After years of hard work and dedication, arriving at graduation day can feel surreal. By this point, you're probably already tired of well-meaning family members asking you what you'll be doing next. Job hunting can be stressful, but finding a job isn't impossible, especially with a brand-new bachelor's degree under your arm.
This step-by-step guide of job-searching tips will help you prepare for how to find a job after college.
1. Write a powerful resume
Your resume is your first chance to make an impression — but it will likely be among dozens of others a hiring manager will receive. To make sure your resume stands out, start with an eye-catching objective statement.
Here's your chance to summarize what makes you awesome and let potential employers know what you're looking for. (Once you've gotten more experience under your belt, you may decide to use a summary statement at the top of your resume instead. But as a college grad with limited experience, an objective statement will work just fine.)
It might seem intimidating to write a resume with no work experience, but don't underestimate the value of the skills you acquired in school.
Be sure to include software and applications you worked with, such as AutoCAD, Excel, WordPress or SurveyMonkey.
2. Audit your social media accounts
Your social media activity — or lack thereof — can have the power to make or break your career. A 2018 survey of more than 850 hiring professionals found that 77 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to reach potential candidates, while a whopping 63 percent use Facebook. Perform a thorough audit of your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts to make sure you wouldn't mind a hiring manager seeing any of your public posts. When in doubt, go private. You don't want your spring break photos to be the reason you can't find a job after college.
On the other hand, lack of content on your LinkedIn page may render you virtually invisible to recruiters and hiring managers. Be sure to list these items on LinkedIn:
- Job history
- Organizations or teams you belong to
- Volunteer service
- Skills you listed on your resume
Recruiters often run keyword searches on LinkedIn to locate qualified candidates, so the more you list — including your degree, desired position, and any awards, honors, or certifications — the more searchable you become. Also, be sure to fill out your profile completely and include a headshot; recruiters may rule out or overlook anyone without profile pictures or details listed.
3. Optimize your job search
Only apply for jobs that fall within your skill set, experience level, and education. If you have a degree in marketing, but you're applying for positions in engineering, your job search may not end well. However, many jobs don't require a specific degree, and plenty more allow some room for flexibility. For example, a job posting might state that the hiring manager is looking for applicants with a journalism degree. If you have a degree in communications and you're otherwise qualified for the job, go ahead and apply.
Start your job search by applying to jobs that are a perfect match for your interests, skills and experience. After that, widen your search to include jobs related to what you're looking for. For instance, you might start your search by looking for entry-level marketing jobs, but later you expand your parameters to include other communications or public relations roles. By casting a wide net, you may come across jobs that require a similar skill set.
4. Use your network
If you know someone who works for a company where you're applying, reach out to him or her. You don't have to come right out and ask people to put in a good word for you, but you can meet for coffee and ask what it's like to work there. You may learn valuable information that could help you during an interview.
If you have a small network or you don't have many contacts in the professional world, don't despair. Most cities offer plenty of opportunities to grow your professional network, such as career fairs or "young professionals" events. Your college career center or alumni network should be able to help you identify some of these opportunities as well. Build from where you are.
5. Dress for the job
Conventional wisdom holds that you should dress for the job you want. While this may be good advice to follow, it's not always practical on a tight budget. Instead, stick to business attire that doesn't outshine your qualities as a candidate or distract the interviewer. Choose neutral colors and conservative fits. Research the industry and the company to gain insight into appropriate attire. Even if the company you're interviewing with touts its relaxed work environment, don't be tempted to dress too casually.
6. Be prepared for interviews
Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, even for the most polished professionals. Relax and be yourself. Think of it as a conversation where you get to talk about the subject you know best: you! Step into the interview room fully prepared to answer questions about the company, its products and services, and how you could make the organization better. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will likely ask if you have any questions; come prepared with a couple of ideas to ask about beforehand. Thoughtful questions will help the interviewer see that you are engaged and inquisitive.
7. Be patient
Finding the right job can take a while. Some companies might contact you immediately to request an interview or let you know they're pursuing other candidates, while others might not even get to your resume for several weeks. Don't let the uncertainties of the process discourage you — if you don't get the job, it doesn't mean that you're not good enough. In fact, it may have nothing to do with you. Some companies list jobs even if they plan to hire internally, while others depend heavily on references from current employees. Few people can say they got the very first job they ever applied for.
Even if you're on the fence about a job you've applied for, don't pass up the opportunity to go in for an interview if you're invited. It may not turn out to be the right job for you, but it will make for good practice.
The college grad job search can be overwhelming — especially if you're entering the workforce for the first time. But LiveCareer has finding your first job after college covered. Use LiveCareer's Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder to create an eye-catching, well-organized resumes and cover letters that will get you noticed. And check out more articles to learn everything you need to know about interviewing, writing a cover letter and developing your career.