First things first... CONGRATULATIONS!
Not only are you graduating, you are jumping into the job market ahead of many of your peers. You already know the job market is tough. What you may not know is that you have the advantage, even over people who have experience. You hold the secret key. You just need to know which important door it needs to open first.
Five years ago, the world grew increasingly intoxicated by customer service. In an age where credit was king, almost everyone had buying power and with that a sense of entitled pampering. Except for the very wealthy and those in senior level management positions, extreme pampering has gone out the door except for 30 minutes here and there in strip mall nail salons and full-service car detailing shops (mostly available in metropolitan areas).
That's where you come in. Managers today are required to do far more with less staff and reduced budgets. New grads with talent, energy, creativity, and who haven't already worked for $50K+ a year (and believe that high pay and full benefits at no cost are entitlements) are positioned nicely to take the jobs that more seasoned workers may be passed over for.
If you were a manager and you could hire someone who was smart, eager and always available, or someone who came with experience, expectations, and possibly outside obligations -- and who may be taking a job as a bridge position until something "better" came along -- which one would appeal to you?
But there are some things you need to know (that your experienced counterparts have learned through their years on the career ladder.)
1. Always dress, talk and act professionally.
2. Show up on time or a few minutes early.
3. Think customer service! Be the very best No. 2 person possible to your boss.
4. Focus on your employer. Always think, "What can I do for them?" Once you are indispensable, then you can make requests or share preferences -- and if you're valuable enough, you may just get them.
5. Follow-up on everything. Follow-up on projects. Follow-up with thank you notes to colleagues, clients and other people with whom you come into contact. Follow-up on behalf of your boss. "Jane asked me to call and thank you for ______." People will think more highly of your boss and more highly of you -- and your boss will appreciate your proactive approach.
What is the secret key? Let hiring managers know that you are an exceptional No. 2 and that they won't regret giving you a chance to help them shine. Be the very best No. 2 person to your manager, and when it comes time for a promotion, you'll be first on the list.