10 Tools College Grads Need to Land a First Job


Ford Myers

You’ve spent hours crafting the perfect resume. The format is eye-catching and the wording is practically Pulitzer Prize winning. But you’ll need much more than a well-crafted resume if you want to land that all-important first job!

Ford R. Myers, a popular career coach, speaker and author of “Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring” says, “The resume is just one of many ‘tools’ a job seeker should have in his or her ‘Job Seekers’ Tool Kit.'”

“Unfortunately, most people don’t know what these other tools are or how to use them. By integrating other elements into the job search – and not relying solely on the resume – new graduates can add power, professionalism, and flexibility to their efforts,” states Myers.

To stand out from the crowd, Myers suggests the following 10 items every new college graduate should have in the “Job Seekers’ Tool Kit:”

1. Accomplishment Stories. Write five or six compelling stories about school or work-related tasks that made you feel proud.
2. Positioning Statement. Prepare and practice a “15-second commercial” about who you are, what you’ve done in the past (academically and professionally, if applicable), and the particular strengths you can contribute to an employer.
3. Professional Biography. Write a one-page narrative of your career in the “third person” – as though someone else wrote it about you.
4. Target Company List. Make a “wish list” of adjectives that would describe your ideal employer, such as size, location, industry, culture, and environment. Then research specific organizations that meet those criteria and put them on a list of 35 to 50 “Target Companies.”
5. Contact List. Compile a list of all the people you know personally and professionally, including their contact information. Remember that approximately 80% of new opportunities are secured through networking.
6. Professional/Academic References. List respected peers, advisors or professors who would “sing your praises” if asked about you. Contact each of them, and get approval to use their names on your list of references.
7. Letters of Recommendation. Request letters from four or five business colleagues or academic associates, which will be printed on their professional letterhead.
8. Networking Agenda. Write out a full networking discussion or script so you will know exactly what to say in the networking discussion – how it flows, what to expect, how to react to the other person’s comments, follow-up steps, etc.
9. Tracking System. Keep a detailed record of your job search activities, including phone calls, networking meetings, interviews, cover letters, etc. This is essential to keep your process organized and productive.
10. Resume. It’s the last on the list, but still indispensable. And, it has to be GREAT. Be sure your final resume is carefully edited and succinct (no more than two pages) with a layout that is easy for the eye to follow.

Myers adds, “It may take some time to produce these documents and to learn how to use them effectively, but it will be worth it. Building a satisfying career is much easier when you have the right tools.”

Thanks to career coach Ford Myers for sharing this post with us.  His timely book, “Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring,” provides more tips for landing a job.  

10 thoughts on “10 Tools College Grads Need to Land a First Job

  1. This is great information for any new graduate. Being a new graduate myself, I can say that I have used all of these to some capacity. I would also add what I call a “mesh sheet.” A list or statement that describes how your accomplishments or experience fall directly in align with the company’s charter, goals, and job description.

  2. Does the first post regarding writing stories really have an effect besides boosting your confidence and would you recommend putting these stories in your portfolio for employers to see your writing skills and experience all at the same time.

  3. Ford might have another POV, but others have used these “proud moment” stories as ways to prepare themselves for interviews. Interviewers frequently ask such quesitons, so come prepared both mentally and in writing.

  4. I don’t understand why one has to write out five or six different stories. Do we type it out and show the interviewer or just read it out loud if asked what our accomplishments are?

  5. Accomplishment stories are definitely something I need to focus on. I have accomplished things in my last four years that I know I can be proud of, but I always end up selling myself short. Although my accomplishments are important to me, they seem minimal or irrelevant to the business world. Does that matter? Or is it always worth while if it shows hard work and perseverance?
    Abby Menke
    Southeast Missouri State University

  6. I really enjoyed the professional biography and positioning statement. Practicing the positioning statement will better prepare you for in person interviews. Preparing “the 15 second commercial” will help you realize the key points that are necessary to mention. This is also true with the professional biography. Writing a piece in the 3rd person will help remove any emotion from the recollection of your past professional life. This kind of writing will help me recognize what accomplishments are substantial and which accomplishments only hold emotional significance for me.

    Liz Rourke
    Southeast Missouri State University

  7. This was probably the most helpful post that I have come across while exploring this site. I had mixed feelings about adding different styles of writing to a portfolio, as I assume this is where the professional biography and accomplishment stories would go, for fear of straying away from more work-related pieces. I had previously considered adding literary work that I have published, but this would be a great way to show a range of skill while maintaining professionalism.

    Lucas Robins
    Southeast Missouri State University

  8. I think that this is very valuable information, however i’m not exactly sure that prospective employers will be prepared to read 5 to 6 personal stories about a prospective hire when there are plenty of other prospects vying for the same position.

    I think that the most valuable information that can be taken from this list is to prepare to sell yourself, albeit knowing and exploiting your strengths, and being prepared to discuss them when the time arrives. Plenty of college graduates possess the right skills for a job, but i feel that the one who sells those skills, experiences, etc. best will be the one to land the position.

  9. I agree with the comments above. I think it is a great idea to compile various stories of personal accomplishments, as sometimes it’s hard for us to brag about ourselves. If you take time to write them out it may help you articulate them better to your interviewer. Are you suggesting we just use these to practice or do you think we should actually present these to our employer?

    Mary Bauer
    Southeast Missouri State University

  10. I think that the 15 second commercial idea is excellent. I always get tripped up on “tell me a little about yourself” in interviews. I also need I work on stories because there are a lot of things that I have done that I always forget that I have accomplished.

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