There are a few things that I've learned, and want to share, so hopefully others will post their helpful tips. Keep in mind that I'm in sales, so the tips I have are from my experience, but I think that they're useful for almost everyone.
1) Network, Network, Network Are you on LinkedIn? Why not? It's not Facebook, it's just a neat way to stay in touch with people you work with. Create a professional looking profile and "connect" with everyone you know. I connect with both clients and co-workers alike. Most people I know that have gotten a job lately have great skills, but have also used a connection inside a current company to secure an interview. Seriously. With over 500 resumes coming in for each job, recruiters probably won't find you. An employee referral is the best way to get a job. If you stay in touch with everyone you've ever worked with, it's much more likely that you'll have a friend at a company you're applying for. Don't be embarrassed to link in to someone. It is mutually beneficial. You may need them in the future and they may need you. It's good for all as long as they don't dislike you or would ever give you a negative referral.
2)Dress for Success I know I'm not the first one to say it, but I can't believe how often people don't follow this basic advice. I now work from home, but at my first real B2B sales job, I was in a semi-casual office. Yes I would rather be wearing crocs and a sweatshirt, but I got my Ann Taylor credit card and made an effort to dress better than my peers. People can't help it - if you're dressed up, you just look professional. I was in my 20's and got three promotions in just a few years. Of course, it was due to hard work, but I was asking management for a chance to let me be an "outside" sales person. They KNEW I could dress the part, and could picture me going out to visit a major client.
3)ACT professional Yes you are at work 40+ hours a week and some of the best friends you may ever have are with you. But BE CAREFUL. Best advice ever given to me was in business, you never know who you'll end up reporting to, treat every person as if they could be your boss tomorrow. It's true!! I recall a colleague that went to a trade show with me. While we were out of town, we had a few drinks and she told me all about how she fudged her expense reports. Guess what? About 6 months later she ended up reporting to me. I had to approve her expense reports. She was uncomfortable and ended up seeking employment elsewhere.
4)Don't be Arrogant The biggest mistake I see when I'm hiring for entry-level jobs is that kids come out of college thinking that they're better than everyone. If you don't have enough experience, I can see that on your resume. If I weren't considering you for the position, I wouldn't be wasting our time by interviewing you, so be enthusiastic and willing to learn. I love it when someone says that they're a great fit for the role because they're a hard worker and want to be mentored. I don't want someone with very little experience telling me how to do my job. I've posted this here before, but the worst case was a girl I interviewed that told me that once she got her MBA, she would immediately be in executive management. (wow? So that's all it takes? )
5) Intern or Volunteer You want to get hired and KNOW you'll be great, but don't have the experience. Why won't anyone give you a chance to prove yourself? Don't wait for someone to give you a chance. You can create your own experience. Pick what you want to do and see if you can get an internship or do volunteer work. In medical sales, I see tons of applicants with unrelated experience and degrees applying for jobs. This is fine in a great economy, but if you've never done the job, why would I hire you and train you from the ground up if there are 50 other people that have experience in the industry? I took a pharmacy tech course and spent almost a year volunteering for four hours a week at a hospital pharmacy to gain the clinical experience I wanted. A friend of mine that wants to break into sales contacted me and offered to work for me and my boss for free, making cold calls and helping us with customers just to break into B2B sales. Those are just two examples, but the possibilities are endless. No one wants to give their time away for free, but if you do so, you'll end up getting paid back for your free time and then some through new job opportunites.
6) Know office basics This is really minor compared to the other points that I've brought up, but I see newly graduated kids all the time that can't use a computer very well. I am so sick of training people on how to use Outlook and other basic Microsoft functions. Take a community college course or read a book. Understand how businesses use the calendar function and know your way around a spreadsheet.
7) Sell yourself appropriately What I mean by this is don't be too shy to list your accomplishments. I never consider interviewing someone whose resume doesn't make me think that the candidate is the most amazing person in the world. You can act humble in the interview, but your resume should make you sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Think of your greatest accomplishments. They should be on your resume and you should find a way to relate them to the job you're applying for.
8)MANAGE UP I can't stress this enough. I know so many great employees that don't treat their boss well. It sounds so dumb, after all, if you work hard, why should you care how you treat your superiors? Simply put, people like to hire and work with people they like. Treat your boss with respect even if you think he/she is an idiot. Don't trash talk behind his back. Even if you think it won't get back, it will. I have seen great people be "managed out" of the business and mediocre people retained just because of the way they interacted with their boss. Don't suck up, but your manager is a human being. Remember that and you'll go far.
9)Feedback and Patience The very first promotion I tried to get, I failed. There were 50 internal applicants for one job. I was very young and was very good at what I was doing. In the interview process, it got down to just me and another very experienced employee, who wasn't nearly as good as I was. When she got the job, I was devastated. After all, everyone knew that I was better, right? Rather than throwing a major temper tantrum or having a negative attitude, I requested a feedback interview from the hiring manager. I found out that the person that got the job had been applying for years. Even though the hiring manager felt that I would have done a better job, she just couldn't say no to the more experienced employee any more. I felt a lot better and gained a commitment to be at the top of the list of interviewees the next time the position opened.
10)Technical Writing No joke - get your resume critiqued. If you don't have the money to pay to have a professional look at it, then ask a friend or a relative that has experience looking at resumes. Even someone who's a hiring manager will have seen many resumes and have some words of wisdom. Resumes are difficult and perhaps the single most important piece of securing an interview. You can't afford to blow it or assume that the recruited or hiring manager knows what you were thinking. Be open to criticism, even very serious criticism. The person reviewing your resume should be brutally, even painfully honest. Yes I have seen resumes so bad that I've shown them to other employees and we've had a good laugh. Please don't let that be your resume that we're all giggling about. If you get noticed, let it be in a good way.