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Use Your new 'grad advantage'

Don't despair because you've graduated from college during one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. Instead, look at the bright side--and there is one.

Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of The Connectors: How the World's Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life says there's great hope if you focus on networking and making great connections with the people who can put you, and your resume, right in front of the hiring decision makers at your dream job.

And do you know why you have that advantage? Because you're a whole lot smarter about using the Internet to do that work for you than older counterparts seeking the same positions.

There's good news and bad news for you, though. Kuzmeski says that while you're good at using the Internet and social media to make connections, you still have to brush up your networking and communications skills that the older workers have already developed.

 "Thankfully, networking is a skill that can be mastered with the right motivation," says Kuzmeski. "The first step: If you're a recent college grad, start thinking of yourself as CEO of Me, Myself, and I, Inc. You need to be doing everything you can to get the word out about your brand. That means networking. 

 "Great networkers are capable of leaving something behind with everyone they encounter-a thought, a memory, or a connection. This is exactly what you need to do if you are in the job market. You need to make strong connections, become a relationship builder. You want to be the first person who comes to mind when someone in your network hears about a great job opening."

 Below is Kuzmeski's for networking your way to a great new job right out of college:

Rejuvenate your résumé. Use your résumé to showcase how great you are. Think of it this way: If you are the CEO of Me, Myself, and I, Inc., you will need some marketing materials to promote your brand. Your résumé and cover letter will serve as those marketing materials.

"Grab the attention of employers by upping the impact of your résumé," says Kuzmeski. "That might mean bucking the traditional résumé format to include eye-catching (but informative) headlines. Don't panic if you don't have any significant job experience to include. Your college years probably yielded more valuable experience than you think. For example, be sure to include information about your internships, relevant class assignments, club leadership positions, etc. Just make sure your résumé is something an employer would want to read."

Build your online résumé using LinkedIn. According to Jobvite.com's 2010 Social Recruiting Survey, 83 percent of employers plan to use social networks to recruit this year. If you aren't already on business-focused social media sites like LinkedIn, take the time to set up a profile. In fact, LinkedIn is especially important because it is the most commonly viewed source for job seekers and employers. Setting up a profile is simple: Just go to www.LinkedIn.com, add your picture and a summary of your past job responsibilities, and state what you're looking for. "Again, if you haven't had a 'real' job yet, it is A-OK to include your internship or volunteer experiences and past responsibilities," notes Kuzmeski. "As a LinkedIn member, you can also join groups, review books, and proactively connect with potential employers."

Get face-to-face with potential employers! Find a way to get in front of your potential employers. These
days it is much harder to show potential employers what you are all about and to forge a connection with them because so much of the pre-hiring process is done online and through email. That is why it is essential that you find a way to communicate with them face-to-face. Dropping off a follow-up note or a résumé is a great opportunity for getting some face time with a potential employer. Another great face-to-face opportunity comes after the interview. To show you paid close attention to everything your interviewer said, stop by her office with an article that you think would be of interest to her or a small gift (e.g., a box of candy) based on some key piece of information-what Kuzmeski calls the "remarkable"-you found out about the interviewer during the interview.

"Once you are face-to-face, in an interview or otherwise, focus on having eye contact throughout," says Kuzmeski. "Lean in, show her you are interested in everything she says, and think before you answer any question. Thoughtful deliberation can be difficult if you're nervous, but it is critical in answering your potential employer's questions to the best of your ability. Establishing this face time is sure to set you apart from your job market competition."
 
Make an impact by using video. If you really want to capture the attention of a potential employer, record a quick video. Use it to get an interview or as a follow-up after an interview. Here's how it works: Instead of just emailing a résumé or a post-interview thank-you note, include a link to a video of you. Carefully script your response and record the quick message using a Flip video camera or even a Webcam. Post it on YouTube or some other service and send a link for the video to your potential employer.
Here are some helpful scripting tips for the video:

1. Keep it less than one or two minutes.
2. Introduce yourself.
3. Identify the job you would like to be interviewed for.
4. Tell three things about your background that may make them interested in interviewing you.
5. Thank them for watching and ask for the interview!

"Here's my caveat," says Kuzmeski. "Using a video is not an opportunity to show how funny you are. You absolutely have to be professional. And be mindful of the setting. Not only should you look professional, but so should the room where you are filming the video. In other words, don't film it with your messy bedroom visible in the background. You want the recipient to focus on you and what you're saying-not your dirty laundry!"
Become a contrarian networker. The difficult first lesson that many college grads must learn about networking is that it is not the equivalent of asking, "Will you hire me?" The goal of effective networking is, instead, to build a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who may never even be able to give you a job, but might know someone who can.

Network to the people you know. Sometimes the most obvious connections are the ones most easily ignored. When you are building your network or considering who might be able to help you in your first big job search push, don't forget about the fruit closest to the ground.

Let them do the talking. (You ask the questions!) When you're first starting out, networking can be a sweaty-palm-inducing, nerve-racking experience. Be careful not to allow your nerves to lead to nervous chatter. There's nothing worse than coming away from a great networking opportunity realizing that you can't remember a single person's name or a single helpful thing that was said. Always be prepared to listen and arm yourself with a (mental) list of questions to help you get conversations going. First ask about his personal life, then his professional history.

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