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Dear Liz (and the rest of the class of 2010)

Dear Liz,

After four years of seemingly insurmountable volumes of reading, term papers and theses delivered through overnight marathons and lifelong friendships born as adolescents bloom into adulthood - it's over.  You're a college graduate.

You're starting your post-college life in a new city, luckily with good friends and some family close by.  The world awaits you with - what???  Record levels of unemployment, wars raging in the Middle East, a rising federal debt burden you'll have to pay and an oil spill of epic proportions in the Gulf.  It's hard to get a job right now if you have years of experience.  As a new college graduate you'll have to work extra hard to find full time, professional and paid employment.

What a fantastic time in your life!  (Hunnhh???)  That's right.  You have so many choices in front of you.  New industries will bloom around the very problems that seem so intractable today - clean energy, improving healthcare, assisting an aging population, the list goes on.  Government and non-profit organizations need your talent and your passion more than ever.  Your international education has prepared you better than any generation before you to pursue opportunities across the globe.

But the first steps are yours to take.  You'll have to pursue those opportunities, as the labor supply and demand dynamics are working against you right now.  For you, and your classmates, I offer a few hard earned coaching tips about looking for a job.

  1. Networking is grueling, but it will accelerate your success. Tell people what you're looking for (industries, roles, target companies) and ask for their help with introductions to people who can help you connect to these targets.  Tap your alumni network, your parents' friends, your professors, and the people you interned for (they owe you!).
  2. Job boards are just the tip of the iceberg. Job boards are a great way to find out what types of positions organizations are currently hiring.  They are principally designed, however, to screen out the majority of candidates who don't appear to be a perfect match on paper.  Many positions are filled without ever being posted on a job board (see #1 above).
  3. Finding a job is a job. The more time you invest now in researching options, making networking calls, preparing for interviews, and following up after interviews with articulate WRITTEN thank you notes, the sooner you'll find that job.  Keep a spreadsheet of the contacts you're given, the actions you've taken with them, and the leads they've provided.
  4. Social media is changing the game - learn the rules. You know and love Facebook.  Your life is catalogued there for everybody with an internet connection to see.  Revisit those posts and pictures and clean up any content you wouldn't show a recruiter or hiring manager.  They'll find it if you don't.  Get to know LinkedIn and Twitter.  Know that many companies are using these channels to advertise job openings.
  5. Leave everybody you talk to with the best possible impression of you - as a potential employee. You're not trying to prove you're a good kid.  You're trying to help potential employers (or those who can lead you to them) envision you as an effective and dependable asset in the workplace.  Research the organizations and people you're going to meet before you meet them.  Prepare insightful questions.  Dress and act the part.  Manners count.  Written (on paper, stamped, delivered by people with mailbags) thank you notes are still important.
  6. Think hard about how you want to spend your work life. Life is short and you'll spend a lot of your waking hours at work.  All jobs are a mix of interesting and not-so-interesting bits.  When you are a serious candidate for a job, make sure that you assess that potential employer as a fit for you, just as they are assessing you.

Go for it, baby.

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