Help! I Need a Job! By Erin Shelby

If you’re like the majority of recent college grads, you’re struggling to find full-time employment in your field of study.  With older workers postponing retirement, companies closing and federal agencies looking at furloughs, you’re not alone in the quest to find meaningful work. Here’s some advice you haven’t heard for an ever-changing, increasingly difficult job market.

Remember Your Worth

As a hard worker needing a paycheck, it’s easy to start sending out résumés to anyone who’s hiring. But before you apply, honestly assess each position: what does it offer you other than a paycheck? Does it give you a chance to shine? Are there advancement opportunities? Is it a rare chance to get more experience in something you’re interested in? Look for positions that will provide more than just a check but a good match with your experience and skills.

Getting Rejected Is Okay

Because you need to start paying off your student loans, you may apply for a job at Target only to never receive a call back. Certainly graduating from a university shows your ability to push carts, doesn’t it? Unfortunately not receiving interview invitations for positions like these may be due to a perception that you are “overqualified”, an unfair perception that may result from an employer’s fear that you’ll jump ship for a more lucrative or prestigious offer.  In these situations remember that getting rejected is okay and can be a blessing in disguise. Many job seekers could attest to being rejected by one employer only to later receive a better offer.

Envision Your Ideal Job

Do you know what type of job you’re looking for or are you randomly searching job boards? To know what jobs could be right for you, make a list of your wants, needs and skills. The needs should state what you cannot compromise on, such as drive time from your home and the minimum salary you need for rent. Wants could describe the company culture or fringe benefits- in other words, things you desire but will compromise on. Your skills are what you bring to the table, whether it’s your people skills or fluency in a foreign language. The merger of your needs, wants and skills will help you look at prospective jobs and know much more quickly if they’re worth applying for. The process will also help you create targeted cover letters and focused resumes and speak intelligently during interviews.

Try Temping

An unfortunate reality of today’s workplace is that you need experience for many entry-level jobs. How can you get experience if you’re just starting out? You’re smart, so you’ve probably done an internship or volunteered. Temping is another way you can generate a paycheck and get more experience in a dried-up job market. Agencies like Robert Half and Adecco place workers with companies that have a temporary need. These opportunities can sometimes lead to a permanent opportunity.

Think Outside The 9 to 5

When Dolly Parton said that working nine to five was a way to make a living, she wasn’t singing its praises. If you’re stuck in your job search, consider redefining a job and looking to a Plan B to provide a different income stream. Starting your own business whether it’s Etsy, EBay, a blog, Avon or Pampered Chef can ignite an entrepreneurial fire and help you survive a financially dry period.

Reasons to Volunteer When You Have No Job by Erin Shelby

The statistics for America’s college class of 2012 are tragic. According to the Huffington Post, as of February 2013, 50 percent of graduates have no job or are underemployed in jobs that do not fully use their skills – jobs that do not require a college degree and pay a low wage. In such circumstances, graduates are barely making ends meet. Why then are job-seekers from this class and others being encouraged to volunteer their time? Here are five reasons to volunteer while awaiting the ideal opportunity.

Fresh Skills
As a volunteer, you may be cast in a role that you feel is below you or not valuable. You might be asked to make coffee or take out the trash. However, this is a chance to prove that you can be flexible. You could be entrusted with bigger responsibilities or confidential information and have the chance to learn something that would cost money to learn in a classroom setting, such as a new software application. Volunteering can keep your skills sharp or help you build new skills.

Understanding of a Company’s Culture
You can’t truly know what it’s like to work for a company until you’re hired there. You can interview and ask intelligent questions, but until you’re part of the team, there’s a lot to learn. What better way to really see if it’s worth your time than to volunteer first? This will give you an insider’s view and help you prepare for any interviews there. Almost all interviewers will ask what you know about their organization, and if you’ve volunteered there, you’ll have a distinct advantage over other applicants.

A Distraction from Unemployment
Being unemployed causes stress that can radiate through job interviews. Self-confidence can deteriorate and a prospective employer won’t see the candidate at his or her best. Being engaged in volunteer work provides a distraction from stress by providing a reminder that unemployment or underemployment is a temporary situation and it gives the job seeker an avenue to contribute his or her talents and experience. It can also provide connections to others and a sense of belonging to a workplace or community.

Because College is No Longer Impressive
The New York Times recently reported that in many workplaces, the minimum educational requirement used to be a high school diploma, but is now a college degree. Because so many applicants are applying for positions such as a paralegal or receptionist, a person can no longer apply without a college degree, which means that having a college degree isn’t as impressive any more. How then, can anyone stand out? By taking on a volunteer experience.

Because the Old Saying Goes…
You’ve heard it a thousand times. In any job market, the person who gets the job usually knows someone already working for the organization. For many people, networking isn’t easy. Volunteering is a sincere way of networking that proves what a dedicated professional you are.

How to Become a Volunteer: Next Steps
If you’d like to volunteer, identify organizations you’d like to assist or a cause you believe in. Love animals? Check out the Humane Society. Want to help others deal with natural disasters? Investigate the American Red Cross. Have a soft spot for kids? Any school could use volunteers. Also consider how your degree uniquely qualifies you to serve an organization.