Welcome to late December. 'Tis the season for celebrating the end of finals, catching up with hometown friends and family, exchanging gifts and good cheer and -- gulp -- dreading the question: "So, have you found a job yet?"
Whether you're looking for an internship or a full-time first job, the holiday break marks the unofficial start of job hunting season. (Or, if you're graduating in December, it's absolutely official.)
Of course, the bad news this season is that you're facing the toughest job market in recent history. The good news is that there are always opportunities, especially for entry-level positions. But you have to act fast, and you have to act smart. Here are some tips for what to do over the next few crucial weeks to land a great job or internship.
Make this a working holiday.
I know you're on vacation, but this year's job seekers don't have a minute to waste. Starting today, commit to doing three to five things a day on behalf of your job hunt. That includes researching companies, setting up informational interviews, sending out resumes, reading career advice articles, attending networking events and more. Daily commitment is important for momentum, and it also makes a huge difference in the sheer number of opportunities you'll be exposed to.
Have a plan B, C, D and beyond.
If you've been focusing all of your efforts on one industry or type of employer, it's time to broaden your horizons. In a bad economy, it's important to think as broadly as possible about the kind of industries and organizations where you might be able to apply your skills. This means considering small companies, medium-size companies, large corporations, startups, nonprofits, government jobs, overseas jobs, service years, temp jobs, contract positions, freelance gigs and anything else you discover. In between Christmas caroling or dreidel spinning, spend some time exploring such career information Web sites as Vault, Career Voyages and WetFeet.
Ask your parents for networking help.
Most jobs are found through networking, and your family members count as part of your network. Ask your parents if they'd be willing to brainstorm any of their contacts who might be able to give you general advice or specific job leads. If you're like most young people, you probably haven't spent much time talking to your parents about your specific career goals. You may be amazed at how many people come to your mom and dad's minds when they really think about the people they know.
Gift wrap your resume.
While you have some time over the holiday break, work on making your resume the very best it can be (I don't mean literally to gift wrap it, by the way. Plain black font on white paper is the only acceptable format). Make sure you are specific about your accomplishments (e.g., "Improved sporting equipment sales in my department by 50 percent in six months" or "Raised $10,000 through solicitation of alumni donations"). Include keywords that match the job descriptions of the positions you want and make sure your resume is 100 percent error-free. Ask trusted family members and friends to review your resume for content, grammar and clarity. If your resume reviewers can't quickly figure out what your skills are and what kind of job you want, go back to the drawing board.
Send season's greetings.