8 Things To Know When Applying For A Job In 2016

I'm a senior in college, which means my friends and I are currently pretending everything's fine while suppressing our terror over the fact that in a short eight months we will be "real adults" who need to start applying to jobs. We're all trying to navigate this terrifying world we call the job market in different ways. One of my friends has made an entire spreadsheet of jobs and internships she wants to apply to and when she has to apply to them by. Some of my other friends are deciding whether to go straight into their careers or head off to grad school. And then some of us are just lying to ourselves by pretending we have a plan, when really the plan is to just finish the beer tour at our local college bar before we finish our degrees, move back home to "New York" (aka New Jersey) and figure it all out there.

No matter which stage of job hunting you're in, searching for a job in 2016 can be incredibly daunting. There are just so many new things we have to worry about that simply didn't exist when our parents were entering the workforce. Like, are employers really going through my tweets? Are they judging my Instagram aesthetic? How do I even use LinkedIn? Is networking a real thing people do or is it just that thing they keep talking about in those cell phone commercials? I wouldn't know; I'm still on the family plan.

Luckily for those of us who need some help with finding a job, there are people who are experts in this kind of thing. I spoke with Caroline Beaton, a Millennial career expert and the official spokesperson for employer insights program kununu, about the best ways to approach finding a job. So, here are the eight things every millennial should know while applying to a job in 2016, according to Beaton.

1. Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts

Yes, there are employers who will get their internet stalking on once your application lands on their desk. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. "A lot of people think it's scary that employers have access to your social media, but it's a great opportunity to stand out amongst other applicants," Beaton says. If you do social media right, it can be a great representation of who you are and let future employers know that you're smart, witty, creative or however else you choose to present yourself.

In order to give a great social media impression, Beaton suggests getting rid of any drinking pictures, anything overtly political or religious, and anything that's controversial. And all those cute cat videos your friends keep posting to your wall? Break them up with articles from your favorite news sites, because according to Beaton, if your wall is just filled to the brim with Tasty videos, it actually makes you look like you're not that deep.

2. Dress To Impress

There are so many companies in 2016 who have ditched the standard suit and tie for a more casual attire. But when you're applying to a job where the dress code is casual without the business, how should you dress for the interview?

"I think that the main reason for a job interview in today’s world is for an employer to get a sense of who you are and if your personality meshes with the company culture," Beaton says, "That said, it’s really important to come across as conscientious and professional, so I would always err on the side of slightly more dressed up say than anyone else at the company if it’s a casual atmosphere."

But how you should dress does depend on where you're applying. "If you’re applying to a start-up and you’re meeting at a coffee shop, I would do business casual. If you’re applying to an entry-level corporate position, I would go to the nines in probably like a suit or something close to it," Beaton says.

3. Beef Up Your LinkedIn

Millennials are so good at social media, so in theory we should also be killing it on LinkedIn. But there are mistakes a lot of people make when it comes to the job networking site. One of Beaton's pet peeves on LinkedIn is long summaries that aren't edited. "I just came across a summary that was like, 'I enjoy the beautiful things in life. My passions are finding beautiful things,'" Beaton says. "It was that redundant and that cliche, and that will literally never work."

Also, if your summary is four short paragraphs or two really long paragraphs, it's probably too long. Beaton suggests formatting your summaries by stating who you are in one or two short sentences and then follow it up with what kind of employment you're looking for and how your skills match up with that. "All you want to say is who you are, what you do, and what you want," Beaton says.

Other important LinkedIn tips include adding your contact information to your profile and having a professional bio picture. Your picture should be of just you (not a photo of you that you cropped your friends out of) set against a simple background. "Just get someone to take a photo of you in front of a blank wall and you'll be way ahead of many other candidates," Beaton says.

4. Establish A Niche

Finding a job is already pretty scary on its own, but when you're then competing for the same job against literally every other college grad you know, it can seem almost impossible. Beaton suggests figuring out a niche or angle that you can be known for. "I was a creative writing major, so I thought that writing was a sufficient niche, but once I angled in on the psychology of Millennials, it worked," Beaton says.

But how do you decide what your niche should be? "Consider your coursework, your passions, any skills, or professional experience you've had and angle yourself that way on your LinkedIn, in your cover letter and in your resume," Beaton says, "Take out anything that's irrelevant to how you're positioning yourself uniquely for that role."

5. Search For Opportunities

A lot of recent grads approach their job search by thinking about what kind of job would be good for them and look for a job that fits perfectly with their skills or passions. But Beaton thinks that people should actually look at the employer and the opportunities that they can provide.

"You are all potential. You don't really have any hard skills as a recent grad, and the employer is all opportunity to maximize your potential," Beaton says. "That's training opportunity, that's workplace flexibility, that's mentors, so look for those kinds of things... What it comes down to, how much you're really enjoying work on a day-to-day basis, how fulfilling it is for you, it really is the employer that makes the difference."

6. Start A Side Project

In 2016, it's super easy to start doing something on the side because there are so many free or nearly free platforms that allow you to start a website where you can "position yourself in terms of a specific market expertise."

If you're looking for a specific job, Beaton suggests creating a website or a freelance profile where you can start building up your niche so that when you go to apply for the job you want, you can show them all of the work and projects that you've done on your own, which, Beaton says, "shows commitment, follow-through, resilience and skills. It's honestly just a great way to promote yourself in today's super loud job market.

7. Don't Be Afraid To Network

If the concept of networking gives you anxiety, you aren't alone. "I think that networking is one of those words that literally just hearing it makes most people shrink away and want to just huddle up with popcorn and Netflix," Beaton says, "So, the first thing to do with that is start small. If you’re still in college, join extracurriculars and clubs and make sure the events you’re attending, you actually care about."

Beaton also points out that a big mistake people make in networking is they go to every networking event they can, which ends up burning them out and doesn't give them any edge since they aren't passionate about the event they're attending. "Make sure that the events are in line with your interests, start small and even get leadership if you’re still in college in those sorts of extracurriculars. Once you’re out of college, a great way to network is to go through a mentor or a coworker or a friend."

Beaton also recommends leaving networking events after about an hour. "It’s better to leave a really strong, short first impression, then sort of be the last at the party, where it’s like, 'OK, she can probably go right now, I don’t really know what she’s doing here still.'"

8. Advertise Your Potential

As a recent graduate, you should be advertising your potential, not your hard skills. "I know some recent grads who will be like 'I know Adobe Creative Suite' on their resume, but there’s no way they know Adobe Creative Suite, because it’s so full of different applications, that if they knew all of those applications, they would have had to go to graduate school specifically for Adobe Creative Suite," Beaton says, "Advertise your potential and you’re trainability as opposed to your hard skills, which everyone knows you don’t have.

But how do you state your potential? "Market what you’ve done in the past. Give specific examples of what you’ve done, previous employment, coursework, people you’ve met, conferences you’ve attended if you have," Beaton says. Your potential is your ability to be trained, your ability to learn quickly and how committed and dedicated you have been to other projects that you can bring to a new employer.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy