Here's How College Grads Can Build the Best Career Search Toolkit

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Newly minted college graduates would be making a big mistake relying on just a resume to land a job this year. Instead, a resume should be a component, if a critical one, in a job-seeker's toolkit.

That's the view from Ford R. Myers, a Haverford, Pa., career coach and author of Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring.

"Unfortunately, most people don't know what these other tools are or how to use them," Myers says. "By integrating other elements into the job search — and not relying solely on your resume — you can add power, professionalism and flexibility to your efforts," he says.

Along with that resume, here are some additional "must-haves" for college grads' job search arsenal — again, directly from Myers:

Accomplishment stories. Write five or six compelling stories about school or work-related tasks about which you feel proud.

Positioning statement. Prepare and practice a "15-second commercial" about who you are, what you've done academically and professionally and the particular strengths you can contribute to an employer.

Target company list. Make a "wish list" of adjectives that would describe your ideal employer, such as size, location, industry, culture and environment. Research specific organizations that meet those criteria and put them on a list of 35 to 50 "target companies."

Contact list. Compile a list of people you know personally and professionally. Remember that about 80% of opportunities are secured through networking, so this list will be critical.

Professional and academic references. List colleagues or professors who would sing your praises if asked about you. Contact each and get approval to use their names on your list of references.

Letters of recommendation. Get letters from four or five respected business colleagues or academic associates, which should be printed on their business or professional letterhead and signed by the writers. Leave out date and salutation.

Don't rush your job toolkit. Take the time you need to get it organized and get it right. Along the way, use these other job search tips geared for college graduates:

Tap into your school's alumni directory. Loyal alumni are wonderful resources before and after graduation, says Wendy Murphy, a business management professor at Babson University. "Reach out to individuals in careers that interest you and ask if they are willing to talk about how they got to where they are today," Murphy says. "People love talking about themselves, and chances are there are some good tips in their stories. This is also a low-risk opportunity to practice writing emails and asking for feedback."

Look into co-ops. The Rochester Institute of Technology is compiling a list of its 2015 college graduates who have already landed a job — a list that already includes dozens, says Greg Livadas, director of the university's news service. "Most of the students who landed a job said the job came through co-ops," he says. "RIT has one of the oldest co-op programs in the country. Most majors here require students to have two 10-week co-op experiences prior to graduation. That way they get some real-world experience, know if that's a job they'd like to continue with. And it gives employers an idea how the students will fit in."

Think small. Yes, the idea of working for a Fortune 500 company has its appeal. But if you limit your focus to mega-companies, you're reducing the odds of getting hired at all. "Monthly employment reports consistently show that about 75% of new jobs are being created by small- and mid-sized enterprises," says Robert J. LaBombard, chief executive at GradStaff, a national college recruiting firm in Minneapolis. "These employers typically don't recruit on campuses. Most small and medium employers rely on referrals to fill entry-level openings and seldom post these positions. Recent grads or soon-to-be-grads should familiarize themselves with the smaller employers and develop their networking skills to find connections to those employers."

— Written By Brian O'Connell For MainStreet

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