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Change your game plan

Congratulations! After all those sleepless nights, you’re finally graduating. But is there a job in sight? There was a time when new college graduates had few choices: pursue further studies, find work or join the military. These days, there are many more options. But with the job market in a slump and the economy in the doldrums, now is the time to rethink how you go about landing your dream job. When traditional methods aren’t working, that’s when you need to get creative. Try these tips.

Look beyond your inner circle

Getting in touch with everyone you know is key to finding the right opportunity. Start at school: talk to friends and teachers, talk to your alumni association and if you are a member of a club or organisation, take advantage of those contacts.

“You can create the right opportunities just by contacting the right people and reaching out to them,” say Anne Brown and Beth Zefo, authors of Grad to Great: Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career. They recommend joining local chapters of networking associations and trade organisations in your field of interest. For example, if you’re a public relations major, make sure you become a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Attend happy hours, speeches, book signings — find opportunities to follow key people in your chosen industry.

Many of these organisations offer student memberships at a discounted rate, notes Derrick Dortch, an expert on federal careers. You may also have an advantage if you’re in a specialised field, such as technology or science, and can share some of your knowledge by teaching a class to members of the organisation.

Seek out “jobternships”

Even after some strategic networking, finding your dream job at your dream company may still be foremost on your mind. If you’re adamant about working for a particular company but there just aren’t any vacancies, experts recommend contacting them anyway. Don’t just email or snail mail, try handing in a cover letter through an established contact. Keep an eye on smaller, private firms — they may be more willing to hire students who have already graduated. Also, if you’re currently interning, ask if your employer would be willing to extend your internship or explore other options.

Research graduate programmes

If you want to acquire additional skills and further your studies, this may be the option for you. And if you need help financing a graduate degree, Dortch says the best place for assistance might very well be your own school. “There may be a great deal of money coming in from these stimulus packages that is going to be beefing up education, community colleges, graduate schools ... a lot of money is going to be going into re-training the work force,” he says.

Volunteer in your field of study

Volunteering is a way of “staying close to your career objective”, while you get flexible and look for alternatives to a full-time job, says Dortch, former assistant director of Georgetown University’s career centre. Brown and Zefo agree: “Volunteering will at least help you keep your skills updated, and that resume packed with experience.” You can volunteer just about anywhere depending on the opportunities available. Try non-governmental organisations and non-profits in your area. Opportunities at these organisations are usually available on a project basis.

Bloom where you are planted

Even with hard work, you could end up with a job as a grocery store cashier because the economy is just that bad. In this situation, Brown and Zefo say, “you can create your own learning experience in that industry. You don’t have to just go to work every day and do your cashier’s job, you can learn about the industry while you are there and you can talk to management and see if there is a way to job-shadow to learn about inventory skills. Are there any marketing meetings that you could sit in on and learn about sales and logistics?” You can ultimately take a leadership role anywhere — even while volunteering. Brown and Zefo say in this economy people really need to re-shift their expectations: “Maybe it is time again to start in the mailroom and work your way up to president.”

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