There are three main perspectives I want to share with upcoming (or recent) college graduates related to your first “real” job search: Know yourself – what makes you different, and why an employer should jump at the chance to hire you. Vanilla candidates are the human equivalent of the generic brand. No one ever chooses the generic equivalent for any reason other than cost—it’s cheaper. You don’t want an employer to choose you because they can’t afford to pay for brand name. What do you bring to the table that, in combination, they won’t find in any other candidates? Here are some questions you can ask yourself (and others) to determine your unique brand: -What are my three biggest successes in my life thus far? -What was my “secret sauce” to those successes? In other words, what underlying skill(s) or quality(ies) did I utilize to achieve those successes? -What feedback do I consistently receive from others about what I do well? (If you don’t know the answer to this one, ASK others.) -I am brand YOUR NAME. Just like any product, I have brand attributes that are unique to me. What are my three top brand attributes? (Be sure these attributes are differentiating.) Make sure the brand work you do in step #1 is effectively translated to your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and ultimately to your job interviews. Be consistent…if you feel like you keep repeating yourself, you’re doing it right. This repetition of your “selling features” will cement them in the listener’s—or reader’s—mind. Finally, get crystal clear on what’s most important to you in an employer you would want to work for. Granted, you will further refine your “ideal employer” criteria as you go through jobs – often times, you learn what you do want by experiencing what you don’t want. However, all employers ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. I can’t say that one loudly and strongly enough. Here are just some of the criteria that might be important to you in choosing an employer: Industry Products/services Mission/vision Public/private For-profit/non-profit Revenues Number of employees Organization culture Geographic location Commute distance Some of these qualities aren’t necessarily ones you will share with the employer…they are internal (like commute distance). However, I can promise you that an extended commute will, sooner or later, affect your job satisfaction. This number is relative to were you live…I have a client right now who has a 90-minute commute each way, every day. For others, anything over 15 minutes is too long. Other qualities—such as the organization’s mission or eco policies—are excellent to weave into your story about why you want to work for that employer.