With limited education, skills, and connections, young people have a hard time finding summer employment. A study cited by the White House found that 46 percent of students who applied for a summer job last year were turned down.
I remember how difficult it was to find a summer job of any sort when I was in college and graduate school. Career offices were usually over-loaded with hundreds or even thousands of similar requests for help as mine.
And I couldn't exactly help myself, either: I didn't know what skills I could offer, what industries I was interested in, or what kind of job I was suitable for.
Today, I have the opportunity to hire and work with summer interns. I've benefited from their intelligence, energy, and fresh approach to solving problems.
I've seen all of them go on to pursue graduate studies or lead successful careers in a variety of fields. Some have even become good friends, and I stay in touch with them to exchange ideas, give advice, or just catch up.
Here are a few tips for students or recent graduates just launching their job search. Any of these tips can also be applied to job searches by people who are already in the workforce today, but are looking for a bigger and better opportunity:
1. Focus your search.
Sorting through all the possible industries, companies, and departments you could apply for can leave you feeling pretty confused. Narrow your search to a few industries, and within each of those, a handful of companies. This will make the entire search process less overwhelming, and give you the time you need to research the companies you're applying to.
2. Tap into your existing network of friends and family.
Okay, so maybe you only have a few dozen connections on LinkedIn, most of whom are your fellow classmates. Don't be discouraged: You probably have a much bigger network of relationships that you can leverage than you even realize.
Start with those you know best--your family and close friends --and see if they can introduce you to people they know. Don't expect them to step up and offer to introduce you to their contacts, though (not that they won't want to help you). You'll need to take the initiative and reach out for help.
You don't know who they know, either. When you start to plug into their networks, you might find that you're just one or two connections removed from someone who works at one of your target companies and is either in a position to hire you, or can introduce you to the one who can.
3. Identify your two strongest skills and show how you might apply them to the job.
You can strengthen your application and gain visibility with recruiters by identifying your two or three strongest skills and explaining in your cover letter how you can put them to use at their firm. Recruiting managers sort through stacks of cover letters and resumes every day, so make yours stand out by explaining why you think they should hire you.
4. Research the company and get familiar with what they do.
It's tempting to send a generic cover letter and resume to dozens of companies. It'll save you time, that's for sure. But imagine what a recruiter on the receiving end of such a generic letter is likely to think (and do) when they see an uncustomized form letter land in their inbox.
Take some time to understand the company and the role you're applying for, and make that visible in your cover letter. That extra homework you do could set your application apart from the pack.
5. Don't be afraid to ask.
Looking for a job when your resume is empty and you don't have a lot of self-confidence can be a daunting experience. But I've found that the students who end up finding a job are generally the ones who had the courage to ask. So don't be afraid to ask.
6. Be persistent.
Recruiters get a lot of email every day, the bulk of which is related to the full-time positions they're seeking to fill. If you want to get noticed, don't give up the first time you reach out and fail to get a response. Wait a few days or weeks, and then try again.
While sheer persistence may not land you a job, you might be increasing your chances of getting your application noticed. It also signals to the recruiter your level of interest in the company and the role.
7. Develop a tolerance for rejection.
It's tough to face rejection just as you're starting out. But get used to it, and don't take it personally. Job searches can be a hit and miss game --and there will be a lot of misses early on. And that's okay--we've all been there before.
8. Don't burn bridges.
When you do get rejected, remain calm and stay professional, and thank the person for their time. Don't rant about it on social media, either. A company might keep your resume on file and reach out to you when an opportunity does open up. Or you may want to re-apply at another time, maybe even for a full-time position.
Identify your strengths, do your research, reach out for help, and don't give up. Good luck with your search!
A version of this article also appeared on LinkedIn.