networking-real-estate-traits-of-great-networker-housingYou’ve just graduated college in the top 10 percent of your class. Great! Now comes the fun part: finding a job. Even though the unemployment rate for college graduates is lower than the overall unemployment rate, you could still find yourself job searching long after you’ve retired your cap and gown.

How do you increase your chances of finding a job after being unemployed for an extended period of time? Start by developing your personal brand and improving your professional skills.

Spend your time wisely

Though you’ll likely be spending most of your time applying for jobs, it’s a good idea to fill your time with other useful pursuits. For instance, doing regular volunteer work builds character and stands out on a resume. Keeping up with the latest news in your industry shows potential employers that you’re well-informed and genuinely interested in your field. Taking classes is probably the last thing you want to do after just graduating, but employers will be impressed by your desire to learn more about your profession.

Get your name out there

Whether you’re working part-time at the local fast food restaurant or job searching non-stop at mom and dad’s house, it’s never too early—or too late—to start creating and advertising your personal brand. One way to get your brand out there is by distributing business cards.

Business cards are useful tools for networking among professionals, but did you know they’re useful for the unemployed college graduate, too? These cards won’t have the same information as company-issued cards, but they’ll include credentials like your personal website, email address and area of expertise.

For a card that stands out, ditch traditional design and go for more creativity in your business card design. Your future employer is more likely to notice a computer keyboard with your credentials on it than a plain black-and-white design. If you’re new to designing and creating business cards, consult a design-savvy friend or company that will help make your ideas happen.

Networking for dummies

Putting yourself out there and connecting with potential employers can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. Start by looking up networking events in your city. There are a number of sites that can aid you in this quest: LinkedIn, Meetup and Eventbrite inform you of networking events in the area, or allow you to create your own event. For more specific searches, check out sites like Mediabistro, for media professionals; or Women For Hire, a site where female professionals can connect.

Although these events can be great for meeting people in your intended field, they can be disastrous if you show up unprepared. Here are some supplies and tips you’ll need for most networking events:

·         A portfolio with a few copies of your resume, a pen and a notepad

·         Remember those business cards you made? Bring plenty of them to hand out to those you connect with

·         Practical items like mints or gum (avoid smacking or popping), perfume/cologne and hand sanitizer

·         Research the event beforehand to get an idea of which businesses will be represented and how many people are expected to show up

·         Lastly, don’t be a network jerk—that desperate guy who goes to every networking event and only looks out for himself

Don’t let unemployment after graduation get you down. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of not having a job, focus on what you can do to develop your skills and build your professional network. By taking initiative and making professional connections, you’ll soon be able to move out of mom and dad’s for good.

Emily Miller is a marketing and small business blogger who contributes regularly to Professional Intern. She recently graduated from Indiana University with degrees in English and Small Business Management, and has been advising her friends on their resumes, business cards, and networking skills as they search for post-grad jobs. Connect with her on Twitter @e_millr

Image Credit: chicagoagentmagazine.com