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June 14, 2011 > Counseling Corner: Advice for New Grads Looking for Jobs

Counseling Corner: Advice for New Grads Looking for Jobs

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Hearty congratulations to all Tri City high school, community college, and college graduates! It has taken a lot of time, effort, and hard work to get to this point, so this is an important milestone and achievement in your life. If you're like most grads, a pressing question on your (and probably your parents') mind is: "So what do I do next?"

I'm sure it's not helping that all we are hearing is grim news about the economy and the jobless rate. I personally prefer to focus on what I can do, as opposed to worry about outside forces that I have no control over. I've thought about what I wished I knew when I was a newly minted grad. Back then, I didn't have people who gave me solid advice on how to start my career on the right note. If I had to do it all over again, the following are five strategies that I would take and that I would recommend for any new graduate wondering what they should be doing now that the graduation parties are all over:

1. Sell Yourself Well.
Take the time to format a top notch resume and cover letter (if asked for) each and every single time you apply for a job. This is your way into the company - be sure to showcase how you are the perfect addition to their workforce. Don't be sloppy - you simply can't afford to have grammatical errors or formatting problems in either your resume or cover letter. Take the time to write, rewrite, and refine your resume and gets lots of feedback from people who have hired employees in the last five years. Work with a resume writer or career counselor if you do not have access to good feedback - this is not an area I would skimp over. I once watched my boss reject a candidate (sight unseen) because she wrote her cover letter with every single sentence starting with the word "I." My boss felt that she didn't demonstrate good writing or thinking skills by virtue of this one unfortunate document. Into the recycling bin went that letter and that candidate's job application. Don't let this happen to you!

2. Don't Just Sit There - Take Action
Do lots of informational interviews and meet as many people as you can in different settings. If you're looking for a job in a specific field or company, take the time and initiative to do informational interviews with as many people as possible. An informational interview is not a job interview; rather it's an opportunity to get to know the person's job, the line of work, and/or the place of work. Informational interviews are invaluable ways to get to know an industry and to expand your network. They are not meant to land you a job, but they might lead you to important job tips and leads that you wouldn't otherwise have known about.

Of course it's important to sit in front of your computer and apply for jobs in the traditional ways, but it's also important to get out there and meet people in different sectors. Even attending your local Toastmaster's meeting or helping out at a farmers' market counts. The whole point is to get out there, learn about what other people are doing as well as tell people what you are looking for. You just never know who might have that one job lead that you've been waiting for.

3. Give Back
I always advocate volunteering because I believe strongly in giving back to one's community, whether it's your church, school, or community agency. You can volunteer in any capacity that speaks to your heart, e.g. help with cleaning up a park or shoreline, serving food to the homeless, or training to run in a charity marathon. You don't have to make a huge commitment - just a couple of hours a week or every two weeks is a contribution to your community and to people in need. Volunteering is also a great way to gain or refine work skills. Say you want to add "web development" to your portfolio - one way to do this is to volunteer to help a nonprofit with their website. Not only will you be helping them, you will also be adding to your skill set and you might even have a real life website to show future employers.

4. Dress for Success
I believe that it is important to look the part when you go to any event where you are likely to meet people who may be in a position to offer you a job or a job lead. Dressing for success will also give you an added boost of confidence and pride in yourself. I am not recommending that you rush out and splurge on the most expensive suit out there (thrift stores, by the way, have amazing selections of barely worn suits and work clothes), but I do recommend that you take an honest appraisal of your wardrobe, choose your best work outfit, put it on, and look at yourself in the mirror. Then ask yourself, "Would someone want to pay money to this person?" and "Does this person look like she or he is ready and eager to work?"

5. Try New Things
Explore new vistas, even those that are not directly related to your field of interest. There are fantastic internship opportunities that will give you exposure as well as training in valuable skills and knowledge. One site that lists internships in sustainable agriculture is: (Click on the "Education" link on the left side of the home page). Another source of local internships is craigslist. If you've always dreamed of a cool summer job, say in a resort or national state park, check out

I truly believe that you can find a good job if you put in enough time and effort; and if you have a mindset to take action and create your own happiness. The ancient Roman philosopher, Seneca, stated, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." I believe this piece of advice is relevant not only in the first century - Seneca's time - but holds true for us in 2011.

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is

(c) Anne Chan, 2011

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