Three Tips for Breaking Out of Your Summer Job Search Funk

OK, it’s almost the end of summer. You’ve finished school. It’s hot, and your job search is dead in the water. You’d rather hit the beach or hang out with friends. You can start a serious job search in the fall, right? Not really. Your bank account is shrinking fast, your parents are bugging you, and you need to make some progress towards landing a job you’re excited about.

Here are three things to do now, so you’ll hit the ground running when all those recruiters get back from vacation.

1. Develop a list of potential informational interview candidates and start contacting them.

Who you should talk to depends on how focused your job search is at this point. Focus is critical in the job market today! Informational interviews are the best way to learn about the types of jobs out there, what might be most interesting to you, and how to break into a particular industry.

My book Graduate to a Great Job has a can’t miss e-mail script for landing these meetings. In the meantime, remember informational interviews are never about asking for a job. They’re about learning from someone who tells you the story of how their career has evolved so far, and what advice they have for you as you start yours. In my research, I found lots of successful grads get help identifying who to meet with by brainstorming with parents and other family friends.

2. Start reading up on industries or fields you want to focus on.

Even if your job search is more focused, you’ve got to become fluent in the language and technology used in the industries you’re targeting. Employers today expect that. You don’t have to be a super expert, but you should start reading blogs and articles related to the types of jobs you’re pursuing.

When Lily graduated from UC-Santa Barbara with a degree in art history, she wanted to pursue jobs in marketing with small companies. But she recalls:

“People I spoke with convinced me I had to hone my skills: if I was interested in marketing, I had to learn about brands, and to learn about brands I had to be reading the right blogs, such as Tech Crunch. So I began doing that every day. By late August, I was learning the lingo and sounded more qualified than I felt. I was feeling better because I started getting more responses to my applications. In November, I landed a job with a small, web-based education company."

3. Look for opportunities to continually build your experience or skill base.

In today’s job market, all potential employers care about is what you can do for them. That means they’re looking at your experience base. Don’t overlook ways you can gain valuable experience in the next few months by volunteering, or with a short term internship, even if it is one or two days a week. Just make sure the experience you’re getting will be seen as valuable by potential employers.

As Faith was finishing her graphic design degree at James Madison University, she had to earn tuition money working in a grocery store. But she was still able to land an internship two days a week with a Baltimore ad agency, which left her much better prepared to work in a professional design firm.

Even if you're unemployed for a while, you want to demonstrate a continual commitment to building your skills. Are there courses you can take that would enhance your marketability? These don’t have to be expensive or hugely time consuming. For example, if social media is a key skill area you need to develop, check out the HubSpot certification program that teaches best practices in social media, search engine optimization, and so on.

Or maybe volunteering is the way to gain skills you’ll need. Sara was looking for a job with non-profit organizations in Chicago after graduating from Beloit College with a degree in sociology. She knew that learning how to work with particular data base software would make her a more attractive job candidate. So she spent one day a week that summer volunteering at an organization where she learned to use the software package.

In today’s job market, a serious job search could easily take you three to six months. (Even if that first job comes easily, your search for the second or third will probably take longer than you expect.)

Summer can be a great time to kick back, but you’ll feel much better when September rolls around if you take these three steps to get a running start on the fall job market.