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Even during recessionary times, graduate degrees increase employment prospects far more than undergraduate degrees! Earning a graduate degree—namely a master’s degree, a doctorate, or a professional degree—also means higher earning potential and lower risk of unemployment.
In the 2022 Education Pays data of the Labor Statistics Bureau, workers who have a graduate degree earn between $1,661 and $2,083 in median weekly wages, as well as experience the lowest unemployment rate (1% to 1.9%).
But earning a graduate degree isn’t a golden ticket either! You must work hard – nay, work smart – if you want to land your dream post-graduate school job. Here, we will discuss the steps and strategies that will boost your job prospects with your graduate degree in hand.
- High Paying Jobs That Require a Master’s Degree
- Super Helpful Tips For Starting a New Job After Grad School
Engage in Critical Self-Assessment
Know yourself – what you can offer, what your values are, and how you can add value to organizations, among other aspects. Indeed, self-assessment is a critical first step in finding your niche and planning your path to success! With critical self-assessment, you gain a better and clearer understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, passions and aspirations, and desired direction.
1. Reflect on your professional credentials and personal interests.
You must spend time and energy thinking and listing what truly motivates and excites your inner self, whether it’s hobbies or advocacies. You should also consider the challenges and problems that you’re compelled to overcome and solve. You will find the information useful when creating your resume, cover letter, and elevator pitch.
2. Determine your ethics and values.
Your core values are fundamental principles and beliefs that guide your behavior and interactions with others – your moral compass if you will. Examples include excellence, integrity, and accountability, and each core value can have a significant impact on your everyday decisions and actions.
3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
You will likely be asked to explain your strengths and weaknesses during job interviews and, thus, it pays to be self-aware in this regard. You should consider your talents and skills, knowledge and expertise, and even connections acquired during your graduate school years. You will realize that even weaknesses can be turned into strengths and strengths can become weaknesses when not applied well.
4. Set short-term and long-term goals.
Your goals act as your guideposts in your personal and professional journey after earning a graduate degree. Your goals must be SMART, of course, and aligned with your career paths.
Keep in mind that self-assessment shouldn’t be a solitary activity, even when you have a high degree of self-awareness! You must seek the guidance, constructive feedback, and support of family and friends, career coaches, and mentors. You will find that the results of your intensive self-assessment, such as a personal SWOT analysis, career vision statement, and action plan, are valuable tools in forging your path forward.
Build a Positive Online Presence
In a LinkedIn article, 85% of recruiters and hiring managers assert that a positive online presence influences their recruitment and employment decisions. Indeed, the importance of presenting yourself in a positive manner on online platforms cannot be overemphasized!
Think of it as your virtual handshake, the first online impression prospective employers will have of who and what you are, with and without the implied responsibilities that come with possessing a graduate degree.
We’re not just talking about your personal social media profiles, either. While Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, among other social media platforms, have their merits in job-hunting for graduate degree holders, you must be mindful of your profiles on professional media platforms.
Aside from popular LinkedIn, examples include AngelList for the startup community, Behance and Dribble for creative professionals, Spiceworks, GitHub, and Stack Overflow for IT professionals, and ResearchGate and Academia.edu for researchers and academics.
These social and professional media platforms not only serve as venues for showcasing your experience, expertise, and creativity but also as valuable networking opportunities. With links to your personal website, professional bio and portfolio, and published works, you can also differentiate yourself from the competition.
1. Clean up your social and professional media profiles.
You must first Google yourself to identify outdated content, negative information, and other aspects that must be addressed. Your social and professional media profiles must present a positive picture for prospective employers to consider your application.
If necessary, you should delete inappropriate content, manage privacy settings, and update information, particularly your newly minted graduate degree.
2. Optimize your social and professional media profiles.
Your Google search will be useful in identifying areas for improvement where digital visibility is concerned. You can start by using a professional-looking profile photo, optimize keywords used in your profile’s headline, summary and job descriptions, and create a compelling headline and summary.
Your work experience must highlight your responsibilities and accomplishments, as well as career progression (i.e., use bullet points for easy readability but keep it concise).
3. Create a personal website.
If you don’t have a personal website yet, then it’s high time you create it! You can direct recruiters and employers to your personal website where more personal and professional information about you can be accessed. Be sure to showcase your projects, portfolio and work, provide updated contact information, and optimize for search engines.
From the start of your job-hunting activities, until you’ve been hired, you must be consistent in managing your online presence and reputation! Always practice online etiquette (e.g., be positive and respectful), address negative content ASAP, and engage with your online network on a regular basis.
Strengthen Your Network
In a St. Louis Fed Economic Research article, network job searches shorten the time between hunting for and landing a job (i.e., finding rates), by about 1-3 months. Getting more access to job offers and finding a suitable job match apparently, comes with a wider and stronger network. Furthermore, network job offers have better quality and the jobs have longer duration than those as a result of direct job searches.
The bottom line: You must make your personal and professional networks better – wider and stronger, in particular! Your network of connections, in fact, must be better now than in your undergraduate years. Your graduate school years, after all, presented abundant opportunities for networking, both in-person and online.
