If you're a recent college grad and haven't landed your first entry-level job yet, don't panic.
College graduation often comes with a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, you're incredibly excited to close this chapter and move on to the next in the “real world.” But on the other hand, you know this major change comes with a lot of uncertainty — and with that, anxiety. This is especially true if you find yourself unemployed and still searching for an entry-level job.
While some college graduates look forward to one last summer without any 'real' responsibilities, many others feel the pressure to get a job out of college and move out on their own as soon as possible.
If you find yourself itching to start your career, here's some good news. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate remains low, at 3.7 percent, amid a sharp jump in the size of the labor force to its highest level ever.
Below are some job-search tips to help you land your first entry-level job after college graduation.
Figure out your next move
Start by giving your career goals and ideal dream job some serious thought. You don't have to map out your entire career path — in fact, I recommend that you use these first few years after college to explore different fields and types of organizations to discover what's best for you before committing to any long-term career goals — but you need to narrow down your search to some degree.
For instance, is there a particular industry or company that especially interests you? While it's unrealistic to assume your first entry-level job after college graduation will be your 'dream job,' it's not unreasonable to target jobs at companies that are in your dream industry.
Related: What to Expect From Your First Job out of College
Come up with a job-search game plan
As French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Simply saying “I want a job” won't help you accomplish your career goals. You need to make a solid plan to keep your job search on track. For instance, once your personal branding materials are in order, make a goal for the number of job applications and networking activities you'll complete each week.
Click on the following link to download my free job-search action plan to jumpstart your job search and keep your momentum going.
Don't be afraid to intern
If you're having trouble breaking into your desired field, be willing to pursue an administrative or customer support role, or even an internship, to get your foot in the door. Many “entry-level” jobs today require one or more years of relevant experience. If you didn't intern during college to gain the prerequisite experience, you are at a disadvantage when competing for an entry-level job.
Target internships that offer part-time hours or a flexible schedule so you can build up your resume with relevant experience and still have time to take on other work to pay the bills. It's a lot easier to land an entry-level job within your desired industry once you've gained some relevant internship experience and have begun to build a strong professional network in that field. Plus, internships can turn into full-time jobs if you play your cards right.
Update your college resume
If you answered these important job search questions before applying for an entry-level position, but your job applications are still greeted with radio silence, then your college resume may be to blame.
As an entry-level job seeker, your resume is typically one page long, though this page-length limit is no longer mandatory. Remove any references to your high school career and focus on highlighting your best selling points, such as your education, leadership skills, internship experience, and any awards you achieved during your college career.
Click on the following link for an excellent entry-level resume example for a recent college grad.
Then, request a free resume review from TopResume to receive some expert and objective feedback on your post-college resume.
Clean up your social media habits
According to a recent Jobvite Recruiter Nation study, "social sleuthing" has become a standard recruiting practice. When recruiters go digging on social media, will their findings help or hurt your chances of landing the job? Make sure your online presence isn't sabotaging your job search by auditing your online brand to see if your social media profiles are unintentionally raising red flags for employers.
If you have any personal social media accounts you don't want employers to associate with your candidacy, now's the time to increase the security settings and change the usernames to a nickname so you're confident your private accounts are well-hidden from recruiters. Also, set up a professional LinkedIn profile to advertise your candidacy to employers.
For more job tips to ensure your online brand supports your job-search efforts, download my free personal branding checklist.
Network like it's your job (because it is)
Studies find that you're 10 times more likely to land a job when your application is accompanied by an employee referral. However, you can't get those coveted references without networking. Make it your mission to become an active networker.
Build a valuable professional network by getting involved in your alma mater's alumni events, joining relevant LinkedIn groups online and finding face-to-face networking opportunities through relevant Meetup groups, professional association, and trade shows and conferences.
Informational interviews will become your best friends. As you grow your network and discover new people who work in a field, industry, or company that interests you, reach out to them to set up an informational interview that will allow you to learn how they got to where they are in their careers and what you can do to get your foot in the door. This article by Danny Rubin will help you craft the perfect networking email for such requests.
Take advantage of free job-search tools
The resources listed below are all free job-search tools that can help you during each stage of your job hunt.
- Exploring Career Paths: If you're struggling to narrow the focus of your job search, do a little research into different career paths with some help from Firsthand and The Muse.
- Research: CareerBliss and Glassdoor offer information on interviewing, pay, perks, and corporate culture at various companies. Hoovers provides company, industry, and market information, which can be very useful when you're developing your target company list.
- Salary: Prepare for upcoming negotiations by researching and comparing average salaries for your target job with PayScale and Salary.com. I also recommend reading this free PDF version of Jack Chapman's book, “How to Make $1000 a Minute,” to help you know exactly how to handle those dreaded salary interview questions.
- Networking: Award-winning author and former television news journalist, Danny Rubin, has a great website with tons of useful advice for entry-level professionals. I recommend checking out his book, “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?”, for loads of email templates. I'm also a fan of FindSpark, a community dedicated to setting up every young professional for career success. In addition to your usual job-search tools, FindSpark puts together a bunch of in-person networking events for interns and recent college grads.
Also, don't forget about your alma mater's Career Services department and alumni services. They often offer free job-search tools and services to help you find an entry-level job. Click on the following link for more free job-search tools every job seeker can use.
Another free job-search tool? TopResume's free resume critique. Submit yours today to find out where you stand.
- What to Do When Your New Job Isn't Your Dream Job
- 6 Ways to Rock Your First Entry-Level Job After Graduation
- Webinar: How to Write a Post-College Resume