How to Find a Job as a Recent College Graduate
- Many recent graduates lack work experience and are unsure how to find a job after college.
- To help you land a job, regularly tailor your resume and network with industry professionals.
- Acing interviews means dressing up, doing mock interviews, and knowing what to ask.
For college students and recent graduates, the end of the school year often signals the beginning of something new. If you're a college graduate getting ready to hunt for jobs, this shift can be anxiety-inducing. You've likely never held a full-time position before and may be unfamiliar with the best ways to approach the job search process and put yourself out there.
But with the right tools and tricks, you'll be able to land a job quickly and efficiently. In this guide, we introduce our top five tips for finding and securing jobs for recent college graduates.
How to Find a Job After College: 5 Essential Tips
1. Create a Job Application Tracking System
A job application tracking system can help you keep track of which positions you've applied for, when you applied, whether you received a positive or negative response, and how far in the hiring process you made it (e.g., to the second interview round).
While this process can take a bit of effort, it'll keep you from accidentally applying for the same positions and provide you with concrete data to inform your next steps.
Use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to organize and track things like job titles, job post links, company/organization names and locations, and hiring managers' contact information. I also recommend copying and pasting the text from the job posting since the job description may no longer be accessible online when you need to prepare for an interview.
2. Tweak and Tailor Your Resume
Use your application tracking system to help you determine where things aren't working. If no one's biting at your resume, consider using a new format and having others review it for you. Be intentional about tailoring your resume to a job posting, and make sure to highlight the specific skills and experience the post is seeking.
If your resume needs a major overhaul, or if you simply want to polish it for maximum effect, get input from your campus career center or through any career services offered by your college's alumni association.
Be intentional about tailoring your resume to a job posting, and make sure to highlight the specific skills and experience the post is seeking.
Alternatively, you could hire a professional to walk you through the resume-writing process. Just make sure this person has verifiable credentials (e.g., global career development facilitator certification). It's a good idea to also look for testimonials and references.
Finally, consider whether your resume is making it past the computer algorithms some companies use to filter resumes. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) scan your resume and often reduce candidates to keywords and matches with job postings.
As a result, it's important that you ensure your resume matches the job posting almost word for word. This is now becoming true for most jobs with electronic gatekeepers. Some companies like Jobscan exist to help applicants beat the system. Regardless of your approach, you should be aware of ATS and how these systems can impact your chances of getting an interview.
3. Prepare to Ace the Interview
If your resume is getting you lots of interviews but no job offers, it's time to focus on how you're performing in person. The best way to gauge your interview skills is to participate in mock interviews with someone, like a mentor, who can offer constructive criticism on your answers to typical questions.
You could also film yourself responding to common interview questions and look for what the interviewer will see. Watch for things like body language, general appearance, clarity of responses, diversity of examples, and how well you connect your experiences to the company you're applying to work for.
Below are some tips to help you ace your job interviews:
- Dress for Success: We all make snap judgments based on appearance, and this is especially true for interviews. Find an outfit that's professional but still expresses your identity. Wear clothes that make you feel confident (even for phone interviews), and try power poses before the interview to give your confidence a boost. You should also practice your handshake — a lot of information is conveyed through this simple gesture.
- Do Your Research: Spend time exploring the company's website to learn more about its mission and vision. You can also use sites like Glassdoor to see company reviews and read relevant trade journals to get a better sense of industry trends.
- Ask Pertinent Questions: One common mistake many recent college graduates make is to not ask any questions at the end of an interview. Asking questions not only demonstrates your interest in the company or organization, but also helps you determine whether the position is a good fit for you. Here are some sample questions to ask a job interviewer.
- Hone Your Interview Skills: Because interviews can include multiple phases, it's smart to review how you perform during phone interviews, in-person first interviews (typically when the company learns about you), and in-person second interviews (typically when you learn about the company). Other interview formats include interviews in which you're presenting original material, writing a response to a prompt, working through a case, teaching a mock lesson, speaking with a panel, and meeting for lunch.
- Research Average Salaries: Take time to understand when and how to negotiate salary and benefits. Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com are useful resources for getting a general sense of what kind of salary to ask for. Just because you need the position doesn't mean you should accept something that'll jeopardize your ability to feed yourself or repay your student loan debt.
4. Network With Industry Professionals
Whether you like it or not, networking is key in today's job market. Experts estimate that around 85% of jobs are secured through networking. Networking isn't as easy as clicking a button to apply, and the gains may take longer to come to fruition, but personal connections are still more meaningful than a faceless resume lying among hundreds of other applications.
If you continue to have trouble getting a job or even an interview, look to the people around you for connections and advice. Conducting informational interviews with professionals in your field can help you network, explore potential career paths, get advice on writing effective cover letters and resumes, and learn more about potential job leads. LinkedIn is a handy resource for reaching out to professionals, forging industry connections, and identifying potential mentors.
Consider, too, sharing your goals with a mentor who can hold you accountable. Studies on goal-setting show that you're most likely to achieve goals that are written down, that are shared with someone, and that are subject to accountability.
5. Reassess and Rework Your Approach as Needed
If, after some time, you're still struggling to find a job, rethink your strategies. Establish a routine for yourself as you would for any other activity; job hunting is a full-time endeavor, after all. Budget time each day for searching for job postings, tailoring your cover letter and resume, and submitting applications.
Remember to be realistic about the process and don't rely on shortcuts — applying to 30 jobs a day without tweaking your resume or reassessing your approach is much less likely to get you interviews than sending out five quality applications.
Job hunting is a full-time endeavor. Budget time each day for searching for job postings, tailoring your cover letter and resume, and submitting applications.
Regularly rework your materials and techniques. If your resume isn't gaining traction, you might need to scrap it and start over. Ask friends and family to read your cover letter and offer feedback. If you're struggling with interviews, record yourself giving a short pitch about who you are and what you're looking for. You can also reach out to your college's or alumni association's career services for support and resources.
Most importantly, make sure you're taking care of yourself during this tricky time. Burnout from the job hunt can lead to cynicism and anxiety, which can manifest during interviews or conversations with professionals. Remember that plenty of college grads have trouble securing jobs, despite being qualified.
The skills that make you great in your field might not be the same as those needed to persuade employers to hire you. Use this time to master the craft of presenting yourself as a serious, committed professional.
Additional Resources for Finding Jobs After College
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