A new study shows that college students need to be doing a lot more to set themselves up for a job after college. According to the report, conducted by career website AfterCollege from a March survey of 600 college students, 79% of students have done at least one internship in the past six months, but 57% of those internships were unpaid and 76% did not result in a job offer.
After College did the survey in conjunction with Millennial Branding, a one-man consultancy run by Dan Schawbel, 29, who bills himself as a Gen Y research and consulting firm. Schawbelâ€™s clients include American Express, Monster and NBCUniversal. He knows from his own experience how tough it can be to get a job after graduation. He did eight internships while he was a student at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., before setting his sights on a marketing job for tech giant EMC. It took him eight months until he landed a position. I asked Schawbel for his opinion on what the survey shows about the mistakes student job seekers are making. He ticked off five things:
1. Students are not applying for enough jobs. According to the survey, 44% of students only apply to between one and five jobs at a time. Schawbel maintains that students should go after 30-40 jobs at once. â€œItâ€™s like a full-time job to get a job now,â€ he says. I agree that it makes sense to consider numerous possible employers but I think itâ€™s also wise to set your sights, as Schawbel did, on one firm or a handful of companies where you feel truly motivated to work. That said, you shouldnâ€™t wait around for your efforts to bear fruit. Do pursue alternatives in the meantime. The best case scenario is that you get more than one offer and can use it as leverage to negotiate the terms you want from your target employer.
2. Failing to do enough of their own networking. While 57% of students say they wish their schools offered more networking opportunities, Schawbel says students arenâ€™t taking it upon themselves to ask their career offices for help. Half of students either havenâ€™t used their schoolâ€™s career office, have had a bad experience or feel the office needs improvement. Schawbel says the most valuable thing students can get from school career services is connections to alumni in their desired line of work. Alumni can teach students about the day-to-day realities of a job, how to craft a rÃ©sumÃ©, how to interview and how to land a position. Students should also go to conferences, industry events and Meetups in their areas of interest. One event-listings site Schawbel recommends: eventbright.com.
Iâ€™m also a fan of more basic networking: Stay in touch with lots of people, especially those who are not in your immediate circle, including professors and teaching assistants you may have had three semesters ago. Let everyone know youâ€™re looking for work.
3. Spending time on Facebook and YouTube when they should be using LinkedIn. The survey reveals that while 90% of students use Facebook and 78% are regularly on YouTube, nearly halfâ€”46%â€”say they never use LinkedIn. Schawbel says that itâ€™s an absolute must to create a LinkedIn profile by the time youâ€™re a senior in college, but itâ€™s an even better idea to start as a freshman. Heâ€™s also an advocate of linking to as many people as you possibly can, which runs counter to the advice that LinkedIn staffers offer, to only connect with people you would want to network with in person. Schawbel eschews this advice because of the compound strength of a deep LinkedIn network. â€œIâ€™ve landed business because of my multiple connections,â€ he says. Example: American Express, where one of his connections was working. Schawbel convinced the company to partner with him to sponsor the research for his next book called, appropriately, Promote Yourself.
As a journalist who faces a daily onslaught from PR people wanting to connect with me on LinkedIn, I have a tough time agreeing with Schawbel about connecting with as many people as possible. But I think itâ€™s wise for college students to create LinkedIn profiles early and to start to build connections, endorsements and recommendations. In fact Iâ€™m thinking my 16-year-old ought to start a profile after he finishes his second paying gig this summer working for a neighborhood tennis camp. If the boss loves him, he should get that on record and also get in the habit of updating his profile, something I donâ€™t do frequently enough.
4. Believing that applying through an employerâ€™s website is all they need to do. The survey shows that 70% of students turn first to an employerâ€™s website while 65% talk to someone who works at the company where they want to work. Some 61% approach employers through school career fairs and 58% search through online job sites. Only 26% use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. As I noted above, Schawbel is a big advocate of LinkedIn.
I agree with Schawbel that stopping after you apply through an employerâ€™s website is a mistake. As the old saw goes, people get jobs through people they know. Once youâ€™ve found a listing and applied through a company website, itâ€™s time to find a direct connection to someone at the company. Go ahead and use LinkedIn, as Schawbel suggests, but make your goal an in-person meeting. Itâ€™s encouraging that 65% of students are making contact inside companies.
5. Taking no for an answer when you get no response from an employer. Nearly half, 49%, of students surveyed say that companies never get back to them after they send in their rÃ©sumÃ©. To me that number seems low. I hear too many stories about rÃ©sumÃ©s that go into a black hole. If you donâ€™t hear back, donâ€™t give up. As Schawbel recommends, tap your college career office, your personal network of family and friends, LinkedIn and Facebook to find a personal connection. If a friend of a friend works where you want to work, reach out and try to meet in person. You are competing with dozens of other students who havenâ€™t gotten responses either. Make yourself stand out by not giving up.Â (Source: Susan Adams: Forbes Staff)