If you’re a recent college graduate, then you’ve probably spent a good portion of your summer focused on one thing: looking for a job. And if you’re like most recent graduates, you’ve probably approached your job search the traditional way: sending out dozens of resumes only to receive negative (or no) responses in return.
You’re not alone: nearly 40 percent of recent graduates are underemployed, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for twenty-somethings to land jobs that require a college degree.
That means it takes some extra effort to stand out – and that’s actually easy to do if you’re willing to take a different approach to landing a job.
By adjusting your strategy and taking an unconventional approach to looking for work after college, you can avoid resume-blasting and get a foot in the door at companies you’re actually interested in.
Here are three “outside-the-box” job-search strategies that can help get you gain the upperhand in a highly competitive job market:
1. Create your own internship
Applying to an internship can be just as competitive as applying to a regular job. So how do you get experience in your field if you’re competing with hundreds of other applicants for even the unpaid positions?
Skip the application process and create your own mini internship.
Try contacting an employer you’re interested in and offering to work on a short-term project for free. By approaching an organization with a specific project, you can create a win-win situation for both you and the company. It’s advantageous to the employer, since it’s free work and there is no commitment to train you or hire you as a regular intern or employee. At the same time, it will help you gain the valuable experience you need while avoiding competition for typical internships. And if your supervisor is happy with your work at the end of the project, you are perfectly primed to discuss future work opportunities. You’ll look a lot more attractive as a job candidate now that you have insider experience.
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2. Establish authority in your field online
One of the first things a hiring manager will do is search for your name online. And if all of the search results turn up photos of your fraternity days in college, you may lose some credibility with a prospective employer. So how do you create an online narrative around your expertise and professionalism? Starting your own website or blog is a great way to showcase your knowledge and build your career “brand.” Even if you don’t have real-world experience in the field you’re interested in, you can establish an authority by posting and writing frequently about topics and organizations that you care about. It’s a stamp of authority for hiring managers, and it may even attract recruiters.
3. Connect with influential (but not busy) people
Reaching out to the executives in charge of hiring decisions at a company may not always work – they’re busy people and they probably receive a lot of requests from job-seekers. Instead, try contacting “periphery employees” – employees doing the day-to-day work that have enough influence to put in a good word on your behalf. Reach out to a project manager or a program officer, someone involved in the organization’s daily work. They may be more likely to talk with you and may share critical insight around the trends they see at their company.
And who knows: maybe one day you can return the favor for another job-seeking graduate and build up some good career karma for the future!