How to Conduct a Smart Job Search

If your kid is about to graduate from college without a job lined up, he’s not alone.

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Although most schools offer extensive career services, the majority of students don’t take advantage of them as they should. As long as you follow these steps, you will almost certainly find something. As my mom told me when I was in college, “Keep your eyes open, and the job will find you.”

My new book is out February 7!
  1. Tap any and all contacts. Almost every parent belongs to some club or organization, or has a coworker with a nephew in finance or a second cousin who works in fashion. If you don’t have contacts, help your kid figure out who his are. Encourage him to be creative and follow even the most far-fetched leads. And tell him that although it’s natural to feel shy about asking, the fact is that many professionals get a kick out of the chance to offer advice to someone genuinely interested in their field. The worst that can happen when your kid asks is that the person simply says no.
  2. Use that alumni network creatively. When I was in college, my dad and I combed through a couple years’ worth of back issues of my college’s alumni magazine and found names of alums working in fields that sounded interesting. I sent out letters (no email in those days, kids) to each, met with a half dozen alums, and ended up landing a wonderful summer job in New York City at a management consulting firm, and another gig right out of school as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster. (Thanks, Suzanne Rosencrans!)
  3. Think outside the box. Sometimes an offbeat experience — say, staffing a concession stand at Yellowstone National Park or working as an office assistant at an affordable housing nonprofit — can open doors to future jobs and also look appealing to grad schools seeking students with varied experiences and a bit of gumption. I’m also a firm believer in encouraging kids to work at a restaurant, supermarket, or clothing store at the mall. There’s no better way to learn about customer service and business in general — not to mention human nature, warts and all. Once you’ve been screamed at by a disgruntled shopper attempting to use a long-expired coupon while everyone behind him groans in unison, you’re a lot harder to fluster.
  4. Pick up the phone. I know, it’s so retro. But a well-timed call can lead to an interview, or at least a note by your kid’s name that this is an applicant who’s serious. (Of course, if a job listing makes a point of saying “No phone calls,” don’t make the call. Not rocket science here, people.)
  5. Go to every interview you get. If your kid is offered an interview, he should go, even if he thinks he’s not interested in the job. It’s great practice, and he might learn something useful if, for instance, the interviewer points out a discrepancy on his résumé or, worse, a typo. Plus, your kid will get a chance to ask questions about the industry and then take that intel to other interviews. Who knows? He might even discover that a job he’d totally written off is much cooler than it sounded. One last thing. Whatever you do, don’t talk trash about former employers. You never know who the interviewer knows, and in general it doesn’t reflect well on you.

The following is an excerpt from Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not). Buy it here.