The most successful people in history began their professional journey somewhere. Drake put it best back in 2013 with the simple sentiment, “Started from the bottom now we’re here.” For first-time job seekers, stress, impatience, and uncertainty are common side effects—but there’s no need to enter your search blindly. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to help you succeed as you start the job hunt for the first time.
Disclaimer: Career Group Companies’ definition of a *real* job is simply a job within the field you want to build your career in. There are no limits to what that might be!
Most first-time job seekers are college seniors whose schedules are already packed with school, extracurriculars, and social life. If this sounds like you, you are probably facing some anxiety knowing that the so-called real world is looming just around the corner. Some of that stress can be avoided by starting your job search at the right time so that panic doesn’t set in when graduation comes faster than you anticipated.
If you’re not one of the lucky few who snagged a job back in September and can live through their senior year with the comfort of a guaranteed next move (and most of us weren’t,) it’s a good idea to begin applying 1-2 months before graduation. Some high-demand industries like investment banking, consulting, and accounting will recruit students much earlier in the school year, but most companies advertise jobs they want to be filled as soon as possible so applying six months in advance could be a fruitless effort. The recruiting process can often take up to 2 months, so if a company loves you as a candidate they won’t mind waiting to bring you on until you graduate.
A great way to make contacts and potentially land a role early on in the year is through on-campus recruiting. Companies that recruit on-campus know that come graduation time, they will have openings they need filled. The lesson here: don’t skip your school’s job fairs!
Your resume can be a make-or-break first impression for hiring companies, which is why it is so important to take the time and effort to make yours great. This does not mean you need to have had five internships or a 4.0 GPA! Carefully consider the language you are using to describe your experience to ensure that it sells you as a qualified candidate and quadruple check that there are no typos, grammatical errors, or design inconsistencies throughout.
Most colleges have an on-campus career center with resume and cover letter help services. Take advantage of these! A great resume can push you over the edge as a standout candidate, nabbing you an interview that could lead to your first job offer.
Job applications can be very time consuming, especially if they require more than just a resume (cover letter, writing samples, references, etc. – LinkedIn Easy Apply, we’re not looking at you). Because of this, it’s important to read through job descriptions carefully to decide whether or not you would be a good fit for the role.
Many entry-level positions will actually say “entry-level” in the job description, and there’s almost always an experience level listed in the requirement section. Don’t undersell yourself, but be aware that your chances of landing a job that asks for more than a couple years of experience are probably slim. Have no fear; there are tons of new entry-level opportunities being advertised every day.
The connections you make with others within your field are some of the best resources available to you during your job search. Your networking efforts can begin far earlier than the 1-2-month timeline laid out for when to start actually applying for jobs.
LinkedIn is a fantastic resource to connect with people in your industry at all levels, and it’s super convenient—you don’t have to go anywhere to make new connections, and you can do it in sweatpants. Do some research on companies that align with your professional interests and send a brief InMail to an employee there that’s doing what you’d like to do, or a higher-level employee that can offer safe advice to you as a beginner.
In urban areas, all it takes is a quick Google search to find several networking events occurring in the city on any given night. These events are common practice for colleges too; most schools host one or more networking event per semester, inviting former students back to campus to connect with fellow alum and interested students. You may feel nervous as a junior-level job seeker entering a room full of established professionals, but networking events are one of the most worthwhile ways to make connections and gain advice from people in your field.
When you attend a networking event, come prepared with questions to ask and approach others with confidence and humbleness. Collect peoples’ business cards; you can send a follow-up email later to cement yourself in their memory in case an opportunity comes up that could be perfect for you.
If you’ve nabbed an interview, you are on the right track—make sure you give yourself credit for that accomplishment. Next comes preparation. Many college career centers offer mock interviews to help you practice—this is an excellent way to gain experience for what a real interview will be like, from the kinds of questions you’ll be asked to what to wear to make the best impression. Check out our blog post on how to nail your interview for more details!
It takes the average college student about six months to find a job after graduation, so it’s important to stay patient and try not to get discouraged during your search. Frustration is a common side effect of job seeking, so to combat this feeling we compiled a list of ways to stay motivated during the job hunt. The pool of entry-level job seekers is large, but you’ll give yourself a big leg up against the competition by following our tips—and you’ll thank yourself later when that offer letter comes in!