By Charles Purdy, Monster Senior Editor
Although this year's college graduates are facing a tough job market (and the smart ones are facing it now, rather than waiting until after graduation), they have an advantage over other job seekers, according to Andy Chan, vice president of career development at Wake Forest University: They are among the age group most likely to be hired in the coming months.
"Organizations are very interested in hiring young people because they have a lot of energy and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done," Chan says.
But no matter how well-positioned these young people are, they -- and all job seekers -- will have a better chance of success if they avoid these common job hunting mistakes:
Not Being Proactive Enough
"This isn't the time to sit back and be casual in your approach," says Emily Bennington, co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. "Create a hit list of five to 10 target companies, and really utilize your network to locate an 'in' at each."
Relying Solely on the Internet
In a MonsterCollege survey, 78 percent of college job-seeker respondents said networking was a factor in their job searches. Brad Karsh, president of JobBound, says, "When thousands of candidates are applying to the same jobs online and posting their resume to the same job boards, candidates need to stand out by making connections and networking their way into a company." Job boards are an important tool, but Karsh says new grads also need to focus energy on networking.
Not Creating Wide Networks
Career expert Liz Ryan says that your parents', grandparents' and friends' networks can help you in your postgraduation job search. "Don't be shy -- reach out to any long-ago Scoutmaster, choir director, or babysitting or leaf-raking boss," she says. "There's no statute of limitations on networking."
Not Creating Customized Resumes
"Don't send out any resumes that simply list your courses, the degree you've earned, and your part-time and summer jobs," Ryan says. "Use this opportunity to make a stronger statement about what you want to do with your adult life." And according to Jay Block, author of 101 Best Ways to Land a Job in Troubled Times, younger job seekers often haven't thought about what they have to offer an employer (as opposed to what they want to get from one). With this mindset, they create resumes that are "boring biographies" instead of effective marketing tools.
Misusing the Internet
New grads don't use online professional networking tools, says Tory Johnson, CEO of Women For Hire and author of Fired to Hired. These tools aren't "sexy like Facebook or Twitter -- but [they're] the best resource for getting names and building a professional identity."
Failing to Follow Up
It's not enough to send resumes and pray the phone rings, Johnson says. She cautions job seekers not to expect their resumes to be discovered in that big black online hole. "Hustle to follow up," she says.
Setting Expectations Too High
Johnson says new graduates too often focus on looking for the perfect job, instead of a first job. "Especially in this economy, the first job should be about finding a position where you'll learn a great deal, you'll be super busy and you'll be surrounded by lots of people," she says.
Make sure you're ready for employers' scrutiny, says Tim McIntyre, president and CEO of The Executive Search Group. That means you should "sanitize your MySpace page -- right now. It will be checked," he says. He notes that many college students will need to change off-color voicemail greetings. Ryan adds, "Don't assume that Facebook's privacy settings will keep your youthful antics away from curious eyes. Rid your profile page of any photos of the 'three Bs' -- beer, bongs and bikinis."
Not Taking the Job Interview Seriously
Even when you're applying for an unpaid internship, you need to adhere to common standards of professionalism. McIntyre says those standards include demonstrating you've researched the company and dressing appropriately. Block adds that new grads are often unprepared for tough but common interview questions, such as "Where do you see yourself in three years?" and "What are your weaknesses?"
Not Using the College's Career Office
"A career office can help [students] identify networking contacts, learn important job search skills, and significantly improve their resume and cover letter," says Wake Forest University's Chan. Ryan agrees, but adds that this is just a first step. The career office's job is to "to prepare you for your job search, not to conduct it for you," she says. "Use [online professional networking tools], reach out to everyone you can and begin researching employers who'd be likely targets for your job search."