Career Exploration, Career Progression, Entry Level Jobs, How To

Tips and Tricks to finding your first job straight out of college

Written by mrafeeq · 14 min read >

Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash

Many students across the country are swamped with finding their first jobs. The stakes have never been higher for finding your first job, and you cannot afford to have doubts or regrets. In addition, you have massive student loan debt and are under much pressure to find a job. But with well over a million people graduating from college each year, your search is more difficult (but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done). This guide will teach you tips and tricks to help you conquer the entry-level job market.

New grads should find internships and volunteer work right away

Finding a good job is hard enough in the best of times. It may be even more of a challenge for recent grads and young professionals. But there are things you can do to make your search easier and help you find the right job.

Whether you are graduating from high school, a two-year college or a four-year college and university, you need to have a business plan for your future career. If you haven’t done this, now is the time to begin. First, narrow down what you want to do and find out how to get your foot in the door of that career field. Then, if you have an idea about what you want to do, it is time to start looking for internships or volunteer work in that area. The sooner you start applying for internships and finding volunteer work, the better off you will be. In addition to gaining experience, networking with others in the industry will help you gain contact information and references, which will be helpful when searching for that first job after graduation.

Pursuing an internship is one way to help ease this transition from an academic to a professional career. By interning at a local business or nonprofit organization during your last year of study, you can apply theoretical knowledge from your coursework to real-world situations and develop valuable work skills. For example, if you are interested in health policy, you may intern at a hospital or nonprofit organization that works with low-income or uninsured patients. In this way, your internship will contribute directly to developing the skills you need for your first career position after graduation.

Start networking as soon as possible.

The first step to finding a job is building up your network. In other words, the people you know. You will compete with thousands of other people for each available job. They have all found their networks, so to stand out from the crowd, you need to be able to offer something different.

The best way to do this is by adding value and establishing yourself as an expert in your field before you even begin looking for a job. The easiest way to do this is by writing about your industry on your blog and social media profiles. This will help you build up your brand, which will, in turn, make it more likely that recruiters will find and approach you.

I was fortunate enough to find a freelancing gig immediately after graduation, and I used it as a way to meet people who could help me get my first full-time job. I also tried to show everyone I was reliable and willing to take on any task.

Location is key

Given the unemployment rate, you may feel like you have to move to find a job. But it’s still worth trying to find one where you already live.

Some parts of the country are booming — but not all of them. So if you stay put, your chances of finding work may improve as companies expand in response to lower costs.

And if you relocate, you’ll most likely need to pay for a place to live, and your living costs will be higher. Location is vital when searching for work; don’t give up your home base until you have no other options.

Rent a billboard

graduate job seeker holding a banner
The image was added for illustration purposes only.

One of the best ways to see your job hunt from a different perspective is to rent a billboard. Yes, you read that right! So instead of worrying about how awkward the process will be, make sure that you are prepared and remember what this opportunity can mean.

The best thing about billboards is that they allow you to advertise yourself. Of course, you can promote anything on them, but the most important thing is making them funny and memorable! The more creative it looks, the better chances it has of being shared all over social media by people looking for jobs like yours and coming across it while getting along in their daily lives.

Don’t forget that creativity is part inspiration and part perspiration; coming up with ideas is just half the battle. Implementing them effectively is just as important.

Know what the job market is like

The first step to getting a job is knowing the hiring market. You need to know how many people are looking for jobs and what kind of jobs they are looking for. Understanding the current economy is always essential before beginning your job search. It will help you determine what type of work you can find and where you should look to find it.

An excellent place to start is by searching online for state labour statistics to give you information on the jobs in demand in your area. There are a lot of different sources out there, so be sure to research them all and see which one is best for you.

You should also find out about the competition in your area. How many other people are looking for jobs in this field? Many students make the mistake of believing that there aren’t many people looking for employment in their area, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a job. This isn’t true at all! Once you have found out as much as possible about what is available and what the competition is like, it’s time to create a resume highlighting your skills, experience, and potential.

Research your dream companies and follow them on social media

The first thing you should do is list companies whose products you use or admire. This can be a huge list, but most of the time, the bigger, the better because they will be looking for candidates with experience in your field, broad experience, and the ability to learn quickly.

