In an economic climate where many companies are downsizing teams and shrinking budgets, the typical campus recruiting cycles have certainly taken a hit. And understandably – it’s unlikely that focusing on early career talent is the right organizational strategy right now. 

But, looking outside of our companies and instead to our own networks – to our children, our nieces and nephews, our friends’ children – we realize that the number of new grads still searching for work is, well, quite remarkable. Despite a solid four-year liberal arts education and a diploma that reads “Summa Cum Laude,” today’s top talent is struggling to find real-world work. 

The job market is tough – here are three meaningful ways we can help recent grads find work:

Offer Resume Reviews

A solid resume can make the difference in getting the interview — or simply receiving an automated rejection email. Young professionals with limited work experience can feel like they need to fill their resume with “fluff” (think: buzzy industry terms, “president” roles at their various campus clubs, etc.). Help them define what is and isn’t valuable information to include on their resume.

For example, if your niece is applying to a marketing coordinator role at a media company, ask her to identify one or two projects where she was tasked with managing social media and events for a club, at an internship, or perhaps for a sorority. Help her outline the tactical aspects of the project (leading with action verbs), and add in any data or metrics that support their success within this project. And, unless the internship was with a notable enterprise, make sure to emphasize the role rather than the organization– this will help focus attention on the relevant experience.

Lastly, proofread, proofread, proofread! Recruiters will toss a resume within seconds if it’s riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes or typos.

Pro Tip: Make sure the tense is the same throughout the resume. 

Make Connections & Open Your Network

Despite their best efforts, a new grad will inevitably have access to a limited professional network. And in the world of recruiting, it’s often not what you know, but who you know — this is why opening your network can be especially impactful in a tough economy where there’s a notable uptick in the number of candidates applying to any given role. 

If your godson is looking to break into ad sales, ask him to list the top 5 or 6 companies that he’s interested in working; if your neighbor’s kid is looking to work at an early-stage tech company, ask them to brainstorm the type of product or service they’d like to help build. Having some semblance of direction will help you identify the people in your circles who are the best contacts for you to intro to the new grad. 

Pro Tip: Don’t do the footwork for them — figuring out what you want (the type of role or company, which industry, etc.) is just as much a part of the process and a critical step in landing your first real job.

Serve as a Reference (where and when it’s appropriate) 

With limited work experience comes a limited reference pool. Now, this isn’t to say that you should serve as a reference simply because your friend’s kid asked you to be one — that won’t help them in the long run. But, if you’ve had a meaningful interaction with someone, and if you have a keen understanding of how they think, what motivates them, as well as their areas of improvement, then it might be appropriate for you to serve as a reference.

When serving as a reference for a friend or relative, it’s important that your statements are objective, verifiable, and accurate. Do not gush or overstate the person’s skill set or talents. And, do disclose your relationship to the candidate. 

Pro Tip: Instead of offering to serve as a reference, help the new grad brainstorm and identify key individuals — academic or otherwise — who might be a better option.