Capturing a Great Job in 2016

Everybody knows the Law of the Jungle: The strong survive and the weak perish. Well, it’s a jungle out there for job hunters, even with your brand new shiny college degree. So you’ve got to be strong, not weak, and get out there to hunt down and capture your dream job. The key is to be proactive. When a lion is hungry he becomes very proactive, and soon enough he has a nice zebra in front of him to munch on.

So first ask yourself this question: How hungry are you for a good job right now? If the answer is only “So-so,” you’re not ready to face the jungle of job hunting. When you are starving to become a job candidate and ready to swim deep rivers and climb high mountains and face down your competitors with a snarl and a resume — then, and only then, are you ready to rip yourself a career and land your dream job.

Here are a few ways the smart job hunting predator brings down his or her career quarry:

Use social media but don’t let it use you.

From the day you start school you should be building your career network with connections on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., with people who have similar career goals as you have. Not all of them will become bosom buddies — you will also gradually discover who your main competitors are going to be, so you can begin preparing to beat them at their own game. The other side of the coin is DO NOT VIDEO A DRUNKEN FRATERNITY OR SORORITY STUNT TO PUT ON YOUTUBE. It may seem sophisticated and hilarious after seven beers, but the next day you will regret the video more than the hangover. And even if you’ve deleted it, these things have a way of resurrecting themselves like a vampire plague. According to life insurance expert Brian Greenberg, “HR departments investigate your social media more often than not prior to making any hiring decisions. So keep your nose clean.”

There’s no such thing as a bad internship.

In an ideal world every internship would come with a generous stipend and a kindly supervisor whose only desire is to see that you learn a lot of useful on-the-job information. The reality is something quite different. Most internships today pay squat, and your supervisor is likely to be burned-out or so worried about being downsized that he or she will either micromanage you to death or ignore you completely.

You need at least one internship during college for your resume. Period. HR hiring algorithms factor in internships as if they were multipliers — one internship times one college degree equals “We Have a Winner!” Besides, it gives you something to talk (boast) about during your initial interview — “When I was interning for Dell last summer . . . ”

And there’s always the off chance you will actually learn something useful from a hands-on internship. But don’t hold your breath.

Never abhor a mentor.

Hard as it may be to believe, there is probably a teacher at your college who actually likes you and thinks you have some potential. Locate that person and ask him or her to be your mentor. Doesn’t matter if their area of expertise has anything to do with your career goals or not; at this early stage of the game all you want is an older and more experienced person who believes in you enough to give you advice on just about anything where you need guidance. And that’s in a lot of areas. Today’s college student on average has spent more time in the front of the TV and online than reading books or playing sports or doing any kind of volunteer work — their worldview, your worldview, is cramped, sophomoric, and unrealistic. So someone who has been out in the world, who is not your parents (who have an annoying tendency to say ‘I told you so!’), can be an invaluable guide in getting your started in the right direction.

The best way to get a mentor once you have found someone you admire and trust, is to simply make an appointment with them and ask them point-blank if they are willing to spend some time mentoring you. Don’t appear to be too needy, or demand hours on end from them — just ask if they can spare an hour or two every week to help you. Most of the time they will be flattered and do it gladly.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.