Also, think about companies that are near and dear to your heart. For me, that was Apple. After college, I couldn’t even see myself working at any other company because I was obsessed with Apple’s products. When my friends asked me about my dream job, I always answered, “working at Apple.” Even if you think it’s a long shot, write down all the places that come to mind — even if it’s just one company — then keep researching them until you find something that could work for you.

Next, find out where these companies are hiring from and what they’re specifically looking for. They’ll turn you away if you don’t have any experience in their field. Find out what specific skills and knowledge they want so you know how to tailor your resume or upskill if required.

Educate yourself on what hiring managers are looking for

research the company you are applying to
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Being qualified for a position isn’t enough. You must also know how to market yourself to make the best impression.

Take an active approach to your job search by following up with hiring managers, even if it’s just a simple matter of providing additional information. This demonstrates initiative and indicates your interest in the company’s position.

If you want to get hired by a particular company, research the company’s website and find out who the hiring manager is. Send that person a letter of introduction and ask to be considered for an interview. Calling or emailing them is okay, but a handwritten note will have more impact. It would help if you stood out from all the other candidates. Make sure the letter is tailored specifically for the position you are applying for, highlighting your skills and experience related to that position. Please include any information about yourself that might impress them, such as awards, community involvement or exciting projects you have been involved with. Show initiative and follow up in 2-3 weeks with a phone call to see if they have received your letter and if they would like to set up an interview.

Hiring managers look for candidates who demonstrate that they would be an excellent fit for their company and its culture and those they believe will succeed in the role they seek. Therefore, when you meet with a potential employer, develop a list of questions that will give you a better idea of whether or not this is the correct position for you.

Letter of recommendation is essential, but how?

A professor or employer’s recommendation letter is essential for any job application.

You will probably have to ask. It’s not a favour; it’s part of employers’ process to figure out whom to hire. So it would be best to approach your potential recommender like any other professional contact.

If you’re lucky, you already know the best person to write your letter to. If not, start contacting professors and teachers who were influential in your life. Then, if necessary, go down the list of students they taught until you find someone who can write you a good letter that the employer will be likely to read. Please don’t leave this till the last minute: The earlier you line up your recommendations, the better they’ll be, and the more likely the employer will read them.

First, ask them if they would be willing to write one for you. Most people will do anything if you give them enough time and enough information about what you want them to do. Make sure they know when the deadline is, too.

If they say yes, start scouring the internet for past cover letters that got people jobs in similar positions. You can find a lot of examples by Googling “[position] cover letter sample”, “[position] resume sample”, or “[position] application letter sample”. Find one that works for your situation and make it yours. Then show it to your recommenders and let them know precisely what changes are needed for their letters to look good and sound good.

Build a great resume

Create a consistent, compelling format for your resume. This will be used to build a database of resumes from which hiring managers can search for candidates. You want your resume to pop out of the database, so include the following:

-Contact information (Phone number, Email address)

-Education (School name, GPA, Major)

-Skills (Microsoft Office Suite, language skills, etc.)

-Work experience (Company name, job title, description of duties)

-Extracurricular activities (Volunteer work, clubs and organizations are good to include)

You must tailor each resume you send out for each job because recruiters use ATS software to search for candidates, and if your resume doesn’t match what they’re looking for exactly, it will get ignored in favour of someone else who seems a better fit for their current needs. In most cases, recruiters will only review the first 20 seconds.

Be honest about your skill set.

To be successful in your search, you’ll need to be honest about your skill set. It’s okay if you’re lacking in certain areas. Many people are. What you can bring to the table counts, but you must be realistic about it. Maybe you’ve got some solid experience behind you–but so does everyone else applying for this job. Are you willing to supplement your knowledge with on-the-job training? That may give you an edge in this market.

Also, think outside the box regarding certifications and degrees that may not directly apply to this opening.

What does the entry-level candidate look like?

The following is a list of 4 traits that hiring managers are looking for in an entry-level candidate, along with my tips and tricks on matching these qualities.

1) An entry-level candidate should be someone tech-savvy. Everyone knows how important it is to have a solid social media presence to be found by recruiters and companies alike today. Therefore, employers are looking for people who know how to use social media properly and can stay up-to-date on new technology trends.

