10/08/2012 11:46 BST | Updated 10/10/2012 06:12 BST

Three Top Career Tips for New Graduates

The school year has come to an end, and another crop of newly minted IT graduates is entering the job market. While the recovery has been kinder to IT than it has to many other industries, finding a job is still a challenge. As a recruiter, I see firsthand what works and what doesn't. The good news: if you are a very strong candidate, with good internships and great academics, you are likely seeing multiple offers right now. The bad: if you're not, it's going to take some work to differentiate yourself. Here are some tips to follow.

1.Network, network, network.

You hear this one all the time, and that's because it works. Candidates who are most successful finding that first opportunity are those who pursue all of the channels available to them (not just on-campus recruiting and online job posts). Savvy graduates leverage their professors, alumni networks, and personal contacts to increase the number of potential interviews. Another great avenue can be professional organizations in the niche that most interests you. I have observed a number of college seniors become involved with the local ISACA chapter, and that initiative and network led several of those candidates to professional opportunities with local firms.

2.Continue to advance your education.

If you had a generalist curriculum with average grades, it is going to be difficult to stand out. However, developing a "go to" skill in a particular technology or tool can make a big difference. These skills can oftentimes be developed outside the university setting, utilizing online resources. Pursuing relevant certification exams, even if you don't yet have the experience to get the actual certification, can also make a tremendous difference. In my niche (audit and GRC), a recent graduate who has already passed the CISA certification exam is going to have a leg up on the competition. (Obtaining the certification itself once you have the necessary amount of experience under your belt will add additional value.)


When interviews are in short supply, you need to nail the ones you do get. That means you must do extensive research on the company (its products, services, competitors, financial position). You will need to have a compelling reason(s) why you want to work there. You then also need to be able to sell yourself. What are the special traits or skills that make you the ideal candidate for that particular company? Those answers need to be well thought out and supported with good examples.

While this post is targeted to new graduates, the very same tips apply to all candidates, from those with no experience, to those with decades in the industry. Always seek to expand your network. Take advantage of all the networking opportunities ISACA provides, from in-person conferences (such as INSIGHTS, which I'm speaking at this month) and virtual conferences, to chapter meetings and the Knowledge Center. Pursue a certification (did you know CISM and CRISC are among the top 10 highest-paying certifications, according to the independent Foote Partners LLC?). And never go to an interview without having done your due diligence.

It's a tough market out there--but not an impossible one. Differentiate yourself, and you'll reap the rewards.

Taken from the ISACA blog.