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Resume and Job Advice for College Grads: Six Tips for Success

Congratulations graduates! You are done with school and ready to join the working world. Here are six tips to help you get ready to find a job:

  1. Get your resume ready.

Resumes should tell a story about who you are as a person and what your skills and talents are. Clearly, a 21-year old is not going to have the same resume as a seasoned pro, but employers know this, so don’t worry about impressive credentials. Just do the best you can with your experience so far and find things that highlight your strengths and skills.

  1. Showcase your skills and responsibilities.

Any kind of job, internship, volunteer work, or affiliation should go on your resume. Whatever you did that reflects leadership and responsibility should go on your resume, whether it’s lifeguarding or babysitting or serving as chair of the school’s housing committee. Did your manager give you responsibility, like locking up at night, opening in the morning, or making deposits? Did you serve as membership chair for your sorority? Captain of the baseball team? Chairman of the campus recyclers?

If you volunteered put it on. Volunteering shows a level of social and community consciousness and commitment that many employers find valuable. It’s also good work experience, especially if you served in a leadership or managerial position.

And one last thing: never, ever lie, fudge the truth, or exaggerate what you did. Ever.

  1. Don’t be clever.

Resumes should be simple, easy to read, and written in a standard format. Don’t get fancy or creative. Don’t use fancy fonts or colored paper. You want to stand out because of who you are, not because your resume is kitschy. Unless you’ve had a lot of jobs, don’t go over one page. And always, always, always spell check. Nothing sinks a candidate quicker than misspelling liaison.

  1. Use your college.

Your college wants you to be a successful alum, so most colleges provide a career center or alumni network that you can use. These services can be a mixed bag, but they are always worth checking out. Many colleges offer career counseling, job fairs, and internship programs. Some will set up real or practice interviews for you, help you with your resume, and hone your interview skills. Many offer personality and skills tests that can help you focus on your career choices. 

You should definitely leverage the alumni relations department, especially at schools with a lot of school spirit. Most alumni who registered with the career center are more than willing to help new graduates. Usually, these alumni are broken out by profession and can be counted on to provide information about a certain field, advice on getting into it, and will review your resume. They may also off internships, informational interviews, and invaluable contacts in your field. Don’t be shy—this is networking, and it is one of the best ways to get a job.

  1. Use your family and friends.

Does your roommate’s dad work for the a company you like? Does your mom’s best friend have your dream job? Is there a professor who thinks you’re great? Does a friend or neighbor have a parent, sibling, or associate in your field? Network with the people around you. You may be surprised that your Aunt knows so-and-so, who can land you a great job or at least an interview. Cast a wide net, and don’t be shy. This is what networking is all about.

  1. Don’t take the summer off. 

While this is your last summer of “freedom,” think twice about taking the summer off before you start looking for a job. There are millions of other graduates (and seasoned workers!) who are getting out of the gate and into the market. Look at the hiring cycle of your desired profession or industry. If you want to enter one that actively seeks college graduates, then taking the summer off is not a good idea. In other professions, entry-level jobs may open up all the time, so taking one last summer off may not be a big deal, but remember: jobs are scarce and the market is tough.

Use these six steps and they will pay off. Good luck!


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