Nearly 2 million students received their bachelor’s degrees this last spring. These graduates are joining the backlog of prior years’ college graduates, adding to the over 40% of underemployed grads. In fact, 54% of college grads report that they had difficulty finding their first job, taking on average 7.4 months to secure that first step toward building their career. Though it may be tempting, recent grads should resist the urge to take it easy this summer; instead, keep a sharp focus on the work of finding the right opportunity to launch that career!

We’d like to share some tips on how students should get started with their career launch right now:


Stay positive, productive and persistent. Finding a job involves a lot of rejection. Did you know that 75% of online applications are rejected using technology to scan them for keywords? Reach into your resilience tool kit and pull out your shield (remember college rejections?). Each rejection is an opportunity to learn lessons, improve your skills, and exercise your ability to bounce back with renewed energy and focus toward your goal.

Treat the job search like a job. Grads should be working on their search during business hours, when people they might want to contact are reachable (even if the job seeker is not in the mood to work on their job search then). Set your alarm so you are ready to start work at 9am; discipline, organization, and consistency are critical.

Be responsive. People are very busy and are typically juggling many professional responsibilities. If a manager, executive, or recruiter takes the time to get back to you via phone, or email, or directly on social media; get back to them promptly. It’s a sign of respect, interest, and commitment.

Connect consistently. Diligently make connections using LinkedIn (especially your LinkedIn Alumni platform) as well as sending inmails to introduce yourself professionally, asking professors, employers, and past employers for introductions.

Network, network, network. Allow your parents to make introductions to their personal and professional contacts. After the intro, communicate directly with the contact; do not include your parent on email chains. Employers want to see you are independent. At least 70% of jobs are obtained through connections or introductions.

Be online squeaky-clean. Create a strong LinkedIn profile to begin (with an appropriately professional-looking appearance in your headshot) so that anyone can share that url for others to read about you. Google yourself to scour the internet for bad self-PR; update or remove it when possible - otherwise you may sabotage your own search.

Read and stay informed. You should dedicate time each day to reading newspapers, periodicals and online resources - learning about the current issues in your field of interest and understanding trends. Additionally, with the number of career fields increasing by 300% over the past decades, opportunities exist that you may never have dreamed of without reading widely. As for books, you can get a lot of insight from learning what the pundits in your field are saying. It is not enough to read the website of a company before your meeting to feel adequately prepared. Don’t forget about social media: using resources such as blogs and LinkedIn can be very informative. Companies also want to know what type of reading you do recreationally - it reveals a lot about you and your interests.

Dress up (not down). Make sure your appearance is professional and appropriate and that you make a positive first impression. Better to be overdressed rather than underdressed; a middle ground can be found until you can eventually gravitate to the culture’s attire once a job is secured.

Pause before hitting “send.” Make sure you proofread all professional business communication including emails, thank you notes, cover letters, and resumes for grammar, spelling, and content. Even ask someone else to read an email to ensure the tone, etiquette, and grammar are correct. Be sure to have a professional email signature with a gmail or college domain, phone contact information; anything else looks unprofessional.

Setup your voicemail (yes, really). Having a professional voicemail that clearly states your name and a very short message is part of a successful candidate’s profile. Many people like to talk to a candidate to hear how they speak. Don’t leave someone hanging and wondering if they reached the right person. They will move on, and your opportunity is gone.

Parents: Don’t be sideline coaches. While your intentions are good, remember that somehow your recent grad has managed to navigate college life and get a degree. Don’t be tempted to regress to hand-holding in the job search. Let them know you are a resource and can help strategize and problem-solve if they’d like. Better yet, connect your recent grad with a mentor, counselor, or advisor who really knows the current job market landscape and has successfully secured jobs for college grads. Looking for a job today is far more complex and competitive than it was for parents years ago. Knowing your grad is getting expert guidance can help quell your concerns and start them onto an exciting path that leads to career, independence, and happiness.