DEAR JOYCE: Do you find that liberal arts majors are not as marketable as they used to be? -- D.B.
Vocational and technical grads have always been tapped for hiring before their liberal arts brethren, so the employment-timing ratio between technical grads and liberal arts grads hasn't changed. But this recession is so far-reaching that few majors are immune from job problems -- even engineering, information technology and health care.
Better news: Despite the tight-as-a-tick job market, some observers have recently turned optimistic, expecting a hiring pickup in the retail, government, nonprofit, entertainment and leisure sectors.
The takeaway: Unemployed liberal arts grads, there's no need to become resigned to home detention. At your earliest convenience, act on the following tips.
1. Your No. 1 job-finding destination is the career services office at your college.
Admittedly, some career centers are more helpful than others. But that's the place to start because they have job listings, community contacts, career counselors, job search advisers and a wealth of online and print resources to help you untangle confusing decisions that lie ahead.
2. Consider a post-grad internship.
Work for a few months in an industry of interest, even if you don't get paid for your labor. The internship transforms you from a blank canvas into a newbie with relevant experience. Locate your school's internship coordinator through the institution's career center.
3. Focus on the skills you can market and be ready to rattle them off.
Relate your skills to an employer's challenges. For example, a history major seeking a job in a political campaign might articulate an ability to explain ideas, see relationships between factors, examine evidence, do research and make decisions. What talents do you have to sell, and why will anyone pay you for them?
4. Take responsibility to research the job world as you want to know it.
Read at least three substantive books that deal with your situation, such as:
-- "Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career" by
-- "Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World" by
-- "How to Get Any Job 2nd ed: Career Launch and Re-Launch for Everyone Under 30 (or How to Avoid Living in Your Parents' Basement) (How to Get Any Job: Career Launch & Re-Launch for)" by
5. After you have a fix on your personal compass, spend two 50-hour weeks digging into the real ins and outs of effective job finding:
-- For digital-search expertise, read "Internet Your Way To a New Job (Second Edition): How to Really Find a Job Online" by
-- For instruction on "street-level" search -- in which you get out from behind your computer, make phone calls and hit the streets -- take a
look at the enormous selection of resources available through the superstore site
6. Learn to prepare persuasive self-promotional materials, such as strong resumes, cover letters, networking letters, accomplishment sheets and reference letters. Prepare typed thank-you letters that read like direct-mail pieces, not like hand-written "Dear Aunt Chloe" thank-you notes. The recommended book here is my own:
-- "Cover Letters For Dummies, 3rd Edition (Wiley), which this year won the Ben Franklin best career book award.
7. Gear up for the make-or-break event: the job interview. Everything described above is down the drain if you fail to convince the hiring authority that you are the best pick for the job. The number of resources available on this topic could populate Mars, so
To borrow from a contemporary greeting card, "Today is the first day of your successful job search. If not, there's always tomorrow." Hang in there! A cheerful image attracts more job offers than a smell of desperation.
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(c) 2009 Tribune Media Services