Cape Girardeau, Missouri, isn’t on the list of “1,000 Places To Must See Before You Die,” but I’m glad I visited there this past weekend.  I enjoyed touring the Mississippi River town that is far more significant than its 36,000 full-time population might suggest.  More importantly, I spent most of two days with promising future PR professionals during a special topics workshop at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO).

Organized by Professor Susan Gonders, PhD., the SEMO workshops bring PR professionals to campus to work with students who are exploring their career options. This weekend’s conversation focused on the topic weighing heavily on soon-to-graduate seniors everywhere—jobs.

SEMO students didn’t lapse into a deep funk as I rolled out a 30-foot list of names of individuals applying for a recent entry-level position at Ketchum. Instead, they focused on what they need to do to impress prospective employers.  In addition to a discussion and quizzes on writing and ethics, we discussed the following key components of a job search tool kit:

1. Resume.  A no-frills resume packed with relevant experience and accomplishments.  Use a format that loads easily into automated candidate tracking systems that most agencies use to keep track of applicants. Don’t over design your resume by adding extraneous graphics and artwork.  Such frills may require someone to manually enter your resume into tracking systems. Meanwhile, other resumes more easily advance to the hiring manager.

2. Networking.  Build your network, starting with immediate family and friends.  Add at least one new individual to your network spreadsheet each week.

3. Social media.  Expand knowledge and use of social media.  Perfect the big three—Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—before expanding your repartee.  Follow and engage in Twitter conversations with leaders in organizations and industries in which you might like to work.  It’s noticed.

4. Focus.  Narrow your search.  It is easier to drill down than sideways.  Focus on what counts. Determine your passion and develop a job search game plan to achieve it.

5. Elevator speech.  You have a minute or less to make the solid first impression–your elevator speech. Make the interviewer want to know more about you based on a personally insightful story that underscores your passion and experience, and what you would bring to the organization.

IF YOU VISIT CAPE GIRARDEAU.  Besides the beautiful limestone buildings throughout the SEMO campus, here are some of the landmark highlights from my visit:  Common Pleas Courthouse (circa 1854) with its impressive steps (concrete imported from England), the ornate Gothic Revival Old St. Vincent Church (circa 1853), the elegant Victorian Glenn House, the Port restaurant which served as Gen. Ulysses Grant’s Missouri headquarters during the Civil War, and the impressive bridge spanning the widest point in the Mississippi River.  Finally, much to the chagrin to my liberal friends, I saw the childhood home of Rush Limbaugh.  The latter doesn’t yet have a historic marker, and I wouldn’t have sought it out except for the fact it was across the street from Dr. Gonders’ home.