Dialing for Dollars: A College Grad's Guide to
Job Hunting on the World Wide Web.

Every college student faces that inevitable moment upon graduation when it's time to step out into the "real world." For some, it's a rocketship to long-awaited independence, for others, an unwelcome wakeup call. Although the process of finding a job can range from intimidating to downright scary, today's college grads have a new and exciting job search capability quite literally at their fingertips. It's known as the World Wide Web. By cashing in on the accessibility of electronic resources at your own college or university, computer savvy grads can gain an important edge in the most competitive U.S. job market in 30 years.

Where to Begin?

In order to take advantage of the resources available to students, it is essential for grads to become familiar with their school's career center. It's no secret that most university placement offices offer career counseling, workshops, and experiential education such as internships and coop activities. But increasingly, they are moving to electronic data management as a means of organizing campus recruiting for both employers and the student candidates who use their services. At the University of Florida, students can post their resumes electronically on the G.R.A.D system which allows job seekers and corporate recruiters to mix and match information without leaving their computer terminals. UF Career Resource Center Director Wayne Wallace says, "We can be available to our clientele 24 hours a day. You don't even have to be here and that is very powerful for our alums. For our students, it is their once in a lifetime chance to have that many resources available to them. After you graduate the resources disappear. Now we bring it to you. We want to make sure that those resources remain powerful to them as alumni and that the employers know that power as well."

In fact, employment related information is one of the fastest growing utilizations for the Web precisely because of the ease with which it sorts complex information. According to Wallace, accessibility, speed and tracking capabilities are the Web's greatest virtues. As long as one has access to a computer, the information is there -- and in a hurry. "Once you start messing with Web activities you become spoiled as to how fast you can move. Speed counts and there is potential for accuracy to the day. Many clients have an information request page right there. You can print things you feel are important to anyone and bypass snail mail headaches." UF senior Stacey Lasky agrees that the Web contains the most up to date job listing information. "If I'm looking at a print source that lists jobs in my field it might not be the most updated resource, but the Web is constantly updated so the jobs are going to be there."

Mapping a Course

The trick to tapping into the Web's golden career opportunities is knowing how to use the medium effectively -- first for career research, and then for finding employers who have job openings. "It's not just a big newspaper with job advertisements," says Brian Krueger, author of The College Grad Job Hunter. "The Web is a resource from which to work from. It can be a research starting point." Although there is a myriad of career-related information on the Web, sorting through it can be frustrating and time consuming if you don't know what your looking for.

Krueger suggests starting out with a key word search using a search engine such as Alta Vista. For example, if you're an aspiring journalist who wants to work for The New Yorker magazine, plug in the title and visit their Web site. You'll also access press information and stock history, plus you'll find out who is talking about the magazine and what they are saying. This approach arms the job seeker with vital information that can be used in cover letters and interviews. Similarly, doing a broader key world search for "sports journalism" allows the job seeker to very quickly sort through a lot of information on the subject which is stored in different ways. A little imagination will keep you one step ahead of your fellow job seekers, says Krueger. "You need to be creative and go beyond what everyone else is doing to find the information others are not finding. It may not be a job posting, and e-mail is not the way to do it."

It's also important to remember that because there is so much information on the Web, not all sites will be useful in your search. Krueger compares the Internet to a big TV with 20 million channels -- some good and some bad. Don't be wowed by graphics and colorful presentations that overcompensate for poor content. On the other hand, don't discount a site just because it doesn't contain many job listings. It may offer valuable career advice and links to national recruiters or other sites that have what you need. If you're in the technology field, the Web is nirvana for you since the computer industry is by far the most predominant recruiter, especially at the entry level. "If you're not in a technical profession you can be turned off," says Krueger, "but if you are coming out of a computer science program you're going to have a much higher level of competition for each opening. Other fields will have less jobs listed but also far fewer people vying for them."

Help Wanted

For an employer, hiring via the Web is a three-step process. First, a recruiter will match the technical skills and background from your electronic resume to see if you have the qualifications for the job. Then, they will initiate personal contact to see if there is indeed a match between the candidate and company regarding salary requirements, career goals and performance expectations. Finally, the recruiter will try to sell his or her company to a desirable candidate before they are snapped up online by a competitor. "Once you're out there everyone has access to you. We have to move forward fairly quickly," says Krueger, who runs his own technology firm. Fortunately, increasing numbers of small to medium sized firms are recruiting over the Internet because is gives them the same presence in the marketplace as the big players like Microsoft or Intel. This is good news for college grads because traditionally, a meager one percent of major employers recruit on college campuses.

Take the Plunge

If you haven't done much surfing on the Web, take the time while you're still in school to become familiar with how it can work for you in a job search. Dr. Wallace suggests the following guidelines to get you started.

Sites That Make Sense

Here are a few hand-picked Web sites that can be searched for entry-level positions and are generally "grad friendly."

1. JobTrack: Connects students and alums with college placement offices, so you can keep on top of new job postings even after you've packed up and move on. Call your school's career center for a password, and viola, instant access to campus recruiting.
2. Catapult: A meta-list of sites that points our in the direction of career information for 11 different fields and indicates which sites list entry level positions.
3. Online Career Center (OCC): A large database of national job listings which lets you search by industry, city, state or keyword. OCC links directly with online career fairs, recruiting firms and college placement offices.
4. CareerPath.Com: This site contains classified ads from 17 major metropolitan newspapers across the U.S., include the LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and San Jose Mercury News.
5. The Business Job Finder: Developed by the College of Business at Ohio State University, this site lists positions in accounting, finance and consulting. It also contains invaluable information on business careers, salaries and MBA programs.
6. MedSearch America: Extensive listings in the health-related occupations by major hospitals and medical centers, specialty care facilities, research and biotechnology firms and managed care providers.