Securing that first job after college can be a daunting prospect for many college seniors and recent graduates. However, you can take charge of the process by following a few simple strategies to get your career off to a positive start.
Here are tips for landing your first job after college.
Check With Your Career Center
Begin by tapping the resources that are available to you as a student or recent graduate from your college.
Visit the career office at your school and meet with a career advisor to discuss how you can take advantage of the services and programs that are available.
Career counseling is available if you are unsure of your goals. Advisors can help you to develop resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews and formulate a job search plan suited to your interests.
Colleges also host visits from individual recruiters, hold career fairs on campus, offer recruitment events in key cities and sponsor alumni networking programs.
Undoubtedly you have heard that networking is one of the most effective ways to land a job. Networking may seem difficult to you as a senior or recent graduate. Review these career networking tips for college students before you start.
The best approach is often an indirect one that is, reaching out to contacts for information and advice rather than directly asking people to hire you.
Tap your natural curiosity about their work to learn more about what they do in a typical day, the types of skills required for success and the nature of their interactions with people. Seek advice about the best ways to find a job in their field, and feedback about your resume.
Ask your contacts to brainstorm about positions in their sector which might be suitable given your background.
These informational interviews will give your contacts the opportunity to gain an appreciation for your interpersonal style and your skills. With this knowledge, they will be more inclined to share opportunities or other contacts with you.
Contact as Many People as Possible
Contact as many professionals as you can for informational consultations. Get lists of alumni volunteers from your career office or alumni association, attend networking events and ask alumni with whom you develop a rapport if you can follow up with them in the office setting to gain further insight into their work environment. Join any LinkedIn groups for your college and reach out to alumni in fields of interest.
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.
Join professional groups in your field as a student member if you are still in college. Attend conferences and rub shoulders with seasoned pros who are often eager to help neophytes. Volunteer to help run the registration table, and you will meet lots of potentially helpful people.
Arrange a Job Shadow
When you have a positive networking meeting with someone, try to arrange a job shadow day as a follow-up.
You can suggest that you were intrigued by what she had shared about her role and would like to gain an insider’s view. Ask if it would be possible for you to shadow her for a day. You will be likely to meet lots of people and can make some positive impressions.
Have an Elevator Pitch Ready
Take stock of your strongest interests and skills and be prepared to tell people who you meet some interesting things about yourself to grab their attention. Think of it as a 30-second commercial.
For example, you might say “I am an English major who loves to write. I have organized and promoted lots of concerts and fundraising events for my campus singing group. I also love to follow fashion trends, and helped to coordinate the annual campus fashion show sponsored by my sorority.” Here’s how to create an elevator pitch.
Target Your Resume and Cover Letter
As your career goals begin to crystallize, develop targeted versions of your resume. Showcase the skills, experiences, coursework, and projects most related to your emerging job objectives.
Avoid generic cover letters. Instead, take the time write a targeted cover letter to make a special case for how each job matches your interests and skills. Get feedback and advice from advisors and contacts in order to improve your documents. Always carefully grammar, spell check, and proofread your documents.
Find Companies You Would Like to Work For
Identify other employers of interest which are not affiliated with your college’s career office to expand your options. Visit the employment section of their website and look for college student/graduate opportunities.
Check to see if your college has any alumni working at your target organizations and ask for their advice about accessing jobs at their organization. Your career and alumni offices can help you to identify alumni by organization. You can also utilize the alumni function on LinkedIn to identify some contacts.
Once you’ve found employers you would like to work for, here’s how to get noticed by them.
Organize Your Job Search
Get organized. Keep a database of all your applications and contacts. Schedule 10 hours per week for job searching while you are in school. Increase the time you spend to 20 hours a week during breaks and after graduation. Here are ten good ways to organize your job search.
Line Up an Internship
Do as many internships as possible during your college years. If you find that you are underqualified for your target job at graduation, explore the possibility of doing an internship for the summer or fall after graduation.
Internship sponsors often hire from their past roster of interns, plus you will gain valuable skills and contacts. If cash flow is an issue, pair a part-time internship with a basic paying job.
Keep Balance in Your Life
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.
Finding that perfect first job may take some time, but making a good match will be worth your preparation and patience.