2) An entry-level candidate should be someone who is a problem solver. The world has become competitive because of technological advancements. Therefore, employers want employees who can stay on top of current events and think outside the box to develop innovative solutions to problems or issues during their tenure with the company.

3) An entry-level candidate should be comfortable working in a group setting.

4) Multitasking and communication skills are essential in this day and age. Therefore, entry-level positions require candidates to have excellent interpersonal skills and communicate well with others.

Always dress and look professional.

Always dress and look professional. Even when applying for a position at a fast-food restaurant, you should make it clear that you’re taking the application process seriously. No matter how casual the job is, no one wants to hire someone who looks like they don’t care about their appearance or understand how to represent a company’s image.

It may seem unnecessary even if you meet with potential employers casually, but you must look professional when meeting with an employer.

Dress appropriately for the industry and company you are interviewing with. If you know that the company has a more casual dress code than most, then wear business casual attire (or something similar) to show that you are willing to fit in with their workplace environment, but at the same time, make sure that your clothing for the interview is still professional. A good rule of thumb is to dress one level above the company’s workplace environment you are applying to. For example, wear a suit if you apply to a formal business such as a bank or accounting firm.

Don’t be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone

When you start your career, you must be open to new opportunities. You might miss great opportunities if you’re unwilling to try something new. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and go for something outside your comfort zone. You might find that you enjoy it more than you thought you would.

You can also try something outside of your comfort zone with the help of some online courses. One example is Udacity, which offers many free computer science courses to teach you new skills relevant to the business world.

Establishing Your Brand

Your brand is what you are. It is not your skills or education. It is how you approach the professional world. It establishes who you are and what you can do as a person. This is crucial in the early stages of your career for two reasons. One, it lets you avoid being stereotyped and pigeonholed into a small group of jobs that may be below your skill level. And two, it enables you to define yourself before someone else does it for you.

Although personality is vital to the job search process, attitude is essential in establishing a solid brand. Attitude begins with confidence and a willingness to work hard and develop professionally and personally.

These qualities do not have to reflect negatively on you; they mean that you are willing to put in the effort necessary to succeed. This will allow you to become versatile and open doors in many different fields.

branding on social media
Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Make sure to have a clear understanding of the company you are applying for

To begin, research the company you plan to apply for. You may think this step may take too much time, but it will help you understand the company and give you a better chance of getting the job. Make sure to clearly understand the company you are applying for, including its products or services and its financial status. You can get information on the company’s website, annual reports, or even read newspaper articles online.

What should you do if there is no information available on the company? If possible, try to talk with someone who works there or call the company directly. But make sure that you do not waste their time with your questions; think ahead of what questions you want to ask and how they relate to your future job and responsibilities at the new position.

Get ready for interviews with proper preparation.

What should you say in an interview? Many people think it’s essential to memorize answers to common interview questions. This can backfire; instead of sounding confident, it can seem like you’re reading off a script. Instead, focus on practising how you’d answer those questions in everyday conversation – the way you would without worrying about saying the wrong thing or remembering what comes next!

Preparation is essential. Practice will give you confidence and a sense of direction about your skills and accomplishments about your career goals.

Before any interview, the first thing you should do is research the company thoroughly. Their products and services are not just the firm itself and its place within the industry. In addition, you need to know about their history and how they have dealt with any challenges they may have faced in the past. This will allow you to develop a rapport with your interviewer.

If you know the typical interview questions, you will answer them confidently. However, practising answering those questions in front of a mirror will make it easier to express yourself in the interview.

Be prepared to explain your skills and how they translate

It would be best to answer questions about your strengths and weaknesses in an interview. How do you do that?

First, you should consider the skills and qualities essential for doing the job. That’s what employers are asking when they ask you to describe your strengths and weaknesses.

The best way to prepare is to write down a list of your skills and qualities. Then, think of specific examples that illustrate each one. Don’t just say, “I’m a team player.” Give an example of a time when you played on a sports team or helped organize a student group, or worked on a group project at work. (Listing these examples ahead of time will also help you remember them.)

