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Strategies for Young Job Seekers

By anyone's standards, today's job market is challenging for college grads and other young job seekers. Many of today's unemployed are children of one or more parents who have lost their jobs, and are also looking for employment. If today's young job seekers are lucky enough to have parents who are financially self-sufficient or thriving, they are in the minority. Still, they are not shielded from the harsh realities of the job market and, at a minimum, have friends and relatives who are no doubt victims of these difficult economic times. So what can young job seekers do to better position themselves in these tough times? Job-advice guru Marissa Marsala, who writes the blog "Career Advice: Getting/Keeping a Job," offers some ideas:

1. Formulate a Branding Statement. Use a branding statement that tells employers what you can offer instead of what you are looking for. This will help separate you from the stigma that young job seekers are typically more self-centered than mature job seekers. In other words, make it "them" focused, and not "me" focused, and clearly communicate what you can do for them. Be sure to embed this message in your LinkedIn and other social networking profiles so that it is consistent. Make sure to verbally communicate the same brand (value that you bring) when speaking to others about prospective opportunities.

2. Volunteer and Leverage Prior Volunteer Work. If you have a particular passion, such as theatre, green initiatives, your local church, or a soup kitchen, there is no shortage of ways to give back to others, gain some valuable experience, learn lessons, and prove to yourself and others that you have value. Join a community theatre troupe, or take on a role in a community organization. These are wonderful ways to gain recognition and build up your credentials and references, not to mention, gain tangible experience to enhance your resume.

3. Get on LinkedIn and other Social Networking sites. Use social networking sites to leverage your contacts and let others know that you are a serious-minded job applicant. You never know whom your contacts know at a company, so "leave no stone unturned". Be sure that you adjust and check your social networking settings to be sure of what outside recruiters and employers can see. Many younger job applicants have been fired or dropped from the hiring short-list for posting what was construed as inappropriate pictures or comments on publicly viewed websites.

Don't be afraid to ask your network, even your family members, to offer insight, perspective and constructive criticism about where you may have more potential or areas they think you excel in. In addition, they may be able to advise which industries or business settings they think you will thrive in based upon their observations and personal experiences of you. If you are on LinkedIn or other sites that permit recommendations from others whom you have worked for or with on a volunteer, non-paid internship or paid basis, be sure to include them.

4. Pursue an Internship to Gain Knowledge and Experience. For those still in school, pursue a paid or non-paid internship. This is a great way to get a feel for a company, its culture, products and services, the management team, and of course, the job, itself. It's also another entry for your resume.

For those who have graduated, answer an internship ad anyway. Just position yourself as a recent graduate looking to gain experience, see a company from "the inside out" to better understand what makes it tick, and prove yourself with the goal of being brought on board as a permanent employee if the match exists. You'd be surprised at how this strategy can open doors. Marissa explains how she hired somebody this way: "At that time, we were desperate for an extra pair of hands, and I thought that this would be a great opportunity for a recent graduate to learn a lot about the brokerage business as well as marketing within this setting. We posted the job on a number of college and HR boards, and received many applications. One 'stand out' candidate told us in her interview that she had already graduated, but that she wanted to get her feet wet in the industry, and that although it was an entry-level paid internship of three months, that her hope was to 'dazzle' us and assuming that the culture and job were a fit, get us to hire her full-time. I was so impressed at her ingenuity that I brought her in as an intern. She worked very hard, and after only two years, she now holds a manager role at that company."

5. Remain positive, energetic and upbeat. Above all, keep your energy level up! Those who exude energy come across as upbeat and confident, and all things being equal, employers will hire someone with an abundance of energy, confidence and a "can do" attitude! Bottom line is that today's young worker has to be prepared when entering the job market or changing jobs. So spend some time practicing and going over these tips before donning your best suit and sitting before a potential employer.

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