Fifteen Job Searching Tips for Recent College Graduates
I remember when I graduated from college in May of 2003. I was thrilled to finally be done with school and proud of myself for earning my degree. I was also scared sh*tless about getting that first job. What I know now, I wish I knew then. The only thing I can do is provide advice based on my experience to prevent another from repeating my mistakes.
- Create a professional email if you do not have one already: Using firstname.lastname@example.org as your email address is going to get you nowhere fast. My best recommendation is to use a variation of your name (i.e. email@example.com).
- Don’t discount the importance of soft skills: Most jobs these days require a certain amount of comfort and ease with a slew of different computer programs. That being said, if you are a whiz at excel, but are unable to hold a conversation, you will likely have more interviews than job offers.
- Be patient: It is a process. It can be long, arduous, emotionally difficult, and draining. The position will come. You just have to keep going, as cliche as it sounds. Think of it this way: every application and interview is a lesson to take with you for the future.
- Keep a notebook handy: It was suggested to me a few years to have a notebook in my bag. After the interview, I would sit down, and break down the different aspects of the position and determine if it was a good fit for me. Some of the criteria are location/travel time, salary, your impression of the company/manager, and if you received an offer, would you accept it?
- Listen to your gut: Your instincts are never wrong, even if you don’t always trust them. Before I started at my current company, I had an interview that went exceedingly well. I had (at least for the first round) a great conversation with the manager. The problem was that position was very similar to one that I had years ago. It was painfully short; I was there for about a month before I was let go. When I received the email for the next round, I had to turn it down.
- Temp agencies are your friend: It goes without saying that employment of this nature is short-lived. But that’s the beauty of it. Most agencies (at least the ones that I have signed up for) work with multiple clients in a variety of fields. It is an opportunity to dip your toe into the water and figure out where you might like your career to go. If nothing else, you make some money and gain some experience. Just be aware that every agency has its own policies and procedures.
- Take the opportunity to learn: That first job by itself is a lesson in itself. I remember the first boss I had post-college. Working under him was an experience I will never forget. Even if you are the receptionist, take in everything that you can. You're obviously not going to be in the corner office yet. But with time, patience, and maturity, that office may be yours.
- Be open: Some of us know exactly what we want for our livelihoods. Others don’t. I didn’t and it was perfectly fine. You just need to trust the process, and your gut and understand there will be a few roadblocks/pitfalls along the way. Just take a deep breath and put your best foot forward.
- Don’t overlook career coaching: Sometimes, the best guidance comes from a professional. Obviously, there are different ways to go about finding one. Many schools offer assistance for alumni. There is always the option of finding one on the internet. If you choose this option, I would make sure that you do your homework before making a commitment. For those who live in New York City, the New York Public Library offers a variety of tools and opportunities.
- Volunteering: There are several reasons to volunteer. The first is filling up your time with more than sending out applications (which can get laborious after a while). The second is making connections (and learning a few new skills). The third is possibly making inroads into figuring out your potential occupation. Given the breadth and depth of organizations and niches, there will always be a need for assistance.
- Allow yourself to take breaks: Human beings are not robots. We need to take breaks every now and then. Whether it is a scheduled breather or you decide to step away from the computer for a few minutes, it is up to you. The applications and websites will be there when you get back.
- Network, network, network: It has been said that job hunting is about who you know, not what you know. Your network is bigger than you think it is. It could a family member, a friend, a former professor, etc. Years ago, a relative was able to connect me with a former colleague of hers whose office was hiring. I didn’t take the job, but it was a connection nevertheless. There are multiple ways to network: your university’s alumni association, an industry association event, etc.
- Informational interviews: An informational interview is just what it says. It’s not for a role, it is to get a deeper understanding of a business and its day-to-day operation. The purpose is twofold: to learn about a specific field and to hopefully use this person to network.
- Transferrable skills: Transferrable skills can sometimes make or break your interview. Just because your resume and the ad are not a line-for-line match does not mean that you will automatically receive a no. My first longtime job was running the organization’s front desk. A few years later, that later translated into my first customer service position.
- Social media accounts: I think we can all agree that social media is here to stay. That being said, what we say and do online has the potential to come back and bite us in the proverbial behind. I have heard of some people who have deleted their accounts, but that is up to the individual. My policy is to keep my information behind a privacy wall and limit who has access to it.