Many Recent college graduates believe that having the flexibility to go anywhere for a job or fill any job opening, makes him/her more hirable. If a traditional college graduate has the means to start a new life, the possibility of a new adventure is hard to pass up. Unfortunately, being “open” to anything is not the best strategy for college graduates hoping to land a job. Your future employer wants to know that you are interested only in one job: the one outlined in their job description! If the hiring manager or employer receives a resume and cover letter that is unfocused, this translates to someone who is unsure of their career path (not openness and flexibility). Since employers are looking for loyal employees who they won’t have to replace anytime soon, a candidate perceived as uncertain about their future is a huge risk – one that they won’t be willing to take. The name of the game is FOCUS. If you’re a recent grad (or a not-so-recent grad who is desperate to end the job search) read on…
What Employers Are Looking For in College Grads
In order to understand the problem with being unfocused, it’s important to explore the employer perspective. In my role as an Associate Director of Career Development at Northeastern University, I frequently meet with top employers to discuss hiring needs. The most common questions I hear employers asking are:
- Is the applicant qualified (does s/he possess the required skills/knowledge/experience) to do the job?
- Does the applicant want to do this job?
- Why does the applicant want to do the job “here”?
If there’s one audience you want to pay close attention to as you conduct your job search, it would be hiring managers since they have the power to advance you in the hiring process (or not). Therefore, you’ll want to speak to these questions with clarity and conviction in your application materials.
Communicating Focus With Your Resume
Recent graduates are often telling me that they have sent out over 100s of resumes and have not heard back. When I ask whether or not they tailored their resumes, I am usually met with a look of surprise… Sending out applications in bulk, without landing any interviews should be your first indicator that something is wrong. The purpose of a resume is to land interviews – not to blast as many employers as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. Good things are worth working for and since you’ll only be getting about 6 seconds to create a strong impression, tailoring your resume to focus on the company’s specific job opening, is your best strategy.
Fine-Tuning Your Focus to Hit the Employer’s Hot Buttons
It’s important to know that quantity does not equal quality where your resume is concerned. Even if applicants are applying for several positions seek similar skills, it’s highly probable if not certain that each company/organization will have a different culture or mission statement or difference in size… you get the picture. So in order to set yourself apart from those that are simply clicking the “apply” button, it’s extremely critical that you first and foremost demonstrate focus. Resumes today must be carefully crafted for different positions. A resume for a sales position should look different from a marketing one and highlight a different set of skills. This takes effort, time, energy and creativity (and a strong grasp of the English language). Many job seekers hire resume writers to help them craft the stories that highlight relevant accomplishments. However, most resume writers require that the job seeker has a clear target (focus) in mind. One way to hit a hiring manager’s hot buttons is by analyzing the job description. This is your closest insight into what they are looking for and you’ll need to craft your resume accordingly.
How to Find Your Focus if You’re Feeling Uncertain
Career coaching is one way to find your focus. When a senior in college or a recent graduate starts seeking career coaching, he/she often starts with so much enthusiasm because he/she is ready for that next step. Although the academic work is completed and the degree secured, it doesn’t necessarily mean there was a dent on the individual’s inner work. Considering your personality type is one tool a coach might incorporate to help draw out deeper insights. Here is a sample of best jobs for your personality type. Finding the “right” first job requires an exploration of several factors and exploration of some important questions:
- What are my most valuable skills that I enjoy using?
- What are the strengths I can contribute in order to be successful?
- What factors of an organization matter to me?
- In what type of environment will I be most energized?
- What do I need to be fulfilled?
These are tough questions and answering them requires work, maybe a sounding board, maybe time but most importantly a willingness to explore and understanding of the necessity to do so.
What Coaching Uncovers for Some College Grads
When I work with college grads, I start by asking questions that push them to think about their previous experiences. Together we explore classes, extracurricular activities, previous jobs and internships that the client either did or did not enjoy and start looking at patterns of where and why the client was successful. For different people, different areas start making sense. For one it might have been the realization that she did not enjoy using skills she was good at but never considered not using them. For another, the “aha” moment was when he realized he just did not want to be one of many in a large organization. Instead, he was much more excited about possibilities in start-ups or smaller organizations. He had the skills for the jobs posted at the large companies but because he was not excited about these positions (for reasons he at first was not able to articulate) his hunger did not show through (and there was no excitement about putting in extra effort into the application). Here are 13 signs it might be time to hire a career coach.
Why Your Inner Work Attracts Hiring Managers
I love helping college seniors and recent grads develop not only a focus for what they want to do but also a deeper understanding of themselves. This new perspective is the foundation of their new story – one that lets others know who they are and what they do best. They now have the language to talk about their strengths and their goals and how/where the two concepts can meet. They start telling their stories with confidence, clarity, and optimism. It’s this storytelling ability and powerful way to communicate focus with confidence, that attracts hiring managers to the focused candidate.
What Focus Looks Like for the Successful College Grad
Finding your fit in the career world and starting out your career path in a place where you thrive is the true definition of success. You can learn more about how to find your career fulfillment here. It will form the path you follow and make you further attractive to the employers in your focus area for years to come. It’s incredibly rewarding when clients realize that there is something out there that’s better than they thought – something that’s really right for them! That awareness begins to raise their sense of hope which in turn, energizes them to change their strategy. Finding your focus will help you gain insights into where you want to go and why. More importantly, it will help you communicate this to those who can help you reach your goals!