Graduating Soon? Don't Panic

By Matthew Larotonda
Special to
Friday, April 25, 2008; 12:00 AM

Preparing to enter the workforce can be a stressful and confusing time for soon-to-be graduates. With final exams, thesis papers and even house hunting to worry about, searching for a job is oftentimes an afterthought.

However, all is not lost. There are a few things grads can do to help maximize their job hunt and relieve some anxiety during the process.

It's Who You Know

"Cast a very wide net," says Susan Heathfield, a writer for's human resources section. It's important to keep your options open. Ask friends, professors, even people in your apartment or dorm if they know of anyone who is hiring, she recommends.

Not Enough Work Experience?

List any volunteer work and leadership roles taken while in college, says Heathfield. This may include work done with fraternities, academic clubs or sports teams. Be sure to tailor your resume and cover letter to the needs of the employer, while emphasizing the strengths and related experience you do have, she notes.

Time to Grow Up

When it comes to references, "it's time to break away from your parents," Heathfield says. Using family members as references tells an employer you aren't ready for the real world. Instead, ask a professor or someone you may have worked with on a school project if they wouldn't mind that you list them as a professional contact.

Make a Good First Impression

The most important step in applying for a job is the interview. Be polite and remember to dress well, says Dorothy Stubblebine, president of human resources consulting firm DJS Associates. It is better to be overdressed, especially if you don't know the employer's dress code.

"Be aware of how your nervousness comes across in interviews," adds Lily Garcia, How to Deal columnist. Avoid fidgeting and plan your sentences carefully to avoid saying things such as "like" and "umm."

Money Talks

For most entry-level positions, the salary won't be much, Stubblebine says. And it's important to remember this when discussing salary after a job offer has been made. When this discussion starts, come prepared with information on the going rates for similar positions from Web sites such as, she recommends. It analyzes compensation and benefits for various positions, as well as links to other salary comparison sites.

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