If you’re a mid-year Computer Science graduate, you’ve probably taken your last final exam and enjoyed some well-deserved time off with family and friends. Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get serious about finding a job.
The good news for 2015-16 mid-year graduates is that employers are looking to hire computer science majors, and new hiring budgets are in place. The bad news is it may take some extra effort to garner attention outside the typical spring-recruiting cycle.
“Looking for a job in the middle of the school year forces you to take control of your career and that’s better in the short and long run,” explained Chris Posti, president of College Grad Career Coaching. “It’s an opportunity to figure out what you really want and go get it without your school ushering employers to you.”
January is a month for new beginnings, so here are some tips for kick starting your post-grad job hunt.
Figure Out What You Really Want
The first order of business after graduation is to discern your assets and career interests, according to Bob LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff, a staffing firm that specializes in placing recent grads.
Some 50 percent of STEM graduates end up pursuing a career that’s not focused on STEM, he explained. Unless you do some soul-searching and take stock of your attributes, it’s easy to end up in a mismatched job.
“Identifying your strengths helps you clarify what you ultimately want in terms of a career, and target opportunities that maximize your talents and interests,” LaBombard said.
Establish Your Value
Next, create a compelling value proposition that presents your very best features to the employer in a way that addresses its needs. Weaving your value proposition into your resume, cover letter and introductory pitches is guaranteed to engage and impress a hiring manager.
After establishing your value, research prospective employers and place the top 25 names on a target list. Having clear targets helps you focus your efforts and execute an effective search. Consider the company’s growth rate, work environment, customer base, size, culture, tech stack and hiring status when making your selections.
“Everybody wants to work for a cool tech company coming out of college,” Posti said. “But do you really want to sleep on a cot in your cubicle? Don’t overlook traditional employers. You can learn a lot by speaking with older, more experienced tech professionals about their careers and what they’ve learned as you consider which companies you want to pursue.”
Seek Advice, Not a Job
You’ve undoubtedly heard that networking is by far the best way land a job, but you may not know the most effective and painless ways to go about it.
First, go ahead and apply online at the companies that interest you, Posti said. But don’t wait for to someone to call: solicit advice on how to break in, or grab the hiring manager’s attention from any alumni or acquaintances who already work there.
“Ask the people you contact for advice—not a job,” Posti said. “I guarantee that if you ask enough people for advice, it will ultimately lead to a job.”
LaBombard also advises new grads to request informational interviews, which are simply casual conversations with alumni who work in a technical specialty or company that interests you.
“Get a list of alumni from career services and reach out to them,” he said. “Most people are more than willing to spend some time with a recent graduate who is interested in their company or profession.”
By all means attend meet-ups, user groups and tech conferences to broaden your circle of influence in your chosen field. When you submit your resume or apply online, you’re just another faceless candidate; it’s much easier to impress someone when you’re rubbing elbows with them in a professional venue. Always remember to follow up by sending them a note the next day.
“Meeting people in-person gives you a chance to showcase your communication skills and express interest,” Posti said. “When you can’t attend job fairs or recruiting events on campus, it’s important to take the initiative to create your own face-to-face opportunities.”