Getting a job out of college is notoriously impossible. We live in an era where there are more college graduates than ever, yet entry-level jobs are harder to get. Don’t even get me started on the vicious cycle of employers asking for “experience” for an “entry-level position”. (Does no one see the paradox?!)
With some planning and preparation your can bulletproof your post-college life. There are steps you can take to jumpstart your career and avoid joining the mass of educated and unemployed.
Handy Dandy How to Guide to Getting a Job Out of College
Look at Job Listings for Recent Graduates
What you’re taught in college is often more theoretical than practical. You often learn about the big picture, but not the finer skills that go into an entry-level job. No one is hiring a 21 year old to tell them what direction the company needs to go! What skills are employers looking for? Jump on a few job board sites and research jobs you would like to apply for once you graduate. This will give you an idea of what things you need to make sure you learn to beat out the competition.
I can almost guarantee you’ll be surprised at how few things are taught in your core classes. For example, as a Finance student, I was never taught QuickBooks in any of my classes. Yet, nearly every entry-level position required some knowledge about it. Whoops!
Early on in your college career, I recommend writing up a “dream job description” based on your research. This will help you pick out the right elective classes that will help you reach your goal job out of college.
Intern, intern, intern. Get internships and apply for internships early on. A lot of students are often tempted to wait until “they know something about the industry” before getting involved. Don’t fall for that! Companies who ofter internships know you’re inexperienced. The point of an internship is to give you that experience. Maybe you don’t land that awesome internship your freshman or sophomore year, but always try. At the very least, it’ll get your name out there and in front of recruiters for later on. A word of warning though…99% of unpaid internships are either illegal or not worth your time. (Read more…)
Be Active On Campus
Get involved in something you can put on your resume. This will give employers something to ask you about other than your coursework and can help you create a resume that stands out from the next recent college graduate who took the same classes. If you can get involved in leadership over an organization on campus all the better. Employers love seeing go-getters.
Another great benefit of being involved on campus is the networking opportunities. Getting involved will give you more opportunities to meet other students, and especially more proactive, ambitious students. These friendships will greatly enrich your college experience and give you a better network to fall on when job searching.
Networking is THE hardest part of growing a career for a lot of people. Most aren’t even sure how to network. What you might not realize is you’re already networking, you simply aren’t using your network. Are you visiting your professor during office hours to ask questions? Do you go to events on campus? Has your aunt told you about someone who works in your field and suggested maybe you give them a call? All of that is networking.
Maybe we should stop calling networking, “networking” and call it “making friends”. That’s really what it’s all about is making connections with people. When you show you care about them, they’ll care about you and when you’re getting a job out of college, they’ll give you that leg up.
College offers especially unique opportunities for networking. You have access to highly educated experts known as professors. Take a little extra time to get to know them. Don’t overlook some of those non-tenured or adjunct professors. Unless you’re going into academia, those younger, non-tenured professors often still have a lot of connections to the (so-called) real-world. They may be able to help get you into that first job, you need only ask.
Many students don’t realize that at some point you will need a letter of recommendation or two, and a letter from a professor can carry a lot of weight in consideration for grad school or jobs. Take some time to discuss the material you’re learning in class with your professor. Unlike your high school basketball coach, who begrudgingly teaches algebra on the side…they’re interested in what they’re teaching. They’re a wealth of knowledge; get to know them.
Get Your Resume in Order and Top Notch
Your resume is often someone’s first introduction to you, so make a good impression. Your university should have a career services center or other department dedicated to helping students find work. See if they offer resume critiques or reviews. Spend time researching resumes for your industry online and apply techniques used to your own resume. If you can find someone in your industry to look at your resume even better.
While you’re in college (and for the rest of your life) review and update your resume and LinkedIn profile every semester or six months. You never know when a recruiter might be by or that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes knocking. Having a fresh, ready-to-go resume will be a lifesaver.