As the economy churns along, new graduates
are discovering that sometimes their competition for a traditionally
entry-level job is a more experienced, but laid-off, professional.
How can you gain an edge over someone with working world experience?
These experts say it's all in your attitude and presentation.
"The first thing is to understand the differences
between what you bring to the company and what they bring;
perception is reality," says Michelle Tillis Lederman, founder
of Executive Essentials, a corporate training and coaching
company. "If you think you can't compete, you will project
it in an interview and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Why is it better to hire a new grad? Well,
you aren't going to jump ship as soon as the economy turns
around!" Lederman continues. "Also, you don't feel the work
is beneath you, and you come with an eager-to-learn attitude.
Employers often seek attitude over aptitude; if that's the
case, you win."
Here are some surefire steps to gaining
a competitive edge:
Demonstrate up-to-date knowledge in
your field. Julie Rains, a career services professional
and writer for Wisebread.com, says to play up the cutting-edge
research and skills you learned in school. For instance, Generation
Y workers seeking marketing/advertising positions may have
a stronger grasp of social media and its impact on today's
consumer market than their older competitors.
Apply for jobs that offer great experience
but are considered unappealing to competitors who are further
along in their careers. "For example, consider a job with
a major corporation in a small town; a startup with long hours,
low pay and benefits, but high potential for growth; or a
position that requires extensive travel to mundane places,"
Get out of the country. Study and
work abroad organizations typically offer programs in a wide
range of industries, including culinary, finance/business,
teaching, government and more. "As more and more employers
are looking for incoming employees with global experience,
spending some time in a foreign country can really make a
potential employee, and recent college grad, stand out among
his or her peers," says Kara Silverman of MASA Israel Journey,
a study abroad umbrella organization that sends high school,
college and post-college Americans to Israel for internships,
fellowships, and work and study experiences.
Create a visible and strong personal
brand. Don't just sit behind a laptop and mass email your
résumé; get out there and participate in events or create
situations that boost your visibility and credibility. "A
journalism graduate could launch a blog that contains investigative
pieces on a narrow, but important topic, such as the commoditization
of green marketing," says Jean Biri, founder of Groupe Biri,
a strategy consulting firm to entrepreneurs. "Such topics
would attract the general attention of the public, activists
and other organizations, which would benefit her image and
Transform classroom experience into
marketable skills. Take the experience you gained during
classroom projects and internships and document it on your
résumé as you would a real job, says Kathy Sweeney, a nationally
certified résumé writer. "You can detail the components and
processes that were critical to the project [or internship]
and relay the results and experience gained," Sweeney says.
"Furthermore, if you've held leadership positions in organizations,
you can consider those 'jobs' as well."
Be prepared to answer the inevitable
question. Have a response ready to counter a question
prodding about your inexperience, says Kristen Fischer, author
of "Ramen Noodles, Rent and Résumés: An After-College Guide
to Life." "You should always acknowledge that while you're
just out of college, you do have a set of highly transferable
skills and you are used to taking direction well," she says.
According to Fischer, a college graduate's
newness to the working world and eagerness to land a first
job are actually bonuses.
"College grads have more energy, for the
most part, and they are more accepting of a lower salary -
whereas a mid-level person may be more demanding," she says.
"I think college grads need to stick to their guns and not
worry about the economy as much as possible. They're just
trying to get their feet wet and they don't need another challenge
slapped on them."