: “Finance student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater seeking a position in investment banking in the Chicago area.”

3) Use A Professional Photo

To prove your credibility and attract the attention of employers, it is important to build and promote a professional appearance. Use a professional quality headshot, not an angled picture that you snapped with your cell phone in front of the bathroom mirror, and definitely not a Facebook profile picture of you out on the town. If you can’t afford to pay for a professional photoshoot, then find a friend who knows their way around a digital camera. Check out some truly awful LinkedIn headshots.

4) Tell A Story In The Summary Section

The summary presents a great opportunity to share with your network who you are, what you’re aspiring to do after graduation, and how your unique experiences and academic achievements will help you get there. Be clear and specific about what you want. People are much more likely to find you and to help you if you state you’re “in search of a brand management position with a leading consumer product goods company” than they are if you say you are just “looking for a job.”

5) Show You’ve Done Something Worthwhile

In a perfect world, you’ve already completed a fantastic summer internship with a company that aligns perfectly with your targeted post-graduation job. Unfortunately, not everybody can say that, so include any relevant volunteer work, extracurricular activities, college jobs, or freelance work you can and describe the impact that you had in each role.

6) Build Your Network

I would recommend starting to connect with your core network of classmates, friends, colleagues and others whom you have in your immediate circles. Then you can grow your reach and influence through direct engagements, sharing content, and following groups. If the people you are reaching out to do not know you, it’s important to give them a reason to talk to you, and provide the reason you want to talk to them. Also, don’t be shy about asking for recommendations from your colleagues, managers, or professors.

Like any good media platform, LinkedIn is intuitive and easy to use. Any time you invest now in crafting your profile and connecting with those who can open the right doors for you will pay dividends once your job search is underway.

If you would like help setting up your own LinkedIn account, schedule an appointment with one of the career counselors!

Photo by Southern Arkansas University.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Your Parents to Help Your Career

This is a guest post written by Erin Palmer. Erin writes about a variety of topics such as teaching careers, attending graduate school and career planning for US News University Directory. You can follow Erin on Twitter.

College is the time to transition from being taken care of by your parents to taking care of yourself. In the professional world, you will be on your own, which is why it’s important to learn independence right from the start of your career path.

Your parents can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to your job search and career development. It all depends on how you use them. Consider these do’s and don’ts:


Do: Expand Your Network

One of the most difficult parts of beginning a career is not yet having a strong network to rely on. Use your parents’ connections to start building your professional network while you’re in school. Inquire about their friends and colleagues who work in your desired field. Incorporating your parents’ network into your own can help you find job opportunities and potential mentors. If you end up working at the same company as a family friend who used to change your diapers, just make sure to keep it professional during work hours.

Don’t: Let Mom and Dad Complete Your Application

Having a parent fill out your application, call up a potential employer or any other form of doing the talking for you is a bad career move. Employers will not take you seriously if your parents are doing all of the work for you. How can they trust your ability to do the job properly if you can’t even apply for it on your own? Your parents won’t be with you when you go to work, so they shouldn’t participate in the job search process at all.

Do: Ask for Advice

Starting your career can be scary and overwhelming, so it is important to ask for advice when you need it. No one can make your decisions for you, but talking things through can help you make the right one. Even if your parents work in an entirely different field, they can likely still relate to your issues. Certain workplace stresses are universal, so chances are your parents may have the answers you need.

Don’t: Use Your Parents as a Reference

Putting your parents down as a reference is a pointless endeavor. Employers know that your parents are too biased to give an honest recommendation, so it is unlikely that they would bother calling. Besides, your parents aren’t the best people to speak about your professional talents. A teacher, former colleague or other professional would be a much stronger choice. Choosing your parents as a reference is basically like telling the potential employer that you can’t think of anyone else to vouch for you.

Having the support of your family can help make it easier to adapt to the professional world, but it is still up to you to handle the responsibilities. Use your parents as a guide, not a crutch. Show the world that you can make it on your own and then let your parents take you out to dinner to celebrate your success.

Photo by CP Food images.

Be Proud of Your Veteran Status

Guest post by Josh Combs, UW-W alumni and Military Liason for Aerotek.

As the overall unemployment rate for veterans hovers around 9.3%, a significant decrease from November 2011, it is still astonishing to look at the unemployment rates for the National Guard (Army and Air) and the Reserve components, reaching as high as a staggering 17%. Now I’m not naive to think that all 17% of these individuals are hard charging, readily employable people, but I would like to think at the very least half of them are.

Military Police Practice Medical Evacuations [Image 2 of 3]

As service members in the Guard and Reserve see these statistics they are rightfully woeful in looking at the job market. And what these trepidations have done for some is something that I am embarrassed about as an employer and enraged about as a veteran – individuals are excluding their military experience from their resumes and are not bringing it up during an interview. Guard and Reserve service members are worried that a potential activation or a deployment will deter companies from hiring them.

As an employer, let me clearly say that you should make your military experience a prominent part of your resume and speak about it during your interviews.


Every member of the military, through their own free will or by situation necessity, has led at some point. If you are an NCO (a non-commissioned officer), one of the main responsibilities entrusted in you is to develop and mentor those you lead. As a Senior NCO it is your responsibility to ensure mission success at all cost. Even as a junior enlisted you must always be aware of what your fellow Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine is doing around you, as your life and your mission depends on it.

If you are among the commissioned ranks, you’ve had 5,000-5,500 people looking at you for leadership. This leadership is not only wanted in the civilian job market, it is absolutely needed. Be sure to explain your leadership roles in the military in your resume.

Performance Under Pressure

Every day, CONUS or OCONUS (Continential United States or Outside Continential United States) service members are under pressure to accomplish a mission or task. The pressure comes in a variety of ways, from pressure above you in the chain of command, to pressure from the enemy, as well as the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed. In the “real world” the pressure may be coming from your boss, your direct reports, or your clients. Employers want and need to know that the individuals they choose to lead their organization into the future can handle the day-to-day pressures of the job.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making

We have all been faced with decisions in the military that can have a major impact on our mission. The decisions that we make not only affect ourselves, but also those who look to us in a time of distress. Our training and our ethos allow us to make these decisions with pinpoint accuracy to ensure that we stay on task and on target. As a civilian employee, you will be forced to make business decisions every day that will impact the people in your organizations. Your employer will need to know that you can make these decisions while thinking not only of your own well-being, but that of your employees, company, and clients.

These three traits just scratch the surface of what has been developed in every veteran and each of these traits are directly transferable to the civilian job market. Do not hide these abilities; be prepared to speak about them in specific detail. Do not think of your experience as something that will hinder your job search, rather, think of your experience as enriching, and something that will lead you to a fulfilling career.

You are among a very exclusive group. You have answered the call to serve your country, and you have written a check to the people of this country payable up to and including the ultimate sacrifice. Highlight this when seeking the next challenge in your life. And if you find yourself in front of somebody questioning the values that you bring with you background, ask yourself “Is this the right place for me?” Be proud to be a veteran. You have earned the title.

Josh Combs is a 2006 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication. He currently works as Military Liaison for Aerotek, the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm. His job is to help service members make the transition from the military to the civilian workforce successfully. Josh lives and works in the Chicago suburbs and travels across the country in this effort. He has served in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, 115th Fighter Wing since 1999. He has deployed multiple times in support of OIF and continues to serve to date.


Photos by DVIDSHUB and expertinfantry.