Ask most college students why they plan to attend college or university, and at the top of their list you would no doubt see, ‘To find a good job!’
But landing that first position after graduation isn’t always fast or easy. It takes time, commitment, tenacity, introspection, and drive.
The following five tips will help new graduates make the most of their job search, whatever their circumstances.
1.) Invest wisely
Take the time to represent yourself professionally. This means creating a top-notch resume and letters of introduction. Seek online or professional help if needed; the value of a good first impression cannot be overstated. Buy appropriate interview apparel, and put together a portfolio of work samples and letters of recommendation. Not sure what to expect in an interview, or how to behave? There are lots of online resources to help you prepare and show you how to maximize your interview time with a potential employer … And you can start your research here.
The kind of job and company you’d like to work for, and which company, in particular, would be a good fit for your skills. Not sure because you’ve never held a ‘real’ job? Research, talk to recent graduates who have landed jobs and consider a temp position to discover what appeals to you. Think about what you enjoy doing and how you can honor your major professionally. Worry less about what is attractive, practical, and best-paying, if those trends are not in keeping with your interests and skills. A ceramics major, for instance, is probably not going to be fulfilled in an accounting agency but may find better opportunities in a museum, gallery, or at a private school. Be flexible as well. A Creative Writing graduate could happily find herself making $250,00 a year editing, copywriting, and managing a high-powered blog, rather than co-editing a smaller journal. The perfect job right out of the gate is rare, but if you learn more about your interests toward achieving a future goal, it’s worth considering. Every success story has lots of chapters and plot twists.
Who do you know that’s employed in a field or office similar to what you’d like to pursue? Who do your friends and family know? Make a list of contacts you can reach out to, and, even if you have an informal relationship, make sure your communications are professional and polite. Ever held an internship? Follow up with your colleagues there. Have an alumni/career department at your Alma Mater? Introduce yourself, and use their resources to begin your job search well before graduation. Everyone you meet or have met is a possible connection. You can also utilize social media to find positions, colleagues or acquaintances, and let your contacts know that you’re job hunting. Make sure your social media profiles are cleaned up and mature to present your best foot forward, should a potential employer’s search match your profile. If your profile photo is a selfie of you holding a beer while sticking your tongue out, well … you get the picture. Your first job might be pulling beers at the local bar, which is not bad, but it might not be what you went to school for either.
4.) Know your achievements
Yes, you may have just collected your diploma, but you already have a record of success, in addition to your degree, and you should take a moment to acknowledge them. Sit down with a notepad and pen, and make an inventory of every skill you possess, and then ask yourself how they may help you land a job. Food for thought: Have you ever held a leadership position, earned any academic, athletic, artistic, or service honors or awards; held internships or summer jobs, held jobs during college or high school, or helped to finance any part of your education? As well, travel experience, an unusual course of study or unique apprenticeship, volunteer stint, and heroic action either privately or publicly acknowledged are all worth noting. For instance, did you work as a lifeguard during high school? Pull someone from a riptide, rescue a puppy from being devoured by a Bull Mastiff? These are the kinds of details about your life that speak to your character, ethics, sense of responsibility, and other abilities that go far beyond spreadsheets.
5.) Follow up professionally
With everyone who has helped or offered to help you. If you are granted an interview write an immediate (grammatically correct) email message of thanks (one per individual who took the time to meet you), and make it brief but filled with the promise they might wish to hire. That aside, also thank and gently remind those folks who promised to network on your behalf, that you are looking forward to future meetings and express your gratitude for the opportunity. Following up very is different from nagging. Be professional, courteous, and understand that finding a job may be your top priority, but it’s cannot anyone else’s.
Good luck, and consider finding your first job … your first real job.