Those first few days or weeks after you leave college can feel quite overwhelming. After years of having your core schedule set for you by other people, your time is suddenly your own. After years of being told what’s required of you, it’s up to you to figure out what you want to do with your life. It’s probable that you already have a general career plan, or at least know where you would like that career to take you, but how should you begin? Just what should you be doing to pin down that first proper post-college job?
Use college resources
Colleges have career centers and advisors for a reason, and these services often continue to be available to you for at least your first year after graduation. Use them! They’re generalists and can’t cover everything but they’ll usually be able to recommend some sensible first steps based on what you’ve achieved academically. There’s also a good chance that your college will hold recruitment fairs where you can meet possible employers or at least obtain useful contacts.
Polish your résumé or portfolio
Before you start to present yourself to prospective employers, you need to make sure that you have something to sell. This means getting your résumé or portfolio up to date and adding a recent, professional-quality photo. If you don’t have much work experience remember that you can include volunteering and also mention clubs and associations you were involved with during your studies, especially if you held positions of responsibility within them. It’s a good idea to include your résumé on your website and make sure you have corresponding information on your LinkedIn page. You should also think about your elevator pitch, especially if you’re attending conferences and events where you might meet useful people.
Get those applications out there
Even if you can’t identify any openings you’d like to pursue straight away, it’s well worth sending out your résumé to organizations you’d like to work for – you never know what might turn up, and if you get the chance to speak to somebody senior there in future, you can show that you’ve had a longstanding interest in them. Make sure you tailor your résumé a little each time you send it out like this so that your interest looks sincere. Don’t be shy about applying for jobs just because you don’t have everything the employer is looking for – other people will apply anyway and if you’re a good enough candidate in other areas then it might not matter. Any interviews you get, even if they don’t work out, will be good practice.
Read the trade journals
One of the best ways to find jobs that you’re qualified for but might not have considered looking for is to read the trade journals relevant to your field. This will ensure that you’re up to date will all the latest industry news and developments, which will make a big impression when you’re interviewing or networking.
Join the right associations
Being a member of the professional bodies relevant to your field will impress prospective employers, give you discount access to trade journals and conferences, and broaden your network of contacts. In some cases, trade unions and guilds can be a useful entry point to a profession, and sometimes you will even find that there’s a big overlap between a profession and a particular hobby or social space that you can then access to meet people.
Connect with recruiters
Of course, the easiest way of all to meet people is to make sure that they’re looking for you. This means reaching out to recruiters and recruitment agencies and letting them know what you’re all about. It also means making it easy for them to find you. Joanna Riley, who set up Censia, uses artificial intelligence to scan online resumes and find potential matches for her employer clients. Make sure you’re on the radar.
Build your networks
Did you know that over three-quarters of all jobs are secured through personal networks? The more you can expand yours, the better, so tell everybody you know that you’re looking for work and what kinds of opportunities you’re after. Family members, friends, sports teammates, church members, casual employers, and colleagues can all potentially help, sometimes in unexpected ways. The chances are that your college has an alumni network and you can use that to build up useful contacts.
If it takes you a while to find a suitable opportunity, keep in mind that there is always something useful you can be doing to improve your prospects. Take on voluntary work, undertake further study or focus on improving your people skills. Sooner or later your chance will come and the better prepared you are the better your chances of capitalizing on it will be.