We have many college students at our apartments in Blacksburg, VA. For the past few years, many college graduates have had a challenging time getting a job after graduation. Thankfully, the job market and the economy have improved, but many grads still face stiff competition in the workforce.
This year, employers will hire 2% more new grads from the Class of 2013 than they did from the Class of 2012. The organization also found the current unemployment rate for recent grads to be 8.8% -- higher than 2007's rate of 5.7%, but down from 2010's rate of 10.4%.
To land a job in today's competitive market, recent grads can look to these tips to set themselves apart from the masses:
1. Boost your resume
"First-time job-seekers should fill their resumes with a variety of experiences necessary to thrive in the position for which they are applying. This may include part-time jobs held during college, volunteer work, professional student organizations and, most importantly, internships," says Nathan Parcells, co-founder and CMO of InternMatch, an online platform that matches college students with employers.
Out-of-the-classroom experience can "move mountains" when it comes to proving to employers you're more than prepared to take on an entry-level position. Recent grads should always list relevant skills at the top of their resume.
Most students put their education first. But you're not a student anymore. On your resume, you've got to list your experience first, including volunteer positions.
Grads should also avoid using self-aggrandizing terms such as "excellent" and "outstanding. Instead use action-oriented words such as 'completed' and 'improved.
2. Join, interact with and clean up social media
"Recent grads need to appear as professional as possible during their job search. This means ditching the college party profile pictures and potentially changing your social media profiles to private if you don't plan on posting professional updates," Parcells says.
Grads should also keep in mind that all nonprivate social media profiles should be consistent in their level of professionalism.
"Your blog posts may boast your knowledge and expertise in your career field, but if your Twitter account doesn't give mention, what will employers think?" he says.
When it comes to social media actually use your social profiles to share your career knowledge, it's always a good idea to participate in Twitter chats related to your industry and post relevant industry-related articles.
To ensure you're searchable on social media, use only your professional email address when signing up for accounts.
Students graduating this year will find there's more of an emphasis on social media than ever before, and most hiring managers not only seek to hire the most qualified applicant; they strive to recruit applicants who can attract new clientele.
With social media becoming a primary tool of customer recruitment and relations, it is critical that job-seeking graduates have a robust social media presence. This not only means having a Facebook page, LinkedIn account and Twitter feed, it means regularly using those outlets to accumulate a volume of quality friends, connections and followers. Top that off with a well-written profile for those accounts, and a recent grad will boost his or her appeal to that target employer.
3. Make it known your internships were real experience
Because internships are often the only source of work experience for recent grads, it's critical that they articulate how the tasks performed at an internship contributed to the bottom line and operations of the organization, whether that involved drafting, proofing or merely stapling critical reports.
One way to really make your internship experience pop is to blog about it.
Depending on the particular internship and with the permission of the business where they served the internship, recent graduates may also want to create websites with an online portfolio showing samples of the work they completed. There, they can explain in more detail than would be found on a resume or cover letter their accomplishments during their internship.
4. Highlight your extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities really do matter when it comes to getting hired. It's usually best to save hiring managers time by listing only the activities most relevant to the position for which you're applying.
Companies want well-rounded candidates. Extracurricular activities can lend insight into a candidate's personality, drive, interests and passions. Employers love seeing candidates who were college athletes or leaders within campus organizations.
Keep in mind that although your extracurricular activities will not get you hired on their own, they can be beneficial in two ways.
An interviewer may share a similar interest, creating a point of commonality; this can push an opportunity in your favor if all other factors are equal. Also, if you've done something that demonstrates extraordinary commitment, such as qualifying for the Olympics in rowing, an employer will recognize that you can bring that same level of dedication to your work.