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  • Spotlight

Diploma? Check. Job? Not Yet.

It’s that time of year again when students turn in their schoolbooks and turn their attention to summer. However, for some it’s time to look beyond summer fun and focus on their futures. Thousands of graduates, diplomas in hand, now have the toughest assignment yet: marketing themselves to a challenging job market.

If you’re a recent grad ready to take on this challenge, here are a few lessons you can use to get that interview and land the job to begin your career.

Go Where the Jobs Are. Know what kind of career you want to have and get into the mix. Start networking at professional group meetings in your chosen industry to let professionals know you’re interested. This exercise gives you an opportunity to see what’s available. Extra credit: Volunteer for nonprofit organizations where you can meet community leaders and show off your talents while helping others.

Dip Your Toe in the Water. Many leave school with the dream job and a commensurate dream salary in their head. In order to break in, you may have to put that aside—the salary at least—and look for internships or volunteer work within your industry of interest. Extra credit: This exercise allows you to explore whether the dream job is right for you before committing fully.

Put Your Best Foot Forward. Resumes of recent graduates often lack what hiring managers need: experience. Consider deviating from the traditional approach of producing a resume and create a skill-based one. Use skill headings appropriate to the industry, such as customer service, project management or technical, and list your accomplishments in these areas. Place where you learned your skills in a bulleted list below. The resume reviewer can quickly see what you have to offer without reading between the lines. Extra Credit: Think of creative ways to market yourself to the companies. See the next section below.

Get Linked In. Social media is a great place to present yourself and do some searching for what’s going on in your industry. Target companies you’re interested in and read their blogs, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profile. See what’s going on with their employees’ social media pages as well. Getting some background will give you some points of discussion if you land the interview. Extra Credit: Start a blog of your own to market your expertise and reference it in your resume.

If you do get the opportunity to interview, be yourself. Dress appropriately for the position, speak to what you know and don’t make excuses for your experience. Getting in front of the interviewer is a major accomplishment that may just give you the passing grade.