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20 secrets to win that first professional job

Sometimes getting that first real job seems almost impossible. It's not. And like anything else, there are a few tricks that can make it a lot easier.

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1. Define your goal. Yes, a job. Now, beyond that, if you could do anything, what would you do?

"The person who says, 'I'm willing to take anything,' has a much more difficult time," says Tory Johnson, co-author of "Women for Hire." "They think it makes them look flexible. The reality is it makes them look desperate or unfocused, neither of which is good."

2. Don't be afraid of having several goals. Life is like college. You might not know exactly what you want yet. Welcome to the club. So elect to have several related goals, with resumes tweaked to match, says Johnson.

3. Visit the college services office. When the dean hands you a diploma, the school's job is not quite finished. Your alma mater wants you to find a job, and chances are it's got some great resources to help.

"They know who's hiring," says Johnson. "They know companies that are specifically interested in their graduates.

"They also have great services in terms of interview strategies, resume writing and job coaching," she says. Ask for your school to tell you about the services that are offered says Johnson.

Also ask: Can you put me in touch with alumni working in my area(s) of interest? Do you offer seminars in business development or etiquette? Do you provide job leads? Do you have a database that's accessible to me? Can I get to it from the Internet or only from this office?

Don't worry if you've been out of school for a while, either. The college services door "is open for life," says Martin Yate, author of "Knock 'Em Dead 2005: The Ultimate Job Seeker's Guide."

Concerned that you won't be able to get as much help as those classmates who took internships? That shouldn't bother student services or you, says Johnson.

"It's totally unacceptable to assume that because you didn't have a related internship that you are not qualified to get a good job," she says.

4. Plug in to your existing network. Contact family and friends. Chances are someone will know someone, who knows someone, who does something in your field.

Many times, grads think of immediate family, "but they don't think to go to their best friends' parents, or the aunts and uncles they only see at Thanksgiving," says Johnson. And remember: "Somebody doesn't have to live near you to be of help to you."

5. Keep a log. If you contact 10 people, some might have a lead right away. Most will have to get back to you. Keep track of who you talked with and follow up.

6. Research your new career. The more you know about the job you want, the more likely you will get it.

 
 
Next: "Take another look at your resume"
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