Following graduation, many job seekers struggle to take that all-important leap into the workforce. The job search can be a long process, requiring you to put yourself out there and network. Here are five steps you can take to develop strong connections and successfully market yourself to potential employers.
1. Build your personal brand
“Branding” is a buzzword that gets thrown around often, but its meaning is valid. Even as an entry-level candidate, you can cultivate your broader image to help you win that coveted position. You just need to structure your personal brand around your work history.
Your brand can also comprise your social media presence, your reputation among industry peers, and in some fields, a cohesive portfolio of work. Having a blog or website can also contribute positively to your brand. If relevant, be sure to include a link in your resume to your work, to demonstrate your unique selling proposition to hiring managers.
Ask, what is it that you can bring to the company, industry, or team that no one else can? What differentiates you? Knowing this answer can give you the confidence you need to go for the jobs you really want, and deliver honest, consistent responses to interview questions.
2. Differentiate yourself
During the application process and interview, it’s easy to fall back on corporate jargon. While there are industries that favor such language, others will reward creativity. Hiring managers sort through many job applications a day, so it could work in your favor to differentiate yourself by using specific, interesting language and build a rapport.
In an interview, don’t be afraid to let some of your personality shine through. Mentioning a hobby, travels, short course or even what drove you to be in the industry can help the interviewer remember you. Of course, when you’re doing this, it doesn’t hurt to relate a given anecdote back to the job at hand.
3. Remember the big picture
In an interview process, you are not only marketing yourself to the hiring manager but also to the entire business. In order to convince them that you will add value, it can help to start by finding common ground with your interviewer.
It’s also important to link your attributes and experiences with the brand pillars of that particular company. This will demonstrate why you would be a good fit, something many first-time job seekers forget.
If you’re unsuccessful in landing a particular role, strive to handle the rejection with grace. Hiring managers may still be eager to recommend you for future opportunities. You may also find that progress with one company has given you leverage with another. Employment is a journey, and you should embrace every opportunity to meet people, promote yourself, and demonstrate your skills.
4. Know your target
It is incredibly important to know your audience. Seek out information about the decision makers in your industry to see what makes them tick. Know where companies sit in relation to each other, and know how they find their talent. While some companies might prefer referrals, others may only promote from within.
5. Start early
It’s never too early to make headway on your career prospects. Even while studying at university, you can begin to build your network. Academic institutions have plenty of events designed to introduce you to industry contacts, career paths, and other like-minded students.
Take advantage of these resources and ask how you can go about gaining real world experience before your graduation. People already in the field will be able to direct you to job openings, conferences, and tried-and-true methods to get a foot in the door.
That said, attending a networking event can seem like a daunting prospect. But in reality, practice really does make perfect. Having the confidence to strike up a conversation, keep it going, and look people in the eye will get you a long way in life.
If you don’t know what to say, introduce yourself as a student and just keep asking questions—you’ll be forgiven for any minor mistakes. As you attend more events, you’ll gradually begin to pick out the faces in the crowd and may even find a small circle of people who will attend with you.
Networking is a fun, friendly, and timeless way to access opportunities that aren’t always open to the public. Besides, that person you keep bumping into may just remember you when a new job opportunity arises at their place of work.
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