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Summer is upon us, and if you recently graduated from college and are not working toward an advanced degree, you will be in the job market. You are at a pivotal time of your life. Be careful to avoid these mistakes that recent graduates often make.

Taking a vacation before starting a job search.

Look at it from the standpoint of a potential employer. A recent graduate sends you a résumé. You note that they graduated in May, and it is now November, and, at least according to their résumé, they have not found their first post-graduation position.

You find out that instead of job searching, this individual took a “deserved” extended vacation. In truth, taking a vacation before beginning a job search makes the candidate look unmotivated, lazy, and unrealistic.

The job-search process typically takes many weeks (your personal motivation, or lack thereof, often determines the length of the job-search process). If you graduate in May, and are still looking in September – and you may be – it looks to a potential employer that you must have a hidden problem. Why is it taking you so long to find a job?

Taking the first job that comes along…

…without properly analyzing the job to see where it places you on a career path for the long term. The wrong first job can place you on a career path that you may find difficult to shake. Imagine 20 years from now realizing that since college you’ve been minimally successful and have spent 20 years feeling frustrated. Imagine realizing that after wasting 20 years you need to make a complete career change. How sad. And how often this happens.

Graduating with a degree not easily recognized by the business world.

If your goal is to find a position in the business world or in public service, you may want to ask yourself what kind of reception your college major will receive. Some college majors lend themselves to vocations. Accounting leads you to become an accountant. Engineering leads you into becoming an engineer. Nursing leads you into nursing. Where does your college major lead you? This may be an inconvenient time in your life to ask that question, but one needs to be realistic. It is never too late to return to school and work toward an advanced or second degree.

Writing a résumé that does not reflect what you have to offer to a potential employer.

Unless the skills are directly transferable, do not list part-time jobs. Instead, list your areas of study, coursework, extracurricular activities, any achievements that you have had. A part-time job as a waitress that you held during college to earn some spending money adds little to a résumé, and may actually detract from it.

Failure to conduct a proper job search.

Your approach here should emphasize those job-search techniques that are most effective and most productive in uncovering jobs. It is vital to emphasize those job-search techniques that will uncover the best opportunities.

Poor interviewing.

The first impression is important. Your appearance is vital. Do not go to a job interview dressed in casual clothes. This interview is highly important – yes, vital to your life. Treat it as such and dress up, not down.

Practice, practice, practice answering job-interview questions. You will find lists of typical job-interview questions in many books published on the job-search process.

Be sure to research the company before going to the interview. How? Use the internet. Almost every company has a website, which contains a wealth of information on that company. Go one step further and do some basic research on that company’s industry.

After the interview, immediately send a thank you.

In three to four days, and when you have enough information, write a follow-up letter that details how you can be of benefit to the company as an employee as it relates to the position. Or, pick up the phone and call the employer. Tell them you want the job.

Remember, everything in the interview process should be focused on the needs of the company, not yourself.

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