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Top 10 Student / Graduate Job Search Mistakes

College and High School Job Search Mistakes

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Top 10 Student / Graduate Job Search Mistakes
Copyright: Jason Stitt
It's hard enough for college or high school students to find that plum internship or post-graduate job in this economy when they do everything right. If students make crucial mistakes while seeking employment, the process becomes even more complicated.

Are you curious about how students are sabotaging their searches and how they can make the right moves to secure their target job?

Here are the top 10 job search mistakes high school and college students and graduates can make, plus advice on how to avoid them.

Top 10 Job Search Mistakes

Narrow Geographic Focus

Students should certainly prioritize the preferred locations for their jobs/internships based on their personal, social, and professional criteria. However, defining too narrow a geographic area can severely limit possibilities especially if there are few employers in your target industry in that location. Consider opportunities in second and third choice locations as well as your top area if too few opportunities exist in that location.

Issues with Career Focus

Students who can't articulate a clear focus in line with the position for which they are applying will often scare off employers. Make sure you have researched your target field and can clearly convey to employers of how it fits your background.

On the other hand, having too narrow a focus on a field where opportunities are scarce can also pose problems. Investigate alternative routes to your ultimate job and develop plan B and plan C options for careers. It is rare that your first job will end up being in your ultimate career field.

Unwillingness to Start at the Bottom

Students often expect too glamorous a starting point for their career. Carefully research actual starting jobs in your field for individuals with your credentials. Meeting with alumni for informational interviews is an excellent way to do this. You will often hear stories such as how that successful ad executive started her career in the mail room. The key is to get inside an organization of interest, meet the right people and prove your worth. Make sure a pattern exists whereby grads have advanced from entry positions.

In certain areas like sports and advertising virtually all entry level jobs go to individuals with previous internship experience. If you are serious about this type of field make sure you do an internship while in school or even after graduation.

Preoccupation with Salary

We all want to earn as much as possible in every job we hold but many students make the mistake of setting unreasonable salary expectations for entry level jobs and internships. Use online resources, consult with professionals in your target field and ask your guidance or career counselor for advice to identify appropriate ranges.

Factors like the growth potential of your prospective job and the skills you will develop in that position are most often more important than beginning salary when starting your career.

Insufficient Networking

Ask any career expert about the most effective strategy for finding work and they will all say "networking". Yet few students are fully engaged with this process. Make sure you use a varied approach to networking by reaching out to alumni, family friends, local professionals and members of professional groups in your field. Ask for information, advice and assistance with your search.

Flawed Communications

Typos and grammatical errors in your letters / emails will turn off employers right away. Proofread documents carefully and have others review them as well.

Insufficient Employer Research

Employers will notice if you haven't done your homework. Make sure you research the products, services, accomplishments and challenges of your target organization. Be prepared to articulate why you would be interested in helping the organization to reach its goals.

Be ready to share the assets which you will bring to them in order to excel in your target job. Prepare examples of how you have tapped those strengths to successfully carry out past roles and projects.

Inadequate Follow Up

Students often make the mistake of ending communication with the interview. Make sure you write a follow up letter or email as soon as possible after your meeting. Include a brief summary of why you think the job is an excellent fit after having met with them. Express a strong interest in working there. Lack of enthusiasm is a deal killer with employers at any stage of the process. Reengage the employer periodically to check on your status and reaffirm your high level of interest.

Losing Momentum

It is understandable that students will often draw down the intensity of their job search efforts when things look promising with an employer. Backing off your search at the sign of possible success can be a critical error which could set you back for months. Don't ever assume an offer will come through since circumstances can change with that organization. Keep the pedal to the metal until you have secured a definite offer in writing.

Not Fully Tapping Career/Guidance Offices

It is amazing how few students fully utilize the resources available at their school's career offices . Trained professional are available to guide you and share job as well as networking leads. Make sure you are fully engaged with these offices right from the beginning of your high school and college career.

Hopefully you have learned how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that short circuit student job search and are now more ready to take the positive steps necessary to launch a successful search.

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