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Finding your first job after college can be a daunting task. Many college grads are astounded by the minimum 3 to 5 years’ experience expected for most positions, while others find that an entry-level salary in their field won’t pay the bills. Both groups hit obstacles when long lists of job requirements aren’t met by their minimal on-the-job experiences. It’s hard to land your first job.
The best chance you have at landing a job in your industry once you've graduated is to plan and launch a job search campaign. It's much easier to find a job when you know what you're looking for.Tweet This
Your job search as a college grad should start long before you graduate, but if you’ve not done any first job prep yet, then it’s time to start. You can’t go back in time but there’s plenty you can do now.
If you are still in college (even if you are a Senior) there are still many things you can do to improve your chances of getting a job when you graduate. In some instances, you might even have a job offer before you graduate.
Job Search Checklist
Current unemployment rates for college grads can run as high as 13% for some majors and as low as 5% for others. Even on the high end, that still means that 87% of college grads have found a job. The question is, have they found a job in their industry/major? Possibly not.
The best chance you have at landing a job in your industry once you’ve graduated is to plan and launch a job search campaign. It’s much easier to find a job when you know what you’re looking for.
Create or Update Your Resume
If you already have a resume, great, just update it. If you don’t have a resume yet, you will (obviously) need to create one. There are lots of styles and formats and much depends on any experience you already have (like internships). Experience is important, but your first resume should focus on your college career as well.
Knowing how to market yourself to each potential employer is just as important as ensuring your skills and qualifications are included on your resume. But it’s hard to create a beefy resume without any practical job experience.
Senior students and recent grads can visit their school or alma mater’s career center for free resume help. College career centers regularly help students with little-to-no related job experience create impressive, job-winning resumes.
If you are a Junior or Senior, it’s not too late to do a summer internship (which will add tremendous value to your resume). As a Senior, unless you already have a job offer lined up, you can do an internship the summer following their graduation.
Where Do You Want to Work?
You need to know where you want to work- country, city, state, etc. You probably already have an idea where you want to work and it probably based on where you went to school, where you grew up or where a significant other might be located. So you will need to research a few things before finding your first job.
If you already know where you want to work, do some research on the companies that are located there and start to get some data on job locations, salaries, etc. If, on the other hand, you do not know where you would like to work, do some research on the best cities to work in for your industry/job function.
Who do You Want to Work For?
It helps to know which companies you want to work for. Depending on your profession, this may be someone easy (such as public accounting). Or, you may have a few “favorites” based on information from friends or relatives.
Whether or not you have picked your companies, you will need to research to answer questions like: “Are these good companies?”, “Do they pay competitively?”, “Are they profitable or in danger of going bankrupt?”, “Do they have jobs in my industry/functional role?”.
You should create a list of companies where you would like to work based on your knowledge of their corporate culture, products you admire or a good fit with your career choice.
Many job seekers fail to leverage company career sites. Many larger companies also have a career site dedicated to college grads. Large companies have more entry-level positions to fill and are more likely to offer benefits, which can help supplement lower wages.
Businesses and corporations intentionally recruit fresh blood and plan extensive training as part of the job. These companies invest a lot in new employees because their workers tend to stick around to move into higher positions within the company.
Now’s the time to leverage all of those social network skills you have to help you find a job. Who do you know that is working for a company where you want to work? How do you get the word out that you are looking for a job? Where can recruiters and hiring managers find you?
These are all important questions and the answer is – your social networks. Sounds easy on the surface (and it really is), you just need to spend a little time “working” your networks.
Networking for job search is under-rated. For some of us (like me) there is nothing I like less than “bothering” a former co-worker, friend, relative or business associate to let them know that I am looking for a job. There are, of course, many people who don’t have a problem with this.
There are a number of ways you can leverage your network using some basic Networking concepts and methods.
You don’t have to have a Network of hundred’s of people to have any hope of finding a job (take a look at LinkedIn these days). While the larger your Network the better your chances, it is really the quality of your Network that will improve your job search prospects.
Don’t make excuses, create your network list and start putting it to work. Who to include on your network list:
- Former co-workers from internships and part-time jobs
- Teachers / Professors
- Friends of friends
You’ve got your list, but what about the best practice for Networking? There are plenty of ideas out there, and most of them are good (and some of them are a bit wacky).
It’s never too soon to prepare for interviews and the questions you are likely to get asked will be somewhat different from the questions asked experienced hires. Equally as important is having a good list of questions that you should ask.
Lack of questions is generally interpreted as a lack of interest (or failure to research the company). But interview questions are not the only thing you should research. You should research the company as well and be prepared to answer questions like – “Why do you want to work at xyz company?”. Once you’ve secured an interview, you should also do some research on the interviewers (LinkedIn is a great source).
Having an awesome elevator pitch is so important. You never know who you may run into (and it doesn’t have to be in an elevator). Separate and apart from having an elevator pitch (just in case), the exercise helps you refine your thought process in terms of what you want to do. This can help you as a lead-in during an interview process as well.
College Career Office
College grads tend to underestimate the importance and value of college career offices. Besides the fact that they are staffed with individuals who have experience in helping college grads find their first job, many employers will leverage college career offices as a lead to grads looking for jobs. While every college is different, the vast majority have a college career office in some form or fashion.
While taking an internship after graduation should generally be a “last choice”, internships are not only for college students and they can provide an important hands-on experience that will help you land your “paying” job. There are many choices and opportunities and an internship should certainly be a consideration if you have no luck in finding a job.
One advantage recent grads have upon entering the job market is that most summer internships are designed to help them gain practical experience in their field of study. A major disadvantage is that many internships don’t pay much or at all, and the ones that do can be highly competitive. Accepting a full-time internship after graduation is a consideration (if you don’t land a paying job).
Students who were awarded financial aid during college may be able to plan ahead prior to graduation to receive extra loan or grant money to help cover living expenses as they graduate and pursue an internship. Scholarships intended to help interns cover living expenses are available as well.
Working in Other Fields
Sometimes you need to take a detour from your original route. Roadblocks and missing roads may keep you from your selected career but think of it as a short-term change of plans. Eventually, you will get back on track.