One morning, you're a college student, and then you find yourself wearing a goofy gown with a weird cap, and if you're one of the smart ones, a sash and cords as well. Some words are spoken, your name is called and quite suddenly, you're a college graduate – a grown-up that has just been initiated into the exclusive club of adulthood. Great! Woohoo! Awesome! But... now what?
What do you do with your four years of schooling?
Society expects you to find a job, pay your bills, and contribute back to the community, but being a college graduate is not all that it's made out to be. In fact, if you just graduated, then you're just 1 of nearly 4 million other college attendees who has been awarded a degree of some kind. You are not alone, but that may not be a good thing. It means you now have to compete against the 4 million other people who are of a similar age, background and academic prowess as you. This a challenging task, but there are some steps you can take to give yourself an edge over everyone else.
During the 2015–16 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award 952,000 associate's degrees; 1.8 million bachelor's degrees; 802,000 master's degrees; and 179,000 doctor's degrees (source).
We live in an increasingly digital age that requires us to constantly manage our online presence. Whether it's Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, there's a chance that someone, somewhere, has seen a picture of you online or has witnessed you post an online rant about something that has happened in your life. Social media is a powerful tool that can both help and hurt you after graduating. It’s time for you to learn how to use it to your advantage.
After graduating, you'll either be looking for a job, applying to graduate schools, or just bumming around from place to place until you figure out what you want to do with your life. Whatever the case may be, you'll want to protect yourself because a quick Google search of your name can be a deal breaker when it comes to getting hired. Your first task after graduating from college is going into social media management mode. You need to lock down any and all of your social media profiles. Here are some steps you should take:
Social Media Lockdown Checklist:
- Immediately check whether all of your profiles are private. This is your first line of defense against unwanted searches of your name online.
- Delete anything and everything that can be used to portray you in a negative light. The last thing you want is a potential employer googling you and seeing all those photos of you doing a keg stand for the first time 5 years ago. Better safe than sorry.
- A mantra you can use to help you decide if something should be deleted is: When in doubt, throw it out!
- Sign out of all your accounts and do the unthinkable – google your name. The best way to manage a crisis is to be proactive. Hence, make sure you know exactly what is posted about you online. This way, if it ever comes up, you won't have to scramble to come up with an explanation. Stay informed.
- Once you've conducted damage control on your social media presence, it’s time to move on to update your resume. There are some great resources online to help you tailor your resume to specific audiences, but some general rules are as follows:
- Formatting, formatting, formatting! Your resume should pass the once-over test. This means that anyone reviewing your resume should be able to quickly determine where, when and what you studied or worked on in less than 30 seconds. You can find the best formatting advice on the web at the Life Clever blog.
- Resumes should not be longer than one page when you’re a recent graduate.
- Be concise. Review, rewrite and edit your resume at least five times so that it is less than 400 words.
- Have at least three other people review your resume for you. They'll catch mistakes, give suggestions and help you make it better. One of these reviewers should be a former advisor or professor (this is also a networking tactic that you can use to let them know that you’re looking for a job), another should be a friend who is good at editing/writing, and the third should be your University's career center.
- Make sure you have three references lined up so that when it’s time for the reference check, you won't be scrambling or stressed out.
Now that you have your online presence managed and a killer resume, it’s time to flex your networking muscles. If you don't have one already, create a LinkedIn profile and update it using your newly created resume. Upload a photo of yourself wearing professional attire, use LinkedIn's networking tools to import your contact lists, and begin reaching out to your friends, colleagues and coworkers. After a few days of building your network, you should craft a well-tailored message to send to everyone in your social media networks. This can be done through a status update, personal message, or even a simple tweet to all your followers. The most important thing is that you reach out to them.
HERE IS A TEMPLATE YOU CAN USE WHEN REACHING OUT TO YOUR NETWORK*:
"Bachelor's degree completed! Now the job hunt begins. If anyone knows of any entry level sales/marketing/engineering jobs out there, I would really appreciate it if you got in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org".
*Don't forget to adjust the details of this template to fit your own circumstances.
For some more tips, check out Forbes' 45 Ways Social Media Can Land You a Job.