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Landing Your First Job: Essential Tips and Tricks for New Grads

Job interview with young candidate

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 10:00am

There are a number of challenges involved in earning a degree, from determining a major to applying for financial aid, enrolling in class and taking tests. Just matriculating toward graduation is challenging enough. There’s one more thing outside of the classroom that many college students and recent graduates experience stress or anxiety over: the idea of applying for their first jobs in their respective industries.

Do you find yourself in that position? You might worry, for example, that the job market will be too competitive for you to land a decent position in your field. Or perhaps you have some serious anxiety over job interviews. No matter what you may be feeling, it's important to realize that nearly all college graduates face similar struggles. However, it's also true that many of the most successful professionals in your industry today started out where you are right now.

One of the best ways to overcome stress about finding a job after college is to prepare yourself as much as possible. When you have a better idea of what to expect (and what it will take to increase your chances of “wowing” a potential employer), you'll be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.

4 Job-Hunting Tips for Current College Students

Looking to improve your chances of landing a job you love after you graduate? Don't delay; there's no reason not to begin your job search while you're still in school.

1. Take Advantage of Your Resources: 

There are so many great resources available to you that can help you find a job as you near graduation—or even after you finish school—so be sure to take full advantage. For one, visit your school's campus career center. Many schools offer these as a free resource to current students and recent graduates who are looking for work. At these centers, you may be able to get help with:

  • Searching for jobs in your field
  • Filling out job applications
  • Creating and updating your resume
  • Practicing for job interviews

In addition to campus career centers, you may also want to join a professional organization within your industry as these can be an excellent networking resource. Depending on your industry, you might also benefit from visiting a staffing agency, which may be able to place you in an entry-level position after you graduate.

2. Join Clubs Related to Your Major

No matter what your major may be, you can likely find related and career-relevant clubs or organizations on your university's campus. Joining one of these clubs can be a great opportunity for you to meet others who share the same interest in your field. Events held by these clubs and organizations can also present some excellent chances to network with professionals in your industry. And of course, these networking connections could turn into legitimate job opportunities come graduation!

3. Apply for Internships

Whether paid or unpaid, taking an internship while you're still in school is a great way to beef up your resume and get some real-world experience in your field. In some cases, your paid/unpaid internship with one company could turn into a full-time job offer once you graduate.

There are plenty of ways to find internships in your field, ranging from attending career fairs to searching for open positions online. 

4. Prepare for Interviews Extensively

Feeling nervous about the idea of interviewing for a job in your field? The best way to relieve those nerves is to make sure you're prepared. Leading up to a job interview, be sure to thoroughly research the company for which you are interviewing. By demonstrating that you know a lot about the company in your interview, you'll prove that you're invested and genuinely interested in the job.

Likewise, it's a good idea to prepare to answer some common interview questions ahead of time. Some examples of the most common questions asked in job interviews include:

  • "What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?"
  • "Where do you see yourself in X years?"
  • "Why should we hire you?"

Again, if your school offers a career services center, it may be worth seeing if they can set up a "mock" interview for you. This can help you get some valuable interview practice in while also building your confidence leading up to a real interview.

How to Get a Job After College: Getting Your Foot in the Door

Whether in school or with a degree in-hand, there are some additional steps you can take to set yourself apart from other job candidates when it comes time to apply for positions.

1. Custom-Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter(s)

Your resume is a powerful tool for communicating your relevant potential to prospective employers. Be sure to focus a lot of your attention on this important document. For the best results, you should actually be custom-tailoring your resume to every single job for which you apply. The same goes for your cover letter, which should be submitted with your job application regardless of whether one is formally required or not.

Not sure where to begin with your resume? This is another situation where consulting with your school’s career center for guidance can be advantageous.

2. Optimize Your Online Presence

Now is also a good time to focus on your online presence. After all, according to a Career Builder survey, 70% of employers now research potential job candidates online as part of the screening process.

In addition to beefing up your privacy settings on social media websites like Facebook, you may also want to create (or update) a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a social media platform specifically designed for professionals—and it can be a great networking tool for any industry. Take some time to complete your profile and connect with others in your field. You never know when an opportunity may arise!

If you don't already have a professional website, you may want to consider creating one. On it, be sure to include a digital copy of your resume. You might also want to start your own industry blog as a means of boosting your own credibility. Think of it this way: Creating a basic website is quite easy but can really help you stand out from another job candidate.

3. Reach Out to Alumni Connections

More than likely, your school will have an alumni network that can be useful for locating job opportunities in your field—so don't hesitate to reach out. Typically, you can obtain a list of alumni contact information directly from your school's alumni office.

The key is to make sure you're using your alumni connections the right way. Consider, for example, writing an email to relevant alumni in your field. Use it to:

  • Introduce yourself—tell them who you are and what your major is
  • Reassures them—explain how you obtained their contact information
  • Ask for their expertise—grab some coffee, learn about the industry and get their advice 

4. Be Proactive and Follow Up

If you interview for a position and don't hear back within a week or so, don't hesitate to follow-up with your point of contact. A simple e-mail thanking the contact for their time and requesting a decision timeline can go a long way. In fact, one recent study found that 100% of employers expect job applicants to follow up after applying for a job. Of these respondents, 43% of employers thought that applicants should follow up within one to two weeks.

What if You Don't Have a Job Lined Up Before You Graduate?

First, a little reassurance is in order. Odds are very good you’ll be OK. As a college graduate, you’re in good shape for the job market—that’s actually a fact. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for college graduates aged 25 and older with a bachelor's degree was just 4.7% in 2020. For comparison, the unemployment rate for those without a college degree was significantly higher at 7.4%.

With this in mind, your chances of finding a job after graduating from college are quite high despite comparatively higher unemployment rates due to the coronavirus pandemic. If anything, having a college degree is actually more of a competitive advantage than ever before as it helps set you apart from other job applicants.

Perhaps part of the reason so many college graduates stress about landing a job, however, is that they have unrealistic expectations to find their "dream jobs" right out of college. In reality, most graduates will hold a series of positions in their fields (including entry-level jobs) over the course of many years before they reach that point. 

By being realistic about your qualifications and experience after you graduate, you can find jobs in your field that are suited for you.

The Final Word on Your Post-Graduation Job Search

There's a lot to keep in mind when it comes to preparing for your job search after you finish school. Remember, though, that it's never too early to get started in crafting a resume, practicing for interviews, and researching the job opportunities that are out there.

At University of the Cumberlands, we take a lot of pride in offering our students the resources and support they need to prepare for success in the real world. If you are interested in learning more about our undergraduate or graduate degrees offered, contact an admissions counselor or request more information today.

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