I am graduating in June 2007 with a BA in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. For the past month or so, I have been actively applying to various posted employment positions online by submitting my resume and cover letter. Most of the positions that I apply for are financial analyst entry-level positions, since I would like to pursue a career in the finance sector.
I am deeply concerned with the lack of response I have received from employers. It is making me quite nervous about life after college and my ability to find a lucrative career. Can someone offer some helpful advice, tips, or words of comfort?
You've got 6 months... Get busy researching and networking, not sending out un-targeted and un-expected resumes to total strangers! It's as useful, and successful, a method as "cold calling" is for most sales people.
People hire people they KNOW. It really is "who you know, not what you know" once you have the appropriate education and/or experience.
These steps should help:
1.) Since you know what you want to do (a BIG advantage!!), put together a list of potential employers where you might want to work. (This is where those job postings may come in handy - to show you where opportunities exist - but don't stop there and don't expect online applications to be your solution.)
2.) Check with your school's Career Center to see if they have contacts for you at those target employers. Hopefully, some alumni/ae of your school are working in those organizations now (or have worked there recently). Then, contact them to find out --
** What it's like to work for each of those employers. What is the "culture" for each like? How competitive? How collegial? How honest and ethical?
** How are people promoted? What is the criteria for promotion? If you are a woman or a minority, ask how many people in middle and senior management are women or minorities? Try to understand what the typical career paths are.
** How long to people normally stay there? Why do they leave? Where do people work after they leave? Is it an "up or out" culture, or do people stay for long periods?
** How did your contact get hired? What was the process? What process would they recommend as best/most effective, now, if they were in your shoes?
** What do people do in the typical "first job" in that organization? How long do people stay in that first job? What career paths are open? How flexible/inflexible? What are the criteria for being promoted? What options are open to them for the "next" step in their careers within the organization?
** Can you visit your contacts in their offices to see what these places are like? You want to see where people starting work and what they do.
3.) If your school doesn't have a good Career Center that can put you in touch with alumni/ae working in your target companies - or, even if it does - check out Ziggs.com to see if you can find someone at those companies who seems approachable. Also, of course, check LinkedIn, Ryze, Hi5, etc. to see if you have any contacts or friends connected with your target employers. Look for the same information as in # 2.
4.) Research the companies yourself. Yahoo Finance has EXCELLENT company and industry research resources. Also, go to PRNewsWire, BusinessWire, WetFeet, Vault, etc. to see what information they have.
5.) When you have completed the 2nd draft of your resume (with help from your school's Career Center, preferably), ask your contacts if they would review your resume to see if it's the right format and content for their employer. Customize your resume for EACH potential employer based on your research and the suggestions your contacts have given you.
6.) If it's appropriate for the organization (and it usually is), ask one or more of your contacts to take your resume to the appropriate hiring manager(s). I don't recommend having 2 people submit your resume to the same manager, but having 2 people submit to 2 different managers should be OK. Or, how ever many hiring managers are of interest to you.
7.) Your research in step # 2 and/or # 3 above should help you do the appropriate thing. Follow the processes recommended by your contacts, and you should be hired before Spring Break if your grades are decent.
Don't expect your contact to offer you a job. Think of them as mentors/guides through the job search process in their company or where they've worked.
Don't call these "information interviews." You are asking experienced people for advice and information.
Don't let compensation be your only criteria for choosing an employer. A job is where you'll spend most of your time - at least 40 hours a week, probably more for a financial analyst. You don't want to be working in a place where your efforts aren't appreciated, or where you hate everyone you work with or for and everything you do.
Send thank you notes to your contacts for their help, even if they only meet with you once.
Stay in touch with these people. They can be your best career assets for your future, and, with any luck, you may be able to help them some day.
You're about to enter an excellent field (what organization doesn't need a finance person?) with a degree from an excellent school. Getting started is the hardest part. You'll do fine!