Tips to kick-start your career

Facing a struggling economy and record levels of unemployment, millions of young people will head back to thousands of U.S. colleges and universities this fall, anxious about their job prospects over the next few years.Kick-starting a new career in this challenging economy won't be easy as graduates from the classes of 2011, 2010 and 2009 have learned the hard way. But, with a little determination and preparation, college students can increase their odds of landing a job right out of school and laying a foundation for future success. One of the most important areas of concern for college students who plan on entering the workforce soon is the Internet. While it can be extremely helpful in finding internships and jobs, it can also cripple your career prospects, according to, a leading online destination for legal information. College students must pay extra attention to their use of the Internet. Embarrassing or inappropriate photos, messages, opinions and documents can live on the Internet for years, and can negatively impact a young person's search for gainful employment. Here are some additional tips from on what college students should do now to prepare to land the job of their dreams right out of school: Don't embellish your resume. Compiling a resume is the first step to finding a job - or even an internship while you're attending college. Go to the job placement center at your college or university to get tips on how to write an effective resume. But take heed: Exaggerating accomplishments on your resume will more often end up hurting you than helping you. Companies have become more sophisticated in conducting background and reference checks through job application forms and resumes. Instead, focus on using keywords and figures to highlight your strengths and to demonstrate increasing levels of responsibility. Watch what you post online. Savvy employers use the Internet, including social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter, to not only scout new talent, but to determine if you'll be a good fit for their organization. When posting online, avoid foul language, inappropriate pictures, lewd jokes, and references to drug abuse and excessive alcohol consumption. Avoid posting offensive statuses, and limit the number of posts on Facebook and other online forums. Too many postings on Facebook or Twitter says you're spending too much time on social networking sites rather than on your studies. Build a work history. Most employers want to see job candidates who are building a track record of successful employment - taking on roles that increase in responsibility from one job to the next. Employers want to see results and accomplishments, especially as it relates to your field of interest. To get the experience needed to land the job of your dreams, college students and those just out of college may need to take jobs or internships that may not pay as much as they would like. You should also consider volunteering with non-profit organizations in order to gain critical skills. If you're entering your junior year in college, it is not too soon to be seeking internships in the profession or industry that you're interested in working in. Good references. If you left your previous job in good standing, your old boss is more likely to give you a good reference. The better the reference, the more likely you'll get that job you're applying for. Former coworkers can often make for good references as well. It's important to stay in touch with previous employers and co-workers who can serve as references for future employment. In addition to on-the-job references, professors and coaches at your college can serve as references. Build your networks. It is not too soon to begin building a professional network of contacts while you are in college. Create a LinkedIn page to begin promoting your experience, accomplishments and skills, as well as to maintain your contacts with professors, mentors and fellow students. Maintain a blog to showcase your career and volunteer accomplishments. Join professional associations to network with others in your chosen field. Establish mentor relationships. Identify two to three working professionals in your profession from whom you can obtain career advice and wisdom. Invite them for coffee to learn about what you can do to enhance your career direction. Study the job market. While you're in school, not after you graduate, is the time to study the job market and find out what industries are hiring and how much you can expect to be paid upon graduating from college. For example, a 2009 Labor Department study of college graduates under 25 showed that those who majored in engineering were more likely to find jobs just out of college than those who majored in the humanities. You may be passionate for what you're studying, but it's just as important to be realistic about your job prospects. Assess your student debt. According to the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, the average 2010 four-year college graduate earned a median starting salary of $27,000. As a student, you should analyze the amount of student debt you are taking on to achieve your degree in light of the amount of money you'll make in your chosen field. Graduating with a mountain of student debt can make it more difficult to establish a good credit history and take the risks that are necessary in building a solid career.

********** Published: September 15, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 22