Huffpost Canada ca
Nancy A. Shenker Headshot

Seven Ways for Graduates to Get Off the Couch and Into an Office

Posted: Updated:

Just graduated? Home for the summer? Still unemployed? You're not alone. But here are some sure-fire tips to get you from couch potato to paycheck!

Close to two million kids will graduate college in 2012. And millions of high school and college kids are now flooding the summer job market. Your mom and dad may be getting disgusted with you, and you're getting sick of hearing their pleas to put down the iPhone and Xbox, trade in your tee-shirt for a tie, and start generating income. You want to be a filmmaker or fashion blogger and your friends and parents are pushing you to work in finance or forensics. Don't despair!

I entered the job market in 1977, which was also a tough time for job-hunting. My own daughters (20 and 24) also freaked out about finding jobs during a competitive and demoralizing era. Jobs are out there! Here's what you need to do to ensure that you make that shift from student to employee.

1. Develop your "personal brand."
Like a rock star, media guru, or corporate executive, you need to create a unique "positioning" for yourself that distinguishes you from other kids. Are you a fantastic writer? Were you a team coach? Do you have terrific social media skills? Are your math skills exceptional? Think about what you love to do and what you're good at, then write your bio.

2. Use your social media skills to create a rock star profile!
Put up a professional Facebook page, an online resume, and a LinkedIn page. Link to your sites from every cover letter you send out. It will demonstrate that you know who you are and what skills you can offer a hiring manager. Make sure your online profiles are squeaky-clean. Google yourself and make sure you're using privacy settings to ensure that those beer pong shots and spring break hook-ups are invisible to prospective employers.

3. Talk to strangers.
Use alumni association contacts, formers employers, and even your parents' friends to build your professional network. Be sure that all the "adults" you know are aware that you're job-hunting. Find a mentor (someone who likes you and will "adopt" you in your job search and perhaps even share your resume with his or her professional network). Attend conferences and trade shows in your industry and meet as many people as you can. Practice eye contact, phone skills and your handshake. Do not rely solely via e-mails and texts to make connections. Boomers grew up in a world without the Internet and give extra points to young people who aren't afraid to speak.

4. Be a bit humble.
No one loves a diva. My first job out of school paid only $130 a week, but it was a great way for me to gain experience and make connections. Many internships are unpaid or at minimum wage, but can be terrific resume-builders. Of course you want to enter the working world as a mogul, but that's simply not realistic. If you have to babysit or bartend to make extra cash, just suck it up. If you show a boss that you're willing to do anything to gain experience, they will value your drive and curiosity. Offer to take an unpaid gig for 30 days. If it's in a field that you love, it's worth the "investment."

5. Ask lots of questions.
If you get rejected from a job, ask the interviewer if he or she knows of anyone else you can speak with. Solicit feedback on what you can do better or differently. If you're lucky enough to land a job, but are totally confused about what you're supposed to be doing, speak up! Your boss sometimes needs to be reminded that you are a newbie, and no decent adult ever minds when a new employee asks for clarification.

6. BEHAVE!
Rudeness, cockiness, whining, and laziness are never good attributes. You may hate your job, but keep in mind that it's a stepping stone for bigger and better things. You want to leave every job with a great reference.

7. Be a "Patchwork Professional" and mix it up.
Many people today are working a couple of jobs at the same time. It's a great way to gain varied experience and supplement your income (and can be a great boredom buster). Split the week between two or even three jobs. If you do a great job, someone may create a full-time position for you, recommend you to another company that's hiring, or write you a wonderful reference.

Bonus tip for parents: Don't nag your son or daughter or over-manage his or her job search. A demoralized or pissed-off kid will not present well in interviews. Remain positive, encouraging, and helpful. Offer to proofread resumes and cover letters, spread the word that your child is unemployed within your own professional and neighborhood circles, and try (as hard as it can be sometimes) to support his or her dreams. Being a new grad is stressful and confusing at times. And although you may yourself be panicking that your "boomerang kid" will be lying on your couch forever while you make him waffles, remember that we all ended up working at some point.

Every grad eventually finds his way!