The secrets to job-search success for new grads

Simple, effective tips from pro recruiter Shannon Neighbour

Every spring, after convocation celebrations draw to a close, thousands of Alberta post-secondary grads likely find themselves asking the same question: Now what?

Shannon Neighbour (Marketing ’00), founder of Svensen Neighbour Recruiting, knows how hard it can be to answer that question. In trying to hatch career plans, new grads may face a chicken-and-egg situation.

“A lot of jobs require some level of experience,” says Neighbour. “So what students struggle with is that they haven’t had a ‘real job’ yet.

“We suggest that you have to be creative in your approach.”

Here’s Neighbour’s advice for answering one of life’s most important questions and successfully making one of its biggest transitions.

shannon neighbourShare your experience

Few students enter the job market with no experience in their field, says Neighbour (pictured at right). Class projects – particularly at a polytechnic – often mimic real-world situations and challenges. In some cases, they involve industry clients, further legitimizing them.

“That hands-on stuff can be translated into experience that employers are looking for,” says Neighbour. Promote it in your resumé and cover letter.

Find the right fit

Some organizations actively court new grads and groom them for long-term employment. “There are a number of companies that have new-grad training programs or integration programs,” says Neighbour. Finding such opportunities can be as easy as looking up a company online.

Some organizations actively court new grads.

Find the right people

Brush up on your networking skills. Attend local events such as talks or luncheons (Neighbour recommends finding them on Eventbrite or through industry associations).

Go with the intention of making connections and follow up with people you meet. Send an email the next day to say you look forward to keeping in touch. This will you keep you “top of mind with people,” says Neighbour. “It also shows initiative.”

Build skills through volunteering

If your job search is lengthening, Neighbour sees value in staying busy through volunteering. Being an “intentional” person, she would try to find positions within or related to the field she’s pursuing as a career. It could help build skills, make connections and, in some cases, lead to paid employment within the organization.

Along the way, it’s also likely to help keep your spirits up.

grad career choicesDon’t lose hope

“It’s always difficult because a lot of people are graduating at the same time and competing for the same jobs,” says Neighbour. There’s also the current state of the market: New grads are competing with experienced people willing to take a step back to re-enter the workforce.

It's important not to sit at the computer all day obsessing over job prospects. Leave the house, says Neighbour, to volunteer for an industry mixer, or just to pound the pavement to the nearest patio. Otherwise, “it’s hard to perform in an interview or put your best foot forward when meeting new people.”

Say yes

Neighbour has met grads who envisioned one version of the future – no variation will do. Opportunities can pass by while that future remains out of reach.

Instead, why not say yes to the next best thing? That might be a different job than imagined or it might be temporary. If those positions are with a company you want to work for in the long term, it’s often easier to be welcomed back after you’ve gotten your foot in the door.

So if you’re mulling over whether to go to an interview you’re not enthusiastic about, stop. “Go for the interview. You never know what the opportunities could be,” says Neighbour. “Down the road, that could eventually translate into getting that dream career.”

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