Five New Rules for Job-Hunting Graduates

Armen Hareyan's picture

Hiring of new college grads in nearly all industries is up by 5.3% compared with last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

For recent grads embarking on the job hunt, some of the classic rules apply--such as dressing sharply for your interview, being well prepared, showing up on time, and sending thank you notes afterwards. But there are some new rules for 20-something job hunters that can increase your odds. Here are four of them.

Lower your salary expectations. It's an employer's market, which means starting salaries will be lower than in the past. In fact, NACE projects about a 2% decrease from last year's average starting salary of $49,353. Be prepared to ask for less and agree to less.

Show your motivation. Do this by leveraging your internships. Three quarters of employers polled consider internships a sign of a well-rounded, motivated candidate. If the internships you did aren't related, brag about them anyway. Sixteen percent of employers in the NACE survey indicated that work experience of any type was acceptable.

Sharpen your communication skills. Regardless of the career you are pursuing, the NACE survey found that communication skills--writing and speaking--was one of the top qualities employers are looking for this year. If needed, take a speaking or a writing class to boost those skills.

Let your tech know-how help--not hurt--you. Use your favorite social networking site to locate alumni at your prospective company who can give you tips and referrals. But before you do, clean up your site of all videos or unseemly content. Try to get out of poor habits made worse by texting: Use capitalization, punctuation, and spell checker in all job-related correspondence. And whatever you do, don't Tweet about your last job interview--it could cost you the job.

Prepare to pay some dues. And let your prospective employer know that you will. The NACE survey named strong work ethic and teamwork among the top five qualities employers are looking for (analytical skills, technical skills, and communication skills were the other three). Rewards come to those who show up on time, work late occasionally, take on the difficult assignments, and work to prove themselves. Also, although you may have been a superstar in college, accept your new, humbler, role in the workplace as a team player.

Written by Nicholas Aretakis. Nicholas is a career coach, tech entrepreneur, and author of No More Ramen: The 20-Something's Real World Survival Guide. Find free job-hunting tools and articles at

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