How Business School Grads Can Deal with a Challenging Job Market

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Graduation season is upon us. For some, it is an exciting time, the beginning of a new chapter filled with boundless opportunities. But for those with no jobs or no strong job prospects, it is a scary time.

So if you've just graduated, what can you do to find a job in an industry where so many have been eliminated? Does it feel as if the sky has fallen? Have the tens of thousands of tuition dollars been for naught?

Not according to Jonathan Jerden, faculty director of the evening MBA program professional development series at Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis. It’s an assessment shared by several career development specialists at some of the nation’s leading business colleges.

“The typical career search in today’s job market takes six months,” Jerden tells eFinancialCareers.

Here are a few steps you can take to successfully position yourself for a job.

1. Rethink job boards

If you’re spending hours scouring job boards each day, consider revamping your strategy. “We discourage [students] from spending too much time on job boards because of the share volume,” says Damian Zikakis, director of career development of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

“Chances are 200 to 600 people will apply for that one job on the job board. The chance of the hiring authority getting your resume is slim. We’re not saying don’t spend your time on there. Instead, we’re saying allocate your time," Zikakis tells eFinancialCareers. "We would rather have you spend an hour a day doing [job boards] and seven hours a day reaching out to a company where you want to work and networking so if an opening comes up you will have someone there to advocate for you. It’s like a garden. You have to plant before you’re hungry.”

2. Develop a daily personal marketing plan

Outline what you will do each day in your job search, says Christa Hinton, assistant dean and director of the career management center at Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University. She suggests making a point to attend networking functions through your alma mater. “Set up an informational interview with at least one person that you meet per function,” she adds.

3. Tap into your alumni network

At Michigan’s Ross Business School, students are encouraged to seek out alumni who work in companies where they’d like to get jobs or who hold the kinds of jobs they’re looking for. But Zikakis discourages graduating students from calling alumni to ask for work because it puts them on the spot and makes them feel bad if they say no. Instead, he proposes a subtle approach: ask for advice and not for a job, he says.

4. Develop a compelling narrative

You need a sound communication strategy to help you tell your own story. Says Jerden: “Package yourself so that you tell a compelling story complete with all the essential information by upgrading your résumé to 21st century standards, pulling together five outstanding references, memorizing your elevator speech, articulating three strengths and one weakness and building a captivating professional portfolio.”

5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Reach out to as many people as possible. “If you are waiting on someone to get back to you or something to happen, you are not involved with enough people,” says Hinton.

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