I have not posted in a long time, having been busy interviewing for post-graduation jobs, but I just received an email from Forbes
asking a question that was eerily relevant to the situation many of my peers find themselves in – it read,
"Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a jump in the unemployment rate to 10.2%. Some economists think we could be looking at 10.5% by early next year. Given these grim forecasts, how do you counsel recent college graduates and others entering the job market for the first time in this employment climate? Is there any advice or strategies you find particularly useful?"
After interviewing for a number of finance jobs, I wound up with several offers, including two doing equity research at large buy-side firms – exactly the position I wanted. Forgiving the somewhat cliched headings (I hope the descriptions make up for it), I found the following things beneficial, and hope they can be used in your personal situation:
Know what you want
It sounds trite, but the number of students who don't have a good idea of what they'd like to do after college is surprisingly high. If you don't know what you want to do, why should an employer hire you?
In my case, I identified investment management as a dynamic, intellectually challenging field that would hold my attention and challenge my analytical abilities early on. Do some introspection and examine what skills you have, then figure out where they'll be put to good use in an enjoyable way. There's no substitute for putting in the time to think.
Show your passion
Once you've identified what you want to do, capture it on your résumé by involving yourself in a relevant activity. If you actually want to be in a certain line of work, this won't be a huge imposition. Should a readily apparent method of accomplishing this not be handy – there might not be a club at your school, or a field/service trip, a study program, etc. – then get on the internet. Find people doing what you want to do, and contact them. If everything comes up empty, start a website– it doesn't have to be a grand production, just steady documentation that you're trying to learn about something.
I started my website because I was bored during exam week freshman year. Through it, I've been read by tens of thousands of people, invited to write for much larger publications, and had opportunities to meet and talk with dozens of incredibly helpful people in the finance industry.
Put in the time
As the first point said, there's no substitute for actually investing the time positioning yourself to get hired. The word choice is intentional; learning about what you want to do really is an investment in your future.