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Find a Job You Really Want In
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- Skills To Learn
Finding your first job after college can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do.
The fact that you only have to find your first job once can come as little consolation to the person sending out their 48th job application of the month, with little reason to believe that this is the one that will finally get them some steady income.
You’ve got no experience, few skills, and possibly no practical industry-knowledge — because up to this point, everything’s been theoretical.
In theory, you can do a lot of different jobs. But how do you convince an employer to take a chance on what might, to them, be a bad investment?
Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips to help you put together your own answer and get started on your career without languishing for too long in your post-graduation ennui.
Most Common Problems With Finding a Job After College
There are a lot of reasons why finding a job after college is tough, but one reason stands out most of all: You don’t have any experience.
Almost every job you’ll see listed — even many supposedly “entry-level” jobs — are going to require a certain level of experience.
And even if you spent every possible free moment in school looking for opportunities to gain this experience, there’s still always the chance that by the time you finally get out on the hunt, you just won’t have the experience necessary to get many of the positions you’re hoping for.
That’s not the only problem that people just out of college are having when it comes to finding jobs in the “real world” — there’s also:
The lack of a network. The way most people find new jobs isn’t through cold applications — it’s actually through a network of personal and professional connections. As a person fresh out of school, there’s just very little chance that your connections, should you have any at all, will be particularly robust.
Competitive job market. Earning a higher-level degree used to give job candidates a significant edge. These days, however, a college degree alone isn’t enough to stand out.
No experience. We all know how frustrating it is to see a job posting for an entry-level position that requires 3+ years of experience. The good news is on this one is that you can get creative with what elements of your college experience qualifies as “experience.”
A bad resume. It’s tough to know precisely how to construct a resume if you’ve never had to have a “real” job before. A lot of the time, even people who worked all the way through college ended up working for their college in some capacity, and many colleges will hire students even with bad or incomplete resumes.
They’re willing to take a chance on you, since they’re not really taking a chance at all — most real businesses aren’t so forgiving.
An unmatched major. It can be tough to know what sort of career you’ll want after graduating at the moment you choose your college major. Some people finish a degree program and discover they’d rather do something completely different.
While that’s great and we encourage you to listen to your heart on these matters, it can make selling yourself as a job candidate tricky.
Poor interview skills. As a new college graduate, it’s very likely that you’ve had little to no experience with the actual process of interviewing for a job, and so there are a lot of nuances that you just won’t have the context for — things like having the right answers for loaded questions, knowing when and how to follow up, and other interview-specific knowledge.
How to Find a Job After College
Once you take the time to put together a stellar resume — or at least as good of a resume as you can scrape together, given your lack of experience — then you’re well on your way to finding your first job.
Here are a few more things you can do to help yourself find your first real job after college:
Start growing your network. Attend coffee hours or local job fairs. Meet people. Schmooze. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Networking is of the most essential parts of a successful job search, so take advantage of the free alumni services your college offers.
Advisors can help you write your cover letter, perfect your resume, and point you in the right direction for your job search. Finding a job through a connection is much more likely to end in success than applying online.
Identify what you want/need out of a job. Start with your passions, interests, and values. Think about what kind of role or field you’d like to be involved with, so that you can start targeting your job search.
When you’re excited about an opportunity, it shows. And hiring managers and recruiters love to bring people on board who are passionate about what they do, regardless of experience level.
Research. Whether it’s reviewing job descriptions in your field or looking into companies you’re interested in, start discovering what’s out there. It can also be useful to start searching for jobs on LinkedIn.
This can be especially useful if you’re not sure what you want to do with your major. Review your options and narrow your search down. That way, you’ll be more focused and successful in your job search.
Get letters of recommendation. Ask for referrals from anyone you’ve worked for, be they professors or employers. Without a lot of work history to show for yourself, referrals are an excellent way for hiring managers to understand your work ethic, which just might get you hired.
Get your credentials in order. Make sure there aren’t any industry-specific job hunting accouterments that you might be overlooking — things like having an online presence or Twitter account, having a portfolio, memberships or certifications with certain organizations, or other things like this.
Meet recruiters. When you’ve found a company you’re interested in, try searching for that company + recruiter on LinkedIn. Then, filter your results by location. At that point, you can send an introductory message or email.
It might not land you an offer immediately, but you want to be fresh in a few recruiters’ minds, so that job offers find you, rather than the other way around. Be aggressive — try to start conversations with 10 or more recruiters to really give yourself options.
How to Get a Job After College
Now that we’ve covered how to find a job after college, let’s turn to how to actually get a job after graduating.
Apply for internships. If you’re struggling to break into a competitive field, a high-quality internship could be your answer. It may not pay well (or at all), but you can gain valuable experience, grow your network, and set yourself up for a possible full-time job after your internship period.
Write an elevator pitch. When you’re going to all of these networking events, you’ll need an impactful introduction that generates interest in the listener. Keep this message short and to-the-point — aim for around 30 seconds or 75 words.
Describe what you did in college, with an emphasis on any impressive accomplishments. Tailor this speech depending on the listener and the situation, but always have a basic quick pitch you can give about yourself ready. It’s just as useful in interviews, resume summary statements, and LinkedIn profile summaries.
Establish an professional identity online. If you’re searching for techy or marketing jobs especially, it can be a good idea to make your own personal website.
Give some information about yourself and what value you offer as a potential hire. You can also include samples of your work here, which can go a long way in dispelling concerns about a lack of experience.
Even if you’re not so ambitious as that, do take the time to make a full and compelling LinkedIn profile. The more questions you can answer about yourself before a hiring manager or recruiter has to contact you, the more likely you are to land interview requests and, ultimately, job offers.
Study common interview questions. We have an article on the most common interview questions — we suggest you read those over to prepare. Additionally, prepare for industry- and role-specific questions that might come your way. Staging a mock interview with friends or family is a great way to boost confidence and practice your responses.
Shadow a professional. If you can arrange a job shadow with a member of your network, it can be a great chance to learn more about the industry and the company. You’ll likely meet loads of professionals throughout the day, bulking up your network at the very least, and landing you a job in the best case scenario.
Customize your cover letter. Your cover letter is a chance to fill in the blanks of your resume and answer the questions of how and why you do what you do.
Show that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity, have the credentials to fulfill the job’s responsibilities by highlighting past achievements, showcase how your values align with the company’s, and close with a professional call-to-action. For a more thorough explanation of how to write a winning cover letter, check out this article.
Write the perfect resume. More on this below.
Constructing Your First Post-College Resume
Whatever you’re doing after college, no matter what sort of job you’re applying for, the first step is always to double (and then triple) check your resume.
The resume is the first — and often last — thing that a hiring manager or recruiter is going to see about you, and it is absolutely necessary that your resume be constructed as perfectly as possible.
It has to cast you in the best possible light, and in addition to being catered to your particular industry, it should — at least in some way — be catered to the specific job listing that you are actively applying to.
Here are a few big tips for constructing your first big post-college resume:
Tailor your resume for each application. As stated above, the resume should be catered to more than just your industry — it should change based on the job listing itself that you’re applying to.
Get in the habit early on of making small changes to your basic resume so that it is more attractive and relevant to the job listing you’re looking at, including things like changing keywords, rewording work experiences, changing orders, and even adding or removing entire sections.
On a similar note, have at least 2-3 target job listings in mind when creating your resume. It will help you make it specific early on, not to mention giving you something concrete to do with your resume as soon as you finish it, which should help you get started on your job hunt as soon as possible.
Use resources on your campus. If you’re still in college or in touch with your college, try to meet with your school’s Career Resources department. Almost every school has this department — or something like it — full of career professionals who can give you personalized resume advice based on your particular needs.
Beef up your academic accomplishments. You probably don’t have much professional experience, but you can strategically highlight academic experiences to make yourself an attractive candidate. Talk up the research you did, the group projects you completed, and any other passion projects that showcase relevant skills.
Definitely include any internship experience in your work history section. Also, consider including relevant extra-curricular activities. Participation in some clubs and activities can look very good for certain job titles.
Read the job description carefully. Highlight action verbs in one color and adjectives in another. Then, look for ways to adapt and customize your resume to honestly incorporate those same keywords.
Get a second opinion. Lastly, have a few people you know look over your resume — people whose opinion you trust, like professors or parents. Then start sending your resume out like crazy.
If you want to get hired, you need to treat the job hunt as a full-time job in and of itself. Otherwise, you just aren’t going to be putting in the right number of hours.
Above all, you should remember that you are rarely alone in your fight to find a job.
Talk to your old professors, and talk to your school. The college that you attended is invested in your success — after all, the better you do after graduating, the better they look.
While the actual problem of job-hunting and interviewing remains on your shoulders alone, college resources are often overlooked by people out on the prowl for their first major position.
Don’t let yourself be one of those people. Know when — and how — to ask for help when you need it. And if your parents or other guardian figures are around to help you, ask them too.
Even if their experience doesn’t seem relevant, they’ve been around the block longer than you have — they just might know something you don’t.
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