Finding a Job After College
As you are preparing to graduate, one of the biggest questions on your mind (unless you have a job lined up already) is probably, “How do I find a job after college?” As a student, you might think that finding a job is going to be easy and you will have plenty of time to search after graduation. However, the truth about life after college, for most graduates, is that finding a rewarding job in the current economy is difficult and will require you to invest a lot of time into searching for and applying to various jobs. Even if you do come across a job posting for what you would consider a dream job, your odds of landing the job are made slimmer by the size of your competition. There are many people out there looking for a job, so any openings will receive a high volume of applicants.
Do not wait until after graduation to begin your job hunt. Do not think that after graduating you will have a lot of extra time to search for and apply to jobs. Because of the economy and the difficulty of finding a job, you should start looking while you are still in school. In fact, you should start searching well before you even plan to apply so you can see what organizations and companies you find yourself leaning toward. You must also accept the possibility that, after graduating, you may be underemployed for some time, either in a part-time job, in an internship, or in an entry-level position.
When to Start Looking for a Job
One of the more difficult parts about finding a job after college is deciding when to start looking for a job. Because you are still in school, you cannot, in good conscience, accept a job position that starts before you will actually graduate, which means you need to be planning ahead for when you do actually graduate. In some cases, this may mean that you do not actually start looking for a job until a month or so before your prospective graduation date. By starting the process early you will get a good feel for the current job market, have an understanding of the typical application process, and begin to learn about your chosen industry(ies).
As you begin this process there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
Start Date: When does the company want the new hire to begin employment? If the job application does not specify when they need the candidate to begin working, you should inquire about the start date and see if you can apply and start working after graduation.
Location of the Business: If the business is located too far from where you are currently located, then you might not want to apply for the position because traveling to interview(s) while still in school can be both expensive and a huge time commitment.
Research, Research, Research: As you begin the job hunt for a job, you need to do research on the industry you want to work in and on specific companies and organizations within that industry. In the beginning, it is enough to do general research about some of the top companies. But as you start to get serious about finding a job, make sure you do research on the specific companies to which you want to apply.
Where to Look for a Job
Knowing about the current job market and what types of jobs are available is not enough. You have to know where and how to look for jobs. In today’s media-filled world, it really is not too difficult to locate job postings (as long as they actually exist). To help you get started in your search, here is some more information about the places you should be searching for jobs.
Newspapers: While newspapers may seem outdated to some, the newspaper may be one of your best resources, depending on the type of job you are looking for. Whether you look at local newspapers, big city papers, or independent papers, there are still plenty of help-wanted ads.
Company Websites: If you have been doing research about your industry, you most likely have learned about or discovered a few specific companies for which you would enjoy working. Typically, large companies, if they are hiring, post the open positions somewhere on their website. If you find a company that you would like to work for, you might want to check these pages on their website to find open positions and to learn about their application process.
Job Listing Websites: In recent years, websites like Monster.com and Jobs.com have become extremely popular with both job candidates and employers. Some of these websites will allow you to post your resume so that employers can find you and assess your skills and experience. All of these types of websites allow you to search for open job positions that employers have posted. In some cases, you may have to sign up to be a member of the job search engine site, but that usually requires no money, and you are then able to search much more freely.
Social Media Sites: Even more recently, the use of social media has become an extremely popular way of searching for and finding open job positions. The use of hash tags allows candidates to search for people talking about specific types of jobs and any job openings. Furthermore, certain websites like CreativeandTechnical.com send out tweets every time an employer posts a new job on their website, which means you can receive live updates about open job positions. Other companies and organizations will tweet about open positions, too, and post openings on their Facebook pages.
Career Center: Visit your school’s career center to learn more about the job application process, to review your cover letter and resume, to practice interviewing, or just to gain advice from career counselors.
Writing Your Resume and Cover Letter
Before you begin submitting applications to your dream job or to any job, you need to make sure your resume and cover letter are as perfect as you can make them. Remember that these documents are the first impression a potential employer has of you. In order to land an interview, you are going to need to “wow” them with your cover letter and resume. Here are some tips on preparing these two documents.
Keep it relevant: While including all of your work experience on your resume seems like a great idea, you want to stick to the more relevant information. Tailor the content of your resume to the job and its requirements. If applying for a development with a non-profit, focus on your internship with a non-profit and not your baby-sitting experience in high school.
Do not exaggerate: You have probably been told that you need to “beef up” your resume in order to seem more appealing to an employer. However, you need to understand that if you over-exaggerate or lie on your resume, then you most likely will be caught and not get the job.
List your skills: It is important to list your skills so that the potential employer knows what level you are at and where you might require training. Include your familiarity with computer programs (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.), foreign languages, and any other skills applicable to the job. This is especially important if some of your skills overlap with the requirements of the job that you are applying for.
Sell your honors and awards: Because you are still in college or you have recently graduated, you probably do not have any professional awards or honors, which is fine. Instead, you should list any academic awards you might have received while you were in school.
Cover Letter Tips
Refer to the open position: In the cover letter, it is important that you reference the position for which you are applying. Because there is a good chance that whoever is reading job applications will be reading a lot of cover letters, you need to be specific and name the position.
Explain why you are the best candidate: While introducing yourself in your cover letter, you need to make it clear why you are the best candidate for the job. To do this, you need to explain how you meet and exceed the qualifications required for the position.
Refer to specific and relevant work experiences: Use your relevant work experience to support your assertion that you are the best candidate for the job. Refer to specific projects you undertook and list positive outcomes from those projects or initiatives. Not only will this demonstrate your viability as a candidate, it will also show your potential employer that you know how to organize your thoughts and write a compelling argument.
As you prepare for graduation, begin your research. Think about what you would like to do and learn more about companies and organizations in that industry or line of work. You may not be able to start applying for jobs until close to graduation, but you can visit your school’s career center and start scouring job listings on various websites. You can also start organizing your work experience and skills into a résumé and write an outline of a cover letter. Keep in mind that the job market may be rough, so finding your dream job may be difficult. But keep looking for the right job for you!