Using Your Winter Break to get Ahead in the Job Search
I remember clearly my own breaks as a student, it wasn’t too long ago in fact that I was one. I was always ready to not have to worry about deadlines, homework, research and reading. It felt like I had earned the time to relax, to travel, and to visit my family. Now, as a Career Counselor at Humboldt, I am always impressed when I find out that students took a portion of their break looking to make contacts and get information on their grad schools, jobs, and internships for the future.
The purpose of this post, is to help seniors graduating in the Spring with doing just that; using your break to contact employers and professionals in your field of interest. Leveraging this time, a full six months prior to graduation, may seem like a dreaded loss of your break but the payoff is exponential.
A few months after I began working here I had a scheduled phone appointment with a student who had graduated six months earlier. He was in a large Californian city and he was totally distraught in his job search. The first statement out of his mouth over the phone was that he needed to move because there were zero jobs in the city he was in. I asked him if he wanted to move and he immediately said no, his whole family was there but he was convinced that he would not be able to find a job where he lived. I asked him how many jobs he had applied for and he said over a hundred, in fact, about fifty jobs into it he had begun to write them down. As he was from a big city I was not convinced that his city really had zero jobs, in fact even in a tough economy such as ours, there are many great jobs but you just need to find them and “out-market” the competition. I asked to see his resume and his cover letter. He sent them in and I gave some suggestions but they weren’t horrible; they weren’t incredible either. I finally asked him how he was finding the jobs he was applying for, he cited Craigslist, and the newspaper. I asked if all 100 jobs were ones he had found in the advertisements and he said yes, every one. BINGO! As a follow up I asked if he had met any of the employers in person and he said he had only visited one, and the mystery was solved.
According to the Harvard School of Business Review, only 30-35% of jobs ever make it into the advertisements. 65-70% of jobs are taken before the employer even needs to consider posting the job. This students problem was he was only applying for 30-35% of the jobs available and without adding personal contact to his response to the ads. Most job seekers do exactly what he was doing, which means he was competing with the most job seekers for the least amount of jobs. I immediately suggested he continue to respond to ads, but in person, but that the ads should never amount to more than half of his job search, he needed to get out there and talk to people in his field, in business.
Immediately he began to do three types of networking. 1) He found businesses in the local chamber of commerce and began to call them and ask open ended questions about their business and the opportunities in the future. He let them know he was a recent graduate and was looking for a career in the area and he had liked what he had seen and heard about them. He knew they may not be hiring yet but he had some questions about future possibilities and then sent them a resume. 2) He picked a couple city blocks that looked promising and walked in and spoke with all the employers who operated on that block that seemed promising. He had the same conversations as the ones from the phone calls to the Chamber Members. 3) Every single ad he responded to had a personal phone call or a visit and he turned in a targeted cover letter and resume containing information from that conversation. He continued to follow up with the employers he had met from all three of these methods.
He initiated this process 6 months after graduating. We have worked with many students who initiate it 6 months prior to graduating, maybe during their winter break and they walk of the stage with their degree and often straight into a job they are confident and excited to begin. Have fun, enjoy friends and family, and make a few visits or phone calls to get a head start!