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Graduates face the real world.

Okay, college is over. It's real life. Time for a job. You do have one, don't you? "Hopefully, students have been preparing for this day since they got to college," says Roland Walters, director of Radford University's Career Services Center. Even if you haven't done that kind of preparation, a job is still within your grasp. Here are some tips that may help as you join the working world.

"Basically, you're marketing yourself to prospective employers," Walters points out. That can seem a daunting task, given today's dismal economic situation. "It's tough out there. it used to take an average of six months to find work ... today's graduates find it can take over a year to get the job they want."

Employers look at three things: grade point average, leadership abilities, and work experience. In most cases, no one element is more important than another; it's a matter of balance. Most employers would rather interview someone with good grades who holds an office in a campus organization than a student with a perfect grade point average and no activities. Remember, the operative term is good grades.

In today's tight market, work experience is a critical factor. Internships, practicums, and work-study jobs not only let you see firsthand what the field is like, they also are a powerful networking tool. Many students get offers at firms where they interned because the employer knows their work and how it fits into the company. Even if there are no positions available where you intern, you have met people who can be a reference for a similar job in another company.

Even jobs outside your field can speak volumes about you and your work habits. Maybe you think of it as just flipping hamburgers, but you have demonstrated that you are educable and understand the responsibilities of being on time and putting in your eight hours. If you have been given raises or asked back the following year, it indicates that you understand these things very well. If you have shown someone how to do your job, you have demonstrated leadership and management potential.

With those preparations, it's time to face a prospective employer in an interview. The important thing is exuding self-confidence even if you don't really feel that way. Employers can have the best and they know it and they want it. You've got to appear to be the best. Unless you're extremely lucky or extremely good, you can count on rejection. In fact, you can count on a tremendous amount of rejection. In spite of that, Walters indicates, you must continue to keep smiling, keep up the appearance of self-confidence. Join a support group if you need to, but don't let down your guard. He also suggests: * Keeping the can-do attitude no matter how discouraging the situation seems. "Don't take rejection personally. Employers are looking for very specific things, and it may be that you just don't fit the profile of what they want at that time." * Doing your homework. If you are aware of what the employer wants, you can tailor your marketing approach better, highlighting your skills that best match his or her needs. * Networking with colleagues and friends. Walters explains that 60% of all jobs result from networking. This is no time to be coy about help from your parents. If they have contacts in your field, use them.

If the search for your dream job has seemed completely fruitless and you need to pay your rent, consider these options: Get a night job of some sort, then approach the company with which you want employment and offer to volunteer, a sort of post-graduation internship. Sign on with a temporary agency for work in your field. Consider taking a position below your qualifications. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Such efforts will give you contacts and experience in your field, and the inside track on eventual openings. Postpone your search while you improve your marketability through additional training or education. Graduate school gives you a chance to get the education and skills your field may require.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:May 1, 1993
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