Securing that first job after college can seem like a daunting prospect for many seniors and recent graduates. And, as today’s graduates attempt to enter the workforce, many of them are realizing that it’s not quite the same as when their parents, professors and advisors first applied for jobs 20 or more years ago.
However, you can take charge of the process by following a few simple tips and strategies to land a job that will help get your career off to a positive start.
1) Check with the Career Center
2) Network, Network, Network
3) Get on LinkedIn
4) Join a Professional Group
5) Arrange a Job Shadow
6) Have an Elevator Pitch Ready
7) Target Your Resume
8) Line Up an Internship
9) Keep Your Life in Balance
Begin by tapping the resources that are available to you as a student or recent graduate from your college. Visit the career office and meet with a career advisor to discuss your options. You can also pursue career counseling if you’re unsure of your goals. Advisors can help you develop resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews, and formulate a job search plan suited to your interests.
Networking can be one of the most effective ways to land a job. The best approach is often an indirect one, such as reaching out to alumni and other contacts for information and advice (rather than directly asking people to hire you). Touch base with past employers, coaches, faculty, clergy, and others who have observed you in any productive capacity. Ask if they have any contacts in fields of interest who you could contact for information and advice. As a college student, your are in a perfect position to ask for input and help about what people like and dislike about their profession, their organization and their industry. And with that inquiry, you may indirectly find a lead to your first post-graduation job.
LinkedIn is the leading social media platform for professional roles across a variety of fields. Not only is LinkedIn a great place to build a network, but it also serves as another way to showcase what you have to offer, build your personal brand, search and apply for jobs, and connect with recruiters and potential employers. You can also join any LinkedIn groups for your college and reach out to alumni in fields of interest.
Professional groups allow people with similar interests to explore commonalities, continue their education, and explore career advancement. Join a professional group related to your field or industry as a student member if you’re still in college or as a professional member after you graduate. Many colleges have chapters of national associations, and if there’s not one for the one you want to join, you may be able to start one. Volunteer to help run the registration table, and you will meet lots of potentially helpful people. You may even find a mentor.
After you have a positive networking meeting with someone, consider asking to arrange a job shadow day as a follow-up. It will help you get an insider’s view of what it would be like to work that job and also give you an idea of whether you’d like to work at that specific company. You’ll also likely meet lots of people, ask questions, and have the chance to make some positive impressions and connections.
An elevator pitch is a short presentation (often lasting from 30 seconds to 3 minutes in length) which summarizes your “value-added.” Take stock of your strongest interests and skills and be prepared to tell people who you meet some interesting things about yourself in order to grab their attention. Think of it as a 30-second commercial.
As your career goals begin to show, develop versions of your resume that are targeted to specific jobs. Showcase the skills, experiences, coursework, and projects most related to your emerging job objectives. Get feedback and advice from advisors and mentors, and always carefully proofread your documents. Be ready to share electronic versions of your resume (via PDF and email).
Do as many internships as possible during your college years. If you find that you’re underqualified for your target job at graduation, then explore the possibility of doing an internship for the summer or fall after graduation (some people label these short-term learning opportunities ‘externships’). If cash flow is an issue, pair a part-time internship with a basic paying job.
Finally, endeavor to retain some balance in your life while you are in job search mode. Exercise, follow a healthy diet, get enough sleep and continue to pursue your outside interests in order to keep your energy level up and maintain a positive state of mind. You never know when an opportunity may arise. You want to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to have important conversations at nearly any time of the day or week as you advance your job search.
Finding that perfect first job may take some time, but making a good match will be worth your preparation and patience.
(written by: Whitney)