Your career training program may prepare you to perform your dream job, but you still have to get your foot in an employer’s door. Career coaches and job hunting experts recommend ten powerful steps you can take to line up a great job for after graduation. The earlier you start this process during your associate degree program, the more likely you can land quality job offers.
Step #1: Write Down Your Job Hunting Strategy
Scientists note the powerful connection between the part of the brain that drives us to write down our goals and the part of the brain that identifies opportunities. Writing down your goals allows you to clarify what you want while clearing a path to those desires.
Career counselors suggest keeping a journal that focuses on three key areas of your job hunt:
- Your Mission Statement: Write down a sentence or a paragraph that describes exactly what you want your ideal job offer to look like.
- Milestones: Keep track of your contacts, communications, and achievements.
- Deadlines: Give yourself clear deadlines for meeting milestones. For instance, challenge yourself to send ten resumes in a day. Use a friend, family member, or counselor to help keep you accountable.
Step #2: Visit Your College Career Counselor’s Office
One of the biggest perks of an associate degree is access to the career counselor at your college or your training center. Career counselors can connect you to hiring officers at companies that have been impressed by other graduates of your program. Career counselors can also provide you with connections to alumni who can serve as mentors and advisors during your job search.
Step #3: Survey Potential Employers in Your New Field
Over the course of a typical two year career training program, industries and economies can change. Keeping track of the biggest shifts in your field can help you customize your associate degree curriculum to fit employers’ needs. Use class projects as opportunities to interview experts in your field about industry trends. Not only can you use this insider information to earn high marks, you can develop powerful, professional relationships.
Step #4: Polish Your Resume
With online job boards and networking sites making it easy to apply for jobs, a tight, focused resume is more important than ever.
Resume writing experts offer three powerful tips for making a lasting impression:
- Promote Your Objective: Customize your mission statement to reflect the specific position offered by a prospective employer. Place your objective near the top of your resume for added impact.
- Highlight Key Skills: Highlight specific tasks you would perform for your prospective employer. If you’re a job hunter making a career change, focus on transferable skills that let you bring a unique perspective to your new job.
- Keep It Short: Hiring officers often discard resumes longer than one page. Eliminate all information that doesn’t apply to your prospective employer, such as hobbies or club participation.
BONUS TIP: Many companies go online to perform background checks. Therefore, invest some time in your online profile. Post a searchable version of your resume on your personal home page. Set personal photos and blog postings to “”friends-only”” access on social networking sites. Many recent college graduates report trouble finding jobs when hiring officers stumble across embarrassing information online.
Step #5: Build a Strong Portfolio
Job hunting experts recommend highlighting your hands-on experience with a portfolio. While essential for creative careers like animation and graphic design, portfolios can also make a difference for graduates of business, health care, and criminal justice associate degree programs. Showcasing your student projects helps hiring officers develop a strong sense of your work ethic and of your overall skill level.
Step #6: Challenge Yourself with Internships
Internships provide the strongest two-way learning opportunities of your associate degree program. While internships allow you to earn college credit for on-the-job training, your work placements offer you the chance to sell yourself to potential employers or professional contacts. Though internships often require a sacrifice of time and money, they often result in the highest quality job leads.
Step #7: Conduct Informational Interviews
Just as pitchers warm up before hitting the mound, successful job seekers use informational interviews to sharpen their skills. Successful informational interviews often result in job leads, since interviewers often “”make room”” for interviewees or refer them to other professional connections with active job openings.
When contacting prospective interviewers, emphasize the fact that you want to gain their advice and insight and not just a job. Many industry professionals prefer to conduct interviews outside their usual hiring cycles, when they can spend more time answering questions and imparting advice.
Potential interviewers include:
- Alumni of Your College or Career Training Center
- Contacts from Your Career Counselor
- Members of Local Chambers or Commerce
- Members of Local Industry Organizations
Step #8: Keep Up with the News
To help prepare for interviews, use the Web to stay informed about issues facing your industry. While many entry level jobs require the skills you’re developing during your associate degree program, employers prefer to hire job seekers with ambition and insight. Engaging interviewers in serious discussion about how you can help their company solve a pressing challenge often results in callbacks.
Step #9: Make Interviews Your Priority
Completing an associate degree while juggling work and family commitments keeps you busy enough. However, a successful job hunt before graduation requires even more flexibility. Build a support network that can help you take care of kids, pets, or other personal matters when a job interview pops up.
Step #10: Follow Up with Interviewers
Sending a sincere, handwritten thank you note to your interviewer helps you stand out from the crowd, even when an employer passes you over for a job. In most cities, hiring officers from competing companies often network with each other. Therefore, appearing rude in the eyes of one interviewer can sabotage your entire job hunt. Conversely, a hiring officer forced to pass you over for an open position may refer you to a colleague if you make a great impression.
Your associate degree validates the hard work you have done and the skills you have developed. As you will discover, marketing those skills becomes even more important during the job hunting phase of your career move. By keeping your job hunting journal full of active entries and affirmations throughout all ten of these steps, you can leverage your career training into an engaging, new career.
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