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Tips to help college seniors, grads start their careers

Give up part of spring break? Yes. Now is the time to apply for jobs for college seniors. And what better way to use part of your spring break (notice I didn't say all of it) than to begin a career? Time away from the books gives you an opportunity to spruce up those professional looking interview clothes, polish your resume, network through professional and civic organizations, shadow someone at work to see how you like the job, and even ask for (and hopefully get ) interviews.

Good places to start recently ranked the best employers for new graduates. They span several types of businesses and include Cisco, Siemens, IBM, Intel, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young (accounting is a high-paying field with some entry-level positions that pay $65,000 the first year), Hyatt Hotels, Union Pacific, Target and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

New graduates especially love Cisco because newbies are allowed to choose departments and managers. The company touts a 90 percent plus retention rate after two years.

How to set yourself apart

Dan Black, director of campus recruiting for Ernst & Young, said that his company is looking for leaders. Even if the new graduate doesn't have a lot of work experience they should show examples of how they have directed and guided a team on a class project or taught others as a teaching assistant in college. He added that even experience as an Eagle Scout shows that the applicant is a standout and worth considering.

The interview

There are many resources to help you prepare for the interview and some are tailored to new college grads. Three things to keep in mind:

Research and practice. Find out all you can about the company you're interviewing with and the specific job you're applying for. Then set up a mock interview session for yourself (ideally with someone asking you questions) and practice, practice, practice! Don't just work on the questions and answers. Look at yourself in a mirror and watch how you hold your hands, move your mouth, observe any facial expressions ticks or excessive movements that can be improved, and listen to the speed of your speech.

Be prepared for questions about you as a person, your work history, your goals and your past behavior in job situations. Think how you can craft your answers to highlight your work ethic, strengths, experience and ability to overcome challenges. One good source for questions is

Stress the qualities that make you an outstanding candidate: your persistence, flexibility, willingness to be a team player and your ability to work with a variety of types of people. Give examples that demonstrate these qualities.

Finally, after the interview when you're lying on the beach catching rays, write (ideally by hand) a thank-you note to the interviewer. This is a courtesy that shows your respect for the person and the time he/she spent with you. Not enough applicants do this and it might put you ahead of the pack.

Marie Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business trends and employee motivation consulting. She can be reached at

Tips to help college seniors, grads start their careers 02/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 20, 2011 3:30am]
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