No Experience? No Problem

As a job-hunting grad, you can use your neophtye status to your advantage. Take the initiative, and you'll find lots of free help

By Liz Ryan

This month, fresh graduates are flooding the job market, eager and anxious. I hear from a lot of them who have employment-search questions. Many are insecure -- certain that their résumés compare unfavorably to everyone else's. I'm not smart enough, they worry. I don't have the right degree. It's hopeless.

Enough! Here are 10 reasons to be cheerful about your thank-God-I'm-finally-out-of-school job hunt.

1. It's a great time to be looking. Recruiters and hiring managers agree that the white-collar job market is expanding, and new grads will benefit.

2. Never in your life will you find it easier to get help. Create a list of 100 people -- yes, you know that many -- to recruit into your Job Search Advocates club. I'm talking about your high school friends' parents, the lady for whom you babysat, and the man whose lawn you mowed. The folks at church and your favorite professors. Keep adding names, and you'll reach 100.

3. Most people, especially those 20 or 30 years older than you are, like to help new grads. Write to them -- one snail-mail letter each, with your one-page résumé enclosed.

Individual letters, as in 100 separate ones? Yes. "Mrs. Pearson, doesn't it seem like yesterday when I walked Peaches for you? It's hard to believe I've graduated from State U. with my economics degree. If you can offer me any advice or job leads, I'd be very grateful. Yours, Craig McAvoy."

You can reuse the main sections in every letter, of course: That's what computers are for.

4. New job-hunting resources sprout up every day. A favorite of mine (you know if you've been reading my column) is LinkedIn, a free networking site that reaches 2.5 million connected and connectable professionals.

5. Your background is spotless! Stop worrying about how you compare with other people. The big thing is that you have no black marks on your résumé. It's difficult, short of committing a felony, to make a career mistake before age 25. So, be happy, and don't talk yourself into taking the first offer that comes along.

6. Youth is in. Businesses are obsessed with speed, energy, and enthusiasm. Be careful, though, about workplaces that seem to employ only youngsters. Most likely they're burn-and-churn operations whose profit model depends on working people to death for six months before casting a net for a new batch. Unless you seriously think you'd love the job, don't accept a sketchy assignment or a commission-only opportunity. Keep looking.

7. You're a champion networker in the making, know it or not. You think you don't have any contacts? Back in No. 2, we found at least 100. And you'll find lots more during your search.

Go to and, for a couple bucks, order business cards with your vital statistics (major, school, year of graduation, and contact info). Then go to networking events in your town -- they're in the paper. Talk to everyone there. Smile.

8. Lean on your school. You paid your tuition, and you're entitled to help. Start with your alma mater's career center, which exists to deliver outstanding young people to employers. Most likely you'll get help with your résumé and find research on prospective employers -- under your nose, and already paid for.

9. Find an e-mail discussion group (also known as a list-serv), one of the most powerful new search tools. and WorldWIT (disclosure: I lead that second one) are free, local community services that can help you find a job (and adopt a puppy, locate housing, or buy a bike).

10. Even the least positive alternative isn't all that bad. Wait tables or tend bar, two time-honored ways for new grads to make money while looking for the perfect career-track job. More than once, I've begun a conversation with an engaging young waitperson and received a résumé in my in-box the next day.

Now that's follow-through. And by the way, that's the name of the game.

Do you have any great business leadership tips to share with BusinessWeek Online's readers? Send them to Liz Ryan, an at-work expert, speaker, and writer, and CEO of online networking organization WorldWIT

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