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Tips for Grads Entering the Job Market

The number of people graduating with Bachelor’s degrees in 2022 in the United States is projected to increase 17% above the prior decade. This, coupled with the ever-changing job market, means that getting a specialized job post-graduation is no easy task. It’s no surprise that about 41% of recent college graduates are underemployed, meaning they’re working jobs that don’t typically require a degree.

You’ve worked hard to earn that degree, and you want to make sure you get some value from all that effort. We’ve compiled some advice about job hunting, resumes, interviews, and your personal brand to help set you up for success come graduation day.

Be Creative in Where You Look

Looking for a job while preparing to graduate can be overwhelming, but the sooner you start, the better. You could begin blasting your resume out on job sites, but you’ll have better luck starting with these steps:

  • Visit your college career services department to jump-start your job search. Often, companies will reach out to them directly, looking to connect with high-performing students. They’ll be aware of jobs you might not find posted elsewhere and have the “in” you need to get the ball rolling.
  • Go beyond LinkedIn when searching social media. Yes, companies post their jobs on LinkedIn, but they’re also posting places like Facebook and Twitter, and many people don’t think to look there too.

  • Build up your network. One of the best ways to find a job is through word-of-mouth, and you can only do that if you’ve invested time in building your network. Go to happy hours, networking events, and connect with people on LinkedIn to increase the odds that someone thinks of you when they hear of a job opening. Joining groups geared toward young professionals or skillsets of the jobs you’re seeking are great ways to open doors.

  • Work with a recruiter you trust. A recruiter with your best interests in mind will tell it to you straight, set accurate expectations, and help you find a job that meets your skillset AND your interest. Try asking your network for recommendations for a recruiter specializing in your field to help narrow down your options.

Have a Stand Out Resume

Your resume is typically the first impression a potential employer has of you, and their interpretation of the resume determines whether you’re going to get an interview. A good resume should be:

Simple

  • Your resume should begin with a summary, followed by a section for tools, skills, and programming languages. Follow that up with a concise description of your experience and education.

Descriptive

  • Rather than assuming your resume is self-explanatory, be descriptive in your experience. Share what you did and how you did it; never assume they’ll read your resume and know what you do if you haven’t explicitly said.

Relevant

  • Take the time to tweak your resume for each application. Make sure you’ve highlighted the exact skills they’re looking for and adopt their language where possible so that your experience resonates with them.

Polished

  • A well-formatted, attractive resume gives a good impression right off the bat. Use professional fonts and colors to make your resume appealing but not distracting. After all, you want your skillset to be what’s memorable, not your clipart.

Rock Your Interviews

The interview is your chance to really wow the hiring team with your experience and to convince them that you’re a good fit for their company. This step is not the time to wing it; preparation is the key to success in interviewing. When preparing, make sure to:

  1. Research the company and your interviewer to demonstrate an understanding of the organization and the role you would play in it. Be prepared with a couple of questions about the company to show that you’re interested in them specifically, not just looking for any job you can get.

  2. Anticipate the typical interview questions. “What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses” and “where do you want to be in five years” may be cliché, but they’re probably still going to ask. Don’t get caught off guard by standard questions.

  3. Think through your experiences relevant to this job and company to focus on those highlights during the interview. You don’t need to go into everything you’ve ever done in the discussion; you only need to relate the things you’ve done to what they want.

Want to leave the interview with a bit of insight into how you did? When the interviewer asks what questions you have, ask them what reservations they have about your ability to do the job. Asking an open-ended question forces an answer, giving you the chance to understand how you’ve done and overcome any objections or concerns they have at that moment. 

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Your personal brand is rarely more important than when you’re diving into the job market. Even if your skillset is a match and you nail the interview, there are still other factors that will determine if you get the job. For example:

  • Lock down your social media profiles. A picture with your dog is great, but you don’t want the hiring team to stumble across college party photos when they inevitably look you up.
  • Err on the side of being overdressed. You can always tone it down if you’re overdressed (removing a blazer, for example) – but you can’t dress back up.
  • Follow up with an email or handwritten thank you note for everyone you meet throughout the interview process. Everyone likes good manners.
  • Proofread your emails for content and tone. Always make sure you’re polished and professional.
  • If your resume has a photo on it, use a professional-looking headshot. This isn’t the place for a vacation selfie.

Remain Open to Possibilities

As you’re going through all the steps of job hunting, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re playing a long game. This first post-graduation job is just the beginning of your career. Your goal is to find a good starting place from which to build a successful career.

A perfect job for a recent grad is going to provide:

  • Growth opportunities
  • Mentorship
  • Training, certificates, and continuing education
  • Benefits
  • The potential for salary increases

With this in mind, be open to possibilities. Don’t interview for what you’re going to be doing on the first day; interview for the career potential the job affords you. After all – you’ve got a long career ahead of you, with plenty of time to go in any direction you choose.

Photo Credit: Canva

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