The Yellow Brick Road to Your First Job

What you think graduating will feel like vs. reality

Graduating from college can be a daunting task, especially once the graduation ceremony ends. All of a sudden you have to be an adult and make adult decisions, and everyone expects you to know what you’re doing. For most everyone, their next step in life is finding their first full-time job. But how does one do that? If only it was as simple as clicking your heels together 3 times and magically landing your first job, but instead it’s often a long journey down a winding yellow brick road.

Emerald City/New York City

Last year I graduated from college and felt like I had no direction in landing my first job. On top of that, I had decided that my Emerald City was going to be New York City. With no job leads, I began at square one; here’s what I learned.

My Yellow Brick Road

1. I moved to the place I was seeking to land a job.

After college, I applied to a few jobs out of state and never heard back from anyone. As I spoke with more people, I discovered that this wasn’t unusual — companies like to hire people that are convenient…and talented. I knew that if I was going to seem like a realistic candidate, I needed to put myself where they could see me. Soon after I figured this out, I was on a red-eye flight to the Big Apple.

2. I did my homework.

As soon as I knew I was going to New York I began learning everything I could about my industry and how it operated there. A large part of finding my job was in the work I did before I even started sending my resumes out. I made a spreadsheet, and I wrote down the name of any companies that caught my eye — their website info, location, available positions, and the name and contact info of any known connection I had at the company.

In addition to learning about each company, I updated and branded myself. After several drafts, I had a resume that I was proud of, one that was relevant and stood out from others. I had a personal website made to display my work and even made a video that gave any HR person a quick look into who I was. Having these things up-to-date will open doors to opportunity, just like a pair of red, sparkly slippers.

3. I networked like crazy.

Along the journey of the yellow brick road you’ll need to make some friends. Having a strong network can be key in finding your next job. Make a list of people you know who work in your industry, and start reaching out to them. I usually reached out to individuals with a simple email asking for a half hour of their time to discuss networking opportunities, talk about their company and their experiences in the industry.

Some of these meetings happened over lunch, or ice cream, some meetings took place in their office, most ended with an office tour. Every meeting ended with me asking for the names of 3 more individuals they could connect me with. People are more than happy to write a short introduction email to someone they know and connect you with someone new. It’s one of the simplest things they can do for you.

People are busy and time is money. I always followed up every meeting with a thank you email and a reminder of what they said they could help me with. As you reach out to your connections your network is going to grow exponentially. The more people you know, the more likely you are to be connected to someone who is looking for a person just like you.

Along with networking with people in your line of work, talk to everyone else about your job search. The more people you talk about it with, the more opportunities you’ll find where someone knows someone else, and they can connect you. Talk to everyone, and never be afraid to ask for an introduction.

4. I applied to every job I found.

Not only was I networking like crazy, but I was also scouring the internet for job listings with any free time I had. There were 3 main ways I did this.

  • Linkedin: Companies are on Linkedin, and sometimes they’ll have a careers page or job listing section. I found that these were usually more up-to-date than listings on their actual websites, and often you can apply straight through Linkedin.
  • Company websites: Although not every company hosts their job-openings on their website, there are still a large percentage that does. Although these postings are not always up-to-date, it’s great to see what sort of individual they are looking to hire.
  • Job-listing sites: These sites can sometimes be daunting, but take heart. They are great because you can do a number of things on them. You can choose location, salary, field, years of work experience, job-title, etc. This helps to be able to sort through the thousands of jobs listed on the sites. Trying different combinations of categories will yield different results and expose you to more options.

5. I hustled my butt off.

Once you finally land an interview, it’s time now to show off what you’ve got. Previously in my life, I used to walk into interviews with little to no preparation and hope for the best. But in reality, you should be putting in a lot of prep time leading up to your interview. Here are 4 things I did to ensure I was ready for my interviews:

  • Google interview questions for your specific job, and answer each of them. I had stacks of notecards with interview questions on one side and responses on the back. I would flip through them as I ate breakfast, or instead of watching Netflix I would go through my deck.
  • Roleplay. There’s not much I hate more than roleplaying, but I found this essential in helping me improve my speaking skills. I’d ask friends and family members to hold mock interviews with me. This let me practice my responses in real situations and gave me an opportunity to hear from others what was working, and what answers needed improvement.
  • Internet stalk the heck out of the person who is conducting the interview. Know who you’re going up against, and get a feel for their personality. Put those stalking skills to the test! They’re doing the same thing to you.
  • And lastly, learn everything there is to know about the company you’re interviewing with. Did they just reorganize their leadership? Did they recently lose an account? Maybe they just got an award for their work. The company wants someone who is going to do good work for them and invest in them, so put in the time to learn about your potential employer.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about finding a job, it’s that it takes a lot of work. You have to be diligent, creative and different. In summary, remember these 5 steps to get you on your way to your Emerald City.

  1. Move to the place you’re seeking a job.
  2. Do your homework.
  3. Network like crazy.
  4. Apply to every job.
  5. Hustle your butt off.

You’ll find that as you take initiative and step outside your comfort zone that you will grow and learn lessons that will prove invaluable throughout your entire career. So close all the Netflix tabs on your computer and land that job you’ve been dreaming about!