After College: Job Hunting During Tough Economic Times

Job hunting during one of the worst economic eras since the Great Depression is more than a challenge, especially for recent grads.

In college, professors and industry folks tell you to get as involved as possible in clubs, national associations, etc., and to meet as many people as you can. They tell you job hunting is hard. They tell you that you may not land your dream job right away. They tell you that it may take a while to get any job at all. Sounding familiar?

Well, what they don’t tell you is that not only can the process be extremely frustrating, but it can also be an emotional rollercoaster. There are times—like when you land an interview—that you feel like you are on top of the world. And then there are times when you don’t get an interview or when things take longer than expected when you may start to wonder what is wrong with you. I know. I graduated in December. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like a failure, but do not let those times get to you.

Many employers are looking for outstanding candidates with a certain degree and a specified number of years of industry “experience.” If you found your dream job while browsing an online job site, but it specified 4-6 years of experience (and you just graduated), would you apply for it?

Well, you should. Sometimes, you won’t get a call back, but it may surprise you how many times you do. That’s what happened with me, and I almost didn’t apply for it. Now that I have accepted the job, I am SO glad I did! It just shows that you never know what will happen.

Here’s some advice that may help you whether you are still in school or now looking for a job in the ‘real world’.

In college…

-Get involved! Join as many clubs and associations as you have time for and actually get involved in them. Become an officer or get involved in national meetings. Take the time to get to know guest speakers and alumni (award banquets may be a good time for this).

-Get to know your professors. Yes, this sounds cliché, but it can really help you. Professors can serve as references during your job hunt and can also let you know of open positions that may fit your interests and skills.

-Get involved in national associations and do as much networking as possible. Attending as many conferences as possible also falls into this category. If there is an option to become a national or regional officer (ADSA has plenty of these opportunities), do it.

-Do internships. Yes, more than one if possible. While you are interning, take the time to get to know others at the organization. They may be able to help you find a job later or serve as a reference.

-Don’t burn bridges. During internships especially, but in general it’s a bad idea. The ag industries are small and you’d be surprised how everyone is connected. Make a great impression and maintain it.

Job hunting in the months following graduation…

-Utilize your professional network. Reach out to all of your industry contacts to see if they know of any openings.

-Look at online job boards. Indeed.com and Careerbuilder.com are two good ones, but there are several dedicated to just ag.

-Create a LinkedIn account. The more positive exposure you have on the internet, the better off you will be. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to see others’ work and educational experience. This is a great way to reconnect with your college and industry contacts.

-Clean up your Facebook. If you have partying photos from college or any other questionable material on your Facebook, get rid of it now! You may think employers can’t see your profile, but do you really want to risk losing your dream job because of this? In general, project a professional image. Also, Google yourself and see what you find. Employers do this and it’s important to know what is out there.

-Look in the mirror. Did you have a crazy haircut/color in college? You may want to change that. While it’s important to be unique, extreme looks may hurt you during an interview.

-Stay busy! Looking for a job can be a full time job, but make time for yourself and the people who mean the most to you. For example, I spent much of my time planning the inaugural Western Regional ADSA-SAD meeting. That took my mind off of job hunting a little and really helped.

Final advice: be persistent, it will pay off. Just remember to stay optimistic and make time for yourself.

Good luck!

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