Tomorrow night’s final exam for the 23 grad students in my DePaul University class launches several of them into the crowded PR job market. Some already are working in PR, but most will be searching for such jobs. At last week’s class, one student asked if it was okay to take off the summer to travel. While it sounds like fun, I recommended against a travel odyssey and, instead, encouraged her to ramp up her job search. (I normally would have advocated for the travel, but not in this uncertain economy).
Support for my recommendation came in Sunday’s New York Times Career Couch column, which I sent to the entire class since it answers many of the questions on the minds of new graduates in search of jobs. Experts offer sound advice that you should use the time between college and landing the first job to develop skills that will make you more marketable.
The Q&A format column offers the following advice on the best way to use the time between graduation and employment:
“Your focus should be on developing skills you need for employment and learning about your industry,” says Katharine Brooks, director of liberal arts career services at the University of Texas, Austin, and author of “You Majored in What?” “This is also a good time to build your network. Use your college’s alumni office to seek out professionals in your industry,” she says.
Do some virtual networking through a social media campaign. “Create a LinkedIn profile, because recruiters use that as a primary way of sourcing candidates,” she says. Twitter and Facebook enable you to have conversations with people in your field. “Use Twitter to begin to establish yourself as someone who is knowledgeable about your industry,” Ms. Brooks says. “Start tweeting about articles of interest in your field and the latest research findings.”
Being comfortable with social media, however, doesn’t mean you are familiar with the technology used in a corporate environment, says Jeffrey Livingston, senior vice president for college and career readiness at McGraw-Hill Education in Columbus, Ohio. “Use this time to learn the software companies want, like Excel and PowerPoint, and read up on search engine optimization,” he says.