Over the past few years, I've given talks to hundreds of my fellow twenty-somethings at colleges and universities. I've personally mentored dozens more, and the vast majority of them go onto secure meaningful careers or start businesses they're passionate about.
But I've noticed a troubling trend.
Many millennial job seekers I know end up in the rabbit hole of thinking, "Should I send my resume through LinkedIn?" or "Should I apply through Indeed?" The truth is, the content of your message and how you follow through is much more important than the medium you use to transmit it.
You could have a direct line to the CEO or HR director, but if you make a poor first impression through a disorganized resume, unprofessional email or, worst of all, by selling yourself too short, it'll all be for naught.
Here are five best practices the students I've mentored have used with great success.
1. Create a professional email
Create a new email that includes just your first and last name or, if unavailable, your first name, middle initial and last name. This is to keep things organized as well as to come off as a serious professional (not just a kid seeking a job someplace).
2. Don't just copy and paste work experience
When it comes time to write your resume, don't just copy and paste your work experience. Instead, think about what skill you have and acquired from your previous work experience. Write about the value of those skills in your new role.
3. Hire an editor
Proofread for spelling, syntax, proper grammar and layout. Don't just have your buddy look over it. Hire a professional editor using a service like Wordy.com. Yes, hiring an editor sounds expensive, but since your resume should only be a page in length, it won't cost much at all. Trust me: Something as simple as a spelling mistake can make the difference between landing a job or being passed over.
4. Don't be bashful
We all have unique experiences, skills and talents. Just make sure whichever accomplishments you list can translate to value for the potential employer in some way. Have a gap in your work history because you traveled the world, played chess, took a specialized course or learned jujitsu? Put that.
5. Be proactive
After you've submitted your application, be proactive. Call their recruiters. Email their executives. Let them know you're eager to contribute to the organization. Show initiative, but be careful not to be a nuisance. Anyone can court attention (just take a walk through Times Square in New York City if you don't believe me), but a stranger shouting on the street in costume is quickly forgotten or ignored.
By following these best practices, you'll be capturing your potential employer's attention and demonstrating to them that you're a credible candidate worthy of consideration.
And even if you don't get the job, you'll have made a powerful first impression. That leaves the door open for other opportunities down the road. In the event it does work, when you approach a potential employer like this, they won't care if they found you through LinkedIn, CareerKnight, Indeed, Monster or somewhere else.
Brian J. Roberts is a former fashion entrepreneur who's been awarded by Congress, the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for his work with students and businesses. As a writer, he's been featured in Time, Business Insider, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and others, and is the author of a short They'll just be glad they found you.