You're about to graduate, and you're looking forward to getting your first job after college. The next step: preparing yourself to be a highly qualified candidate that recruiters can’t overlook.
You search through hundreds of open positions hoping to find companies hiring recent graduates. But all of the entry-level listings you're finding require 2-3 years of experience!
How do you tackle this conundrum? How do you let organizations know that you have the skills the job requires? Below are my seven tips to help college juniors and seniors land that first job.
1. Internships and work studies make a difference
Internships and work studies help you with getting your first job after college by giving you real-world experience. I suggest having at least two internships or work studies under your belt by the time you graduate. Some companies offer internships to recent graduates, as well.
Don't be afraid to take an internship that may not be exactly in your focus, either. Any opportunity to spend time inside an organization will teach you valuable skills that can translate into your preferred field. This includes customer service and other soft skills, organization methods, or specific applications like Excel and QuickBooks.
2. Don't wait to DIY
Take advantage of your time in school to work on getting your first job after college. Once you get into the workforce, it's much harder to learn new skills after coming home from your 9 to 5! Instead of waiting to get a job to learn the skills you'll need to grow your career, go out and do it yourself (DIY).
If, for example, you're interested in growth hacking, experiment with your own Instagram handle. Or, if your dream is to be a journalist, start your own blog and post consistently to showcase your writing skills. Share your work on an online publication like Medium.
Even though there's no job title attached, it still counts as experience. Imagine a company hiring recent graduates reads your work and contacts you for an interview. Then, while sitting in your interview and showing your future employer your most recent articles, you explain how you increased your follower count from 100 to 10,000 in one week! Companies hiring recent graduates will be impressed with your initiative and set you apart from other candidates.
3. Maintain relationships with professors
It's so easy to walk out of the classroom and forget all about the value of your college professor. So, when you find a teacher you really like, don't just let them disappear! Professors are happy to help students who reach out after class, whether it's getting your first job after college, finding a job in your field or just looking over your resume with you. They are a great resource for advice on what skills to learn, where to find the good jobs right out of college, and how to network with their connections.
4. Start networking now
Does networking terrify you? It only gets easier with experience! Start before graduation and meet local people in your industry hiring new graduates. Ask them questions about their journey to where they are now and how they got started. Don't be afraid to tell them about yourself and your goals.
Invest in some basic business cards with your name and an email that's not connected to your university, and trade them for their information. Go home and connect with them on LinkedIn, thank them for their time, and ask them follow-up questions.
Start building your relationships early and, by the time you graduate, you'll be able to reach out to these people to see if there are any related job openings at their organization. You'll gain a personal connection that will be willing to help you out.
5. Apply anyways but be cautious
So, maybe you don't have the years of experience they need. Put in your application anyway! With my other 4 suggestions and any experience from school projects, there is no reason to assume you're not right for the job.
Make sure your resume is tailored to each position:
- Is it a customer-facing role? Be sure to highlight your customer service experience.
- Is it for a non-profit? Be sure to add in your philanthropic work.
BUT, beware of the "all in one" job listing; the company hiring an Office Coordinator, Bookkeeper, Social Media Manager, and Event Planner, all rolled up into one. Most jobs require you to wear multiple hats but within reason.
On one hand, these positions do offer a variety of experience. This will help build your resume quickly in preparation for your second job at a better company. On the other hand, it comes across as a red flag that the organization is hiring new graduates because they are understaffed, not willing to pay for necessary positions, and unorganized.
6. Find a mentor
A mentor can be your professor, someone you meet at a networking event, or even someone you’re following on social media but have never met in-person. Find people who share your belief system and work with companies hiring recent graduates, who are already doing what you want to do, and who are comfortable talking about their struggles and failures.
Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help, yet be respectful of their time! More than likely, people are happy to offer some guidance. I respond to every LinkedIn message asking for advice from soon-to-be or recent graduates because if I were the one sending the message, I would have wanted a response!
7. Follow your inspiration
If you have a general idea of the industry you want to work in, do some research. Make a list of the companies and brands that align with your interests and values, where you would LOVE to work one day.
Follow them on social media and keep up with their changes, publications, and growth. Not only will you catch that dream job opening one day, but keeping up with your industry leaders is a great way to show your future employer that you’re invested and going above and beyond to continue your education independently.
There you have it
Seven tips for getting that first job after college while getting past the “entry-level with years of experience” catch-22. All will better prepare you for the working world and will help you develop skills to stand out from the competition.
Remember, experience comes in many forms! Getting your first job after college is tiring, so don’t give up and never sell yourself short.