At University of Maryland University College, our objective is to provide you with an education that will prepare you for success after graduation. This means teaching you concepts and providing you with resources to help you apply those concepts to your career. One key resource available to you is UMUC's Office of Career Services.

Our Career Services team can offer advice and guidance to help ensure a smooth entry into your desired field. Here are some tips and tools they've provided recent UMUC graduates entering the workforce.

1. Understand What Employers Want

When you begin to apply for jobs, it is important to understand what employers are looking for. For example, employers tend to seek candidates who are self-directed, which means they know what they want and they are willing to go after it. Candidates who are self-motivated and can problem solve and think on their feet are valued. In the military, you regularly hone these skills, so be sure to provide examples of how you've taken initiative during your military service.

In addition, employers seek candidates who have a solid reputation and display trustworthy character to potentially enhance their organization's brand. According to recruitment firm Execu|Search, the top six most in-demand soft skills are communication, analytical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, initiative and drive, ability to adapt to change, and personal accountability. Again, these are characteristics that veterans often possess, so be sure to include examples that prove you have these skills. 

2. Don't Limit Your Search Strategies

Using only one job-search method can prolong your search by months at a time. For example, don't use just one website to search for job postings. Instead, find a variety of sites to check regularly and sign up for alerts for roles that satisfy your specific criteria.

Also, always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. You never know when you might meet someone who can help you in your career. Consider using social media sites like LinkedIn and Rallypoint as part of your strategy. Break out of your comfort zone by going to career fairs and other events where you can meet recruiters and hiring managers.

3. Follow the Essential Job Search Steps

Your job search process can be made easier and more fruitful when broken down into the following steps:

  • Self-assessment: Explore and discover your strengths, skills, values, uniqueness, challenges, and where you might potentially fit in an organization. Before you can begin your job search, you must understand who you are and be able to communicate that in your résumé and cover letters.
  • Knowledge of employment options: Determine the kind of work you want to do, your preferred work setting, your long-term career goals, your ideal occupational titles, and the types of companies that employ workers in your career field. This step will help you narrow your search and provide direction when seeking opportunities.
  • Multiple job hunting methods: Savvy jobseekers use a variety of methods to contact prospective employers, rather than limiting themselves to one method. Effective job search strategies like networking, recruitment events, job fairs, job search websites, state employment offices, volunteering, internships, and temporary agencies can increase your chances of landing a job. Various studies have found that up to 85 percent of jobs are found through networking and that as many as 80 percent of all jobs are not posted externally.
  • Job search tools: Online job tools can be essential in helping you find your next opportunity. For example, online tools can assist with tailoring résumés and cover letters targeted to a specific employment goal, job opportunity, or company. By developing a custom résumé and cover letter for specific jobs, you demonstrate to employers that you have a clear understanding of what you want to do and you effectively relate your skills to those required for the job.
  • Practice interviewing: There are also online career tools, such as InterviewStream and Quinncia, that can help you prepare for an interview by tailoring questions to the skills and experience included on your résumé. You can then record your responses to play back and review to help you articulate your qualifications more clearly and identify your interview strengths and weaknesses. If a practice interview doesn't go well, just try again as many times as you like. Interviewing is a skill that gets better with practice.

Breaking into the workforce takes focus, determination, and a great deal of patience. As you look for jobs and navigate the hiring process, remember to stay positive. As a transitioning servicemember or veteran, you have a lot of resources to help you with your job search, but keep in mind that UMUC Career Services is here for you at every stage of your career—even after you graduate.

About the Author

Kristin Schrader is the associate director of InternPLUS and military career programs at UMUC. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the lead trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop, where she taught transitioning servicemembers about the civilian job search. Kristin is a proud military spouse, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their goals.