Still, you should consider these steps so that your job hunting will turn into landing a job – your dream first job after graduate school.
1. Leverage your graduate school and alumni connections.
The connections you’ve made during your graduate school years are valuable in landing your dream job in whatever industry you’re interested in. You must then stay in touch with your classmates, professors and alumni from your graduate school in many ways, such as emails, social media interactions, and alumni events. Be sure to tap into the online alumni network, too, and request your mentors for recommendations.
2. Maximize online platforms.
Again, LinkedIn and other professional media platforms are excellent venues for getting job-related recommendations in addition to putting yourself and your credentials out there, so to speak. You must engage actively, too, by sharing your expertise through content and discussion forums, as well as offering your assistance (i.e., providing value to your interactions).
You must also follow up on your networking activities, which will further boost your professional credibility and desirability among your circle. Think of sending thank-you notes and building genuine relationships over time.
Tailor Your Applications for Different Job Prospects
In a Zippia article on resume statistics, 63% of recruiters prefer tailored resumes based on the open positions’ specific job descriptions. This means customizing your job application materials, particularly your resume and cover letter, is crucial to stand out from the competition and landing the job!
Indeed, among the worst mistakes that you can make is to submit one-size-fits-all job application materials, and it’s particularly embarrassing for a graduate degree holder who should know better.
There’s also the matter of increasingly widespread use of applicant tracking systems (APS) with nearly 99% of Fortune 500 companies using it. These automated systems sort, scan and rank curriculum vitae/resumes for relevant keywords – and most don’t make the grade.
When combined with the intense competition for jobs suitable for professionals with graduate degrees, the crucial importance of tailoring your job application materials cannot be overemphasized!
How do you start tailoring your job application for different job positions?
1. Create your master or base resume.
Your master resume should include your essential credentials, work experiences, knowledge and skills, and achievements – a complete and comprehensive document that can be easily customized based on a specific job description. You should identify your core competencies that can be applied or adapted to different job applications.
2. Customize your master or base resume.
You should review the job description and skills requirements for every job you’re applying for, which can then be matched with your core competencies. Your first steps are to adjust the summary of your resume, customize keywords based on the job description, and emphasize your relevant skills and achievements.
You must also change the order and the contents of your basic information so that the most relevant facts are at the top of your resume (i.e., remove irrelevant information).
Your cover letter must also be aligned with your resume. This means changing the salutation, the opening, middle and closing paragraphs, and the professional references, if necessary.
In all these steps, you must edit and proofread to ensure that there are no errors – first impressions can be everything!
Create an Effective Resume
Clarity, conciseness, and relevance are the traits that make for an effective resume. When done right, your resume is a powerful tool in persuading prospective employers that, indeed, you’re a strong candidate for the open positions you’re applying for. Again, you should consider creating a master or base resume that can be revised for more effectiveness when applying for different job openings.
1. Use the right format.
Stick to a professional format, meaning using standard fonts (e.g., Times New Roman or Arial), clear headings and bullet points, and a consistent layout.
2. Use action words.
The use of action verbs, also known as power words, in your resume, demonstrates initiative and leadership, conveys competence and confidence, and makes your achievement more impactful. Your career progression can also be better explained using action words, particularly when providing specific details, and action verbs can boost ATS visibility for your resume.
3. Include vital information.
Your resume is your elevator pitch on paper, so to speak, meaning it must contain vital information about your professional qualifications. The vital information that an effective resume contains includes:
- Updated professional contact information (your complete name, phone number and email address, even a link to your LinkedIn profile)
- Objective statement or summary that highlights your career goals, knowledge and skills, and value that you can bring to the organization
- Professional work experiences (i.e., list in reverse chronological order with brief information about the company names, job titles and responsibilities, and dates of employment)
- Achievements, which should ideally be quantified (e.g., increased revenue by 25%) with emphasis on your positive impact
- Academic credentials (i.e., list in reverse chronological order, too, with your graduate degree listed first and with the institutions’ names, degrees earned, and graduate dates as well as relevant coursework and honors earned)
- Skills, which include both technical and transferable skills as well as job-specific skills; bullet points are recommended
- Awards and certifications, as well as relevant professional memberships
- Brief descriptions of projects accomplished (i.e., portfolio)
Your master resume must contain facts only – lies and exaggerations are a big no-no! You may want to revise your master resume’s length, too, depending on the preferences of whatever company you’re submitting your application. Your resume can either be a one-page document or a two-page document depending on your work experiences and other credentials.
Regardless of the number of pages, you must cut out unnecessary or redundant details on your resume. Proofreading and editing multiple times should take care of this crucial aspect.
Create a Compelling Cover Letter
In the abovementioned Zippia article, many recruiters and hiring managers consider cover letters in their decisions, too. Your cover letter accompanies your targeted resume and serves as your introduction, from introducing yourself to expressing your keen interest in the job. You can also use your cover letter to provide more context and information that showcase your suitability for the job.