When answering questions about your strengths and weaknesses, don’t just say, “I’m good at public speaking” or “I’m bad at learning languages.” Instead, describe how often and in what contexts you have done these things. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a position as a salesperson, tell the interviewer about the times you’ve spoken in front of groups and any awards or recognition you’ve received for your public speaking skills. This will help the interviewer understand your abilities better.

Find the first job out of university instead of waiting for one to fall in your lap.

Electrician job
Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

When looking for your first job out of university, sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring is tempting. But if you’re willing to get proactive, there are plenty of ways to make it happen.

  • Create a LinkedIn profile and start networking with your classmates and professors as soon as possible.
  • Get involved with campus organizations and clubs, even if they’re unrelated to your major or eventual career path. This gives you valuable experience in teamwork, communication, and leadership.
  • Use your summer to get real-world experience in the field you are interested in–and start lining up interviews!
  • Use your network! Talk to everyone you know–relatives, friends of friends, etc.–about possible jobs. There’s always someone out there who knows someone who can help you out.
  • Your school probably has an alum network that can connect you with professionals in your desired field of work. Take advantage of this resource!

Practice makes perfect when looking for a first job, which may take time.

Applying to several positions can seem like an excellent way to find a job faster, but it’s more time-consuming than you might think.

When you have multiple applications, you have to keep track of all the details of each one, such as which employers you have already sent your resume to and whether or not you’ve heard back from them. You’ll also have to keep up with the pace of each application process and handle rejections more quickly when there are multiple openings.

You’re more likely to find a good job faster if you concentrate on each application process as it comes along.

Have you developed any unique skills?

Employers are looking for answers demonstrating how you can uniquely contribute to their business. What makes you stand out? What skills do you bring that other candidate do not? How will these skills benefit the company? Your answer should be specific and detailed so the interviewer can see how your skills could improve their business.

What skills and experience have you gained from school?

It would be best if you first looked for the skills and experience from school. You may not have had an internship or job that relates directly to your career path, but there are still skills that you can use in the real world. For example, if you majored in English, your writing skills will help when it comes time for your resume or cover letter.

What skills do you have that relate to your goals? For example, do you have strong writing skills? Are you skilled at creating presentations? Are you a good mediator or negotiator? Do you enjoy working with people? What are your top strengths? Look back at all your life activities: school, internships, part-time jobs, volunteering – anything! What did you particularly enjoy doing? Did you create anything that involved working with people, data analysis, and new products or services? Did it include helping others accomplish their goals? Did it include making art, music, crafts, furniture or websites?

Handwritten thank-you notes can make hiring managers remember you

In a tough job market, candidates who get hired often do so because they stand out from the crowd. Usually, that’s because they took the time to send a thoughtful handwritten thank-you note after an interview.

It can be tempting to send only the most basic follow-up email thanking a hiring manager for their time and expressing your interest in the position in today’s digital world. That’s okay, but it takes much less effort to write a short, handwritten note on lovely stationery than to craft an eloquent email or make and send an elaborate video.

The added bit of effort can pay off big time. A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that most employers (63%) said candidates who handwrite thank-you notes are more memorable. Notably, 88% of employers said they would remember a candidate who sent a handwritten note more than one who did not.

The survey also found that 62% of hiring managers said they would remember a candidate for at least one year if they sent a handwritten note after an interview. A handwritten thank you note differs from an email or text message – it shows that you took the time to express your gratitude on paper with your handwriting, which is more personal and thoughtful than hitting send.

Hand written Thank you note
Photo by Kevin Xue on Unsplash

The first job is essential, and one sticks to it for a long time. It will pay off.

It’s surprising how many students and recent grads haven’t done this and then wonder why they’re not getting hired for their dream jobs when they graduate.

The first job is the easiest to get, the most stable, and serves as a gateway to more jobs, so don’t worry too much about it. As you build up your skills and experience, this first job will become an excellent springboard for your career.

Treat every interaction with your boss or coworkers as an opportunity to learn something new. Be curious about what you’re doing, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something or have questions about what you’re working on.

Conclusion: If you follow these tips and tricks, you will have better luck getting your first job. Not only will you have a leg up on the competition, but you’ll also be able to increase your chances of finding steady work. But even if you search for a job in a tough economy, you still have plenty of options to land your first gig. And as long as you have some hard skills (and maybe some good luck), you should be able to find your place in the real world.

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