“Secret Sauce” Ingredient #1 for Recent College Grads

When I graduated from college, most of my friends interviewed for jobs via the University’s career center and started their new jobs after they took their summer backpacking trips around Europe.

I wasn’t that lucky.

As a Communications major, there were few companies hiring anything other than accounting, finance, business, and engineering or computer science majors. We liberal arts graduates were left to find a job on our own. (I also didn’t backpack through Europe because I was trying to find a job all summer.)

Not much has changed in 25+ years.

After spending most of my career as a Recruiter in corporate settings, I have been asked to meet with many, many recent college graduates to advise them on how to move the job search process forward. Many of these super-smart graduates are frustrated and concerned. They keep applying for jobs and never hear a peep out of prospective employers. Or, they got in the front door, only never to hear anything again – despite doing their best to follow up.

I have so much compassion for these graduates. I feel their pain.

But, I also see recent college grads make the same job search mistakes over and over again. This was one of the reasons I started plum job search strategies. I wanted to shout advice from the rooftops but thought I’d likely be seen as crazy, so plum small group workshops for Recent College Grads was created instead.

Sharing what I call my “Recruiting Secret Sauce” is a joy for me. Here’s one such piece of advice I offer quite often:

Listen. Listen. Listen.

Sounds too simple right? Here’s what I mean by this: Your objective should be to learn the language of the job you want. Employers want to know that you understand their business, their challenges and their frustrations. Coming into a discussion, behaving as if you know all the answers or even just talking about yourself is not what employers want to hear.

Instead do this: if you have an interest in a particular job or industry, arrange to meet with contacts that have experience in that area and ask them to share their story. Don’t ask for a job. Ever. Concentrate on asking questions as if you are a student of a foreign language or country.

(Yes, I know that you’re asking “How do I find those industry contacts?” I promise to tell you how to find them in a forthcoming blog…or why don’t you attend a plum workshop?)

You will amass this vocabulary and this information and it will help you craft your own story. A crisp, short, articulate and industry-specific story is your goal. This is the first step toward getting there.

Listen for key words and phrases.
Listen for the challenges they face.
Listen for the cues to what makes someone successful or what causes them to fail.
Be inquisitive and don’t just try to sell yourself.

Ask them if they will introduce you to even one person they know who is in the same type of role. Listen again. This is the start of making you an A+ student of search.

I have so much more of this Secret Sauce to share. Keep checking back. Or better yet, sign up for my newsletter and I will keep ’em coming.


  1. Shaquille T on February 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Lora,

    I just came across your website after seeing your post on Linkedin. After reading this article, I am proud to say that I am of those struggling college grads :). Funny enough, I started learning about employer’s problems, frustrations, etc. now when I apply, and it really gave me a change of perspective. Anyway, I think I am going to learn more of your secret sauce. So, I just stopped by to say Hi, and you have a new member.