How to Get Your First Job out of College

How to get your first job after college

You did it!

You graduated college!

You worked hard for four long years (maybe even longer) and now you have to go out and join the workforce like the responsible adult that you are. Maybe you were one of those people who had multiple job offers before you even graduated…yay for you!

But if not, this post is for you. Finding a post-college job can be anything but easy, particularly if you are considering moving to a city that you have very few connections in. I’m certainly not an expert on this topic, but having just gone through the entire process myself just a few months ago, here are a few tips and things that I’ve learned along the way.

1. Resume, Resume, Resume

Edit your resume. Read it over. Edit it again. Have friends read it. Edit it again. Go through that thing with a fine-tooth comb. Whether your potential employer actually reads your cover letter is one thing, but they will absolutely read your resume. This is your ticket to getting your foot in the door for that job. When I was applying for jobs a few months ago, I thought I had triple-proofed my resume only to discover that I had been submitting it with a typo! Good thing I caught it and changed it before I had applied for too many jobs.

***ProTip – Always send your resume as a PDF, not a word document. Different computers and displays can sometimes mess with the formatting/fonts of your resume and make it look different than it does on your computer. Saving as a PDF will make sure that it looks the same regardless of who opens it.

2. Apply To More Jobs, Not Less.

This one may be a bit controversial, but while I was applying to jobs, I was often advised to only apply to three or four jobs that I REALLY wanted. Their logic was that I would choose only the positions I was most passionate about, and better to do only a few applications well than a ton of applications that were only halfway good. However, I would argue that had I followed this advice, I may not be in the position that I am now. While I agree that submitting a poor application is definitely a waste of time, I think it is a necessity to apply to as many positions as you can, while still doing them well.

Consider for a moment that you see a job posting for a position that fulfills your every dream. You write the most personalized cover letter, submit your resume, and even stalk the recruiter on LinkedIn and send a personalized message. You research the company in depth and know their webpage inside out. Then you sit back and wait for them to call you in for an interview. While being prepared is great and there is certainly the potential that you snag that interview, there is also the potential that they’ve already filled that position or are just generally disinterested in your resume. More often than not, companies DON’T let you know that you’ve been disqualified for the selection process. All the while, you think you’ve submitted an awesome application (which you probably have), but there might not even be an OPENING.

Some companies are required to list a job, even if they have a candidate that they already want to hire, such as an intern or other personal connection. All the while, you spend so much time applying to this position that you may have never even had a chance at in the first place. While your applications should still demonstrate clear effort and intentionality, I would caution you from spending TOO much time on one or two applications or submitting TOO few. Give yourself more chances to succeed!

***ProTip – if you are browsing job listings on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc. make sure that you are filtering out job results to just show positions that have been posted within the past week or two. Many companies post a job, hire a candidate, and then don’t take the posting down. Or, even if the job is still available, they may have already selected all of the candidates that they want to interview. The more recent the posting, the more likelihood that it is still active.

3. Put in the Time

Don’t expect that you are hire-able just because you busted your butt in college and have a piece of paper to prove it. For every job opening, there are plenty of people who are just as talented and motivated as you. Getting a first job takes TIME. This doesn’t mean sitting down for 15 minutes and sending in a quick application. When I graduated, I was spending several hours each day researching jobs and completing the application processes. Block out your free time and making your job search a priority. Set a goal for yourself to apply to “X” amount of jobs each day. Spend time personalizing each application/cover letter/resume.

Also, put in time sharpening your skills and making yourself better. If there’s a program that you don’t know how to use yet, see if there’s any way that you can learn it. A certification that would make you a more attractive candidate? See if you can study and get it. Spend some extra time creating samples of your work so that you can show off your skills to prospective employers. Put yourself in their shoes – what would you be looking for in a new hire?

***ProTip – create an online portfolio or personal website that you can send to potential employers to see your work. There are several online portfolio sites where you can upload writing samples, PDF’s, photos, etc. Make sure you have someone look over your samples before sending them off to an employer, you want them to be good! I’ve also had numerous friends that created their own personal websites to send along with applications/put on business cards. They would include resume, work samples, and anything else that really showed off their skills. Putting the time and effort into something like this, tells an employer that you are motivated and willing to put in the work.

4. PREPARE

Okay, so you have a polished resume, a stellar cover letter and a great sampling of your work. You finally get an email – they WANT TO INTERVIEW YOU! You are ecstatic and call your mom and your friends…but then you start to panic. What will they ask you? What if you don’t know the answer?

This, my friend, is where it pays off to really start investing time into researching the company. Don’t waste your time looking at all the ins and outs of the organization when you are first applying to a job. Wait until they hit you up for an interview. THEN it’s time. Look on their website, stalk their social media pages, look them up in the news.

What is their mission? Their vision? What do they do?

Then, look at the original job posting again and read it closely. Focus on what attributes/skills they are specifically seeking and make note of them. You’ll want to tailor your interview answers around these areas.

***ProTip – Create a comprehensive word document with the company background, summary, clients, etc. Next, create a section with any potential interview question that you could be asked along with the exact way that you would answer it. Then for each question, plug in your own answers. Write complete sentences if necessary so that you can get used to exactly how you would answer. Then practice, and practice again. It’s very helpful to know ahead of time the exact stories, examples, or responses that you will provide. Obviously you won’t read this document when you go in to interview, but make sure you print it out and refresh yourself before you go in!

5. Look the Part, Act the Part

Be confident. You have every right to be interviewing for this job – after all, they called you back, didn’t they?! Make sure that you look the part. If you don’t have a suite or blazer, go buy one. It’s an investment. Also, think about starting to invest in some professional clothing since you’ll be wearing it almost every day once you score your first job!

Act professionally. Shake their hands firmly with a smile. Stand up and introduce yourself if someone enters the room. Print copies of your resume to hand out to everyone. After the interview, make sure to follow up with a courtesy e-mail and don’t forget to thank them for their time!

***ProTip – Don’t have a whole professional wardrobe yet? Wear the same outfit for each interview, no judgment. Find something that you know looks good and you feel confident in and rock it to every interview.

Getting a first job can be exhausting and discouraging at times, but with enough perseverance and hard work, I have no doubt that you can do it!

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