Just like your base and targeted resumes, creating a compelling cover letter demands time, thoughtful consideration, and effort. Here are tips to get you started.
1. Address it to a specific and right person.
No, a generic salutation (e.g., “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Ma’am) is an absolute no in your cover letter! You must ask the company for the complete name and specific title of the recipient of your job application materials.
2. Start with a compelling opening paragraph.
Start strong and grab the attention of your recipient with a persuasive opening paragraph. You can mention your reasons for your interest in the job, highlight your qualifications (e.g., experiences and skills) relevant to the job, and showcase your accomplishments. You may also demonstrate your potential for fitting in with the company’s corporate culture, such as aligning your core values with its mission and vision.
3. End with a strong closing paragraph.
Your closing paragraph can be a reiteration of your keen interest in the job and your willingness to discuss in more detail your suitability for it via an interview. Be sure to express your gratitude to the reader and their time and consideration. You may want to consider mentioning your professional references in the closing paragraph, too.
When creating your cover letter, keep it direct to the point – most hiring managers prefer cover letters ½ page in length or less. The straightforward language that demonstrates your enthusiasm – no exaggerations and cliches, please – is best. Adopt a professional and respectful tone, too, as well as a clean and professional format combined with a consistent layout.
Check if the job posting requires specific application instructions for the cover letter, such as mentioning professional references and salary expectations, and follow them. Job application materials sent electronically should ideally be saved in PDF form since it’s best for formatting and accessibility purposes.
Of course, careful proofreading and editing are a must!
Maximize Your Professional References
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that most employers conduct background checks, typically as part of their pre-employment screening process. Annual background checks and promotion-related checks are also becoming more common.
The bottom line: Your job application will become more competitive if and when you maximize your professional references!
- Choose suitable professional references, particularly persons who can attest to your abilities, skills and character as well as provide specific examples of your accomplishments.
- Always seek the permission of the individuals you will be citing as your professional references. This way, they are well aware of their possible role in your career advancement. You must also provide your professional references with the right and relevant information about the company and the position you’re applying for.
- Provide your professional references’ complete contact information – full name, organization and title, and email and phone number – on your resume or cover letter.
Express your gratitude to your references, too, regardless if they were contacted by prospective employers or not. Maintain professionalism, be honest and truthful in your interactions with them, and keep records of your references’ information.
Prepare for Interviews
Now that you have your targeted resume and cover letter, you can send them to prospective employers. While waiting for their calls, you must practice your interview skills, even when you feel competent and confident or when you believe you have a competitive chance.
We will only take a brief look at this aspect as there are plenty of resources related to it on our site.
- Familiarize common interview questions and practice answering them.
- Develop your elevator pitch, a summary of your qualifications that can be completed in 1-2 minutes. Again, start with the master format and then customize your elevator pitch based on the job.
- Prepare for different interview formats, such as in-person, video conferencing, and phone interviews. You must dress appropriately – business attire is the safest bet – regardless of the format. Mock interviews are a great practice, especially if you feel like your interview skills require improvement.
After an actual interview, send a thank-you note or email to the interviewers within 24 hours.
Adopt Effective and Efficient Job Search Strategies
Even with the best-targeted resume and cover letter, your efforts can be in vain if and when you don’t know when, where, and how to send them!
1. Explore multiple job search platforms.
Casting a wider net, in a manner of speaking, during your post-graduate school job search can boost your employment opportunities. You must then consider both traditional and non-traditional job search platforms, as well as the in-person and online formats.
- Visit the official website and social media profiles of companies since many post their job openings here.
- LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Monster Jobs are a few of the most popular job search websites where graduate students and graduate degree holders can find suitable jobs.
- Explore industry-specific platforms and niche job boards, too, such as Idealist.org, USAJOBS.gov, Medzilla, EnvironmentalCareer.com, and eFinancialCareers.
- Join job and career fairs where professionals with graduate degrees and extensive work experience are sought-after by prospective employers.
- Browse the local newspapers and digital newspapers for job openings, a less common way of finding jobs but still viable.
When using digital means in your job hunting, you should consider setting up detailed and customized job alerts. You can even receive daily and weekly updates based on specific keywords!
You may also try the cold calling and walk-in methods, but be aware that these may be less effective than targeted job applications. Be ready with your master’s resume so you have a professional document to start the job application process rolling.
2. Take advantage of staffing agencies and professional recruiting/headhunting services.
You can also connect with professional recruiters or headhunters who specialize in your industry or job type. You may also send your job application materials to staffing agencies and allow them to become your job-hunting partners.
Again, you should tap into your personal and professional networks for referrals. You will find that word-of-mouth spreads fast among your circle, so be attentive to possible job openings.
During your job hunting after earning your graduate degree, you will likely meet rejections despite your competitive credentials. Take heart because rejections are par for the course even for the best of us. The trick is to develop resilience against rejection, stay persistent, and maintain a positive attitude. After all, these are the same traits that contributed to your success in graduate school!