What percent of students get a job after they graduate from college? According to the University of Washington website, 53% of college graduates are unemployed or in jobs that don’t actually require them to have college degrees. This is likely a sobering thought for college students, particularly those who are graduating soon. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of landing your dream job after earning your degree.
There’s no magic bullet to getting a job, of course, but these steps will certainly give you a leg up in the hiring process.
Expanding your circle of professional contacts is integral to landing your first great role. Reach out to alumnae from your college or high school via LinkedIn or a directory provided by your school if available. Search for people who do what you aspire to do. Attend industry events, career fairs and professional events on- and off-campus. Talk to everyone — and I mean everyone — you know because you never know who might know someone who knows someone who could lead to you landing the perfect role.
When you do reach out to people, don’t immediately ask for a job; instead, probe them for advice. If they work in the industry, you might ask for tips on how to conduct your job search or information about what it’s like to work in the field. Directly asking for a job is off-putting and unlikely to lead to what you want.
Most colleges have career centers to provide guidance. Since you have access, take advantage of this service. Most likely, they’ll have plenty of resources, including career testing, resume reviews, the opportunity to meet with a career counselor and more.
Don’t wait until second-semester senior year to visit your career services center. It’s essential to plan ahead and start early; waiting too long will delay getting hired.
Interning is not only an invaluable way to get a taste of your future career and gain industry experience, but it’s often also a must for many entry-level jobs. Try to get an internship while you’re still in college so you’re ahead of the game when it comes time to apply for jobs, but don’t think it’s beneath you to intern after you graduate, too, since this is generally a necessary step to landing a fulltime gig.
If you don’t have a resume, now is the time to create one. Worried you don’t have enough experience to fill an entire page? Check out this handy guide to help. Or, if you already have a resume, update it with your latest achievements.
Also, remember to tailor every resume you send to the specific job at hand. The same goes for your cover letter. You need to highlight qualifications that would be most applicable to and noteworthy for the position in question. Be sure you’re including relevant keywords so applicant tracking systems (ATS) can scan them and flag you as a potential fit.
As a newcomer to your industry, it’s essential to know about developments and news in the field. There are a number of ways to do this, such as:
• Joining professional associations for people in your industry
• Joining online groups via Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites
• Attending networking events for people in your industry
• Reading professional publications
• Following top organizations and people in the field online (subscribe to RSS feeds, read blogs, follow social media accounts, etc.)
• Becoming a member of a professional interest group or chapter of a larger organization at your college
Having a LinkedIn profile (and an up-to-date one) as a job searcher and professional is a must. Often, it’s one of the first places employers look, and recruiters reach out to candidates via the networking platform, too. That’s right — an employer may find you first! If it’s applicable to your industry, consider starting a blog, website or online portfolio to showcase your work.
Curating a professional online presence also means getting rid of your unprofessional content. Many employers look at your Facebook and Instagram during the hiring process, so make sure there’s nothing you don’t want them to see.
When you’re on the hunt for a job, you should be checking in on the places where you’d actually like to work frequently. Many organizations have job boards where they post openings, although some places are better about updating these sites than others. It’s best to apply sooner rather than later, so checking in frequently enables you to be one of the first candidates to apply.
Search for openings on job search sites like Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor and Fairygodboss, too — you’ll find a range of opportunities that may fit the bill and can filter them according to your specifications.
Many positions in today’s world require graduate degrees and certifications, but that’s not true for all of them. Below is a list of jobs you can usually get right out of college, although you should bear in mind that qualifications can vary according to the specific position’s requirements and organization in question:
Human resources representative
*These jobs generally require further certifications depending on your role and location, although you can usually complete them while working in the role.
Don’t lose it if you don’t find a job immediately. It takes effort and, more to the point, time. While it may feel overwhelming and frustrating, especially if your friends are landing jobs left and right, know that this is pretty normal and nothing to feel bad about. It’s okay to take a breather and recharge — you might even take a few days off from the job hunt. Remember that this is not how it will always be, even if it feels terrible right now.
Unfortunately, not having a job means not having a source of income to rely on. That means that you need to reduce your expenses. You might, for example, ask your parents if you can live with them — temporarily, of course — while you figure things out. You should also budget accordingly and be careful about only spending money you have (read: don’t get into credit card debt). This may involve skipping a night out with your friends sometimes.
You just graduated, and the world is your oyster. You can probably go anywhere, so be open to exploring a new location. Similarly, if you’ve been looking for a job for a while and the right one hasn’t come along, you might be narrowing your search too much. It could be time to expand your possibilities by considering related fields and positions. All of which is to say, don’t be too picky. When you’re more established in your field, you can reassess and make changes, but right now, you can’t afford to wait for perfection.
Since you have the time anyone, why not make yourself a more marketable candidate? For example, take a class to build your skillset. What you learn will be perfect for your resume. Or, work on a career-related project, such as research. This is another great resume booster and shows that you can take initiative.
Keep doing the above suggestions — and to an even greater degree than you did initially. If you’ve been applying to three jobs a week, double your efforts. If you’ve only been reaching out to potential contacts occasionally, set a goal for sending X number of emails per week. You need to give your job search your all.
It can feel lonely and isolating when you have too much free time and no job to fill it. Try to keep busy while you're on the hunt. For example, volunteer at a location nonprofit. If it’s related to your industry, you may even find some contacts — or a paying job. It’s a win/win! This is also a good way to get some work experience while you’re trying to land your first role.