4 realistic ways for recent college graduates to land their first job

While the unemployment rates for recent grads are steadily decreasing, many graduating college students will find themselves with a degree but no job. 

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The summer after graduating from college can be a confusing time if you don’t already have a job lined up. Many student change their career paths before they even get started, go to graduate school or move back home to figure things out. With so much pressure to have a job in place before May, many students often take the first job offered to them. The problem with that is now you’ve put yourself in a position to have steady income but an unfulfilling position that can sidetrack you from your real career goals.

With only 1 out of 40 college graduates being unemployed, you can have a little more faith that your college degree and internship experience will take you further than most. Not sure what to do now that you’ve graduated from college?

Here are four things you can do to find your passion and land your dream job:

1. Look for the right job - It's fine to take a job just to pay the bills but don't apply for any professional job that you can do, but want to. Take the time to search for positions that will put your career on the right path and add to your professional development. Understand what your lowest salary is, what benefits you need and what you think your career trajectory should look like. When the right position comes along you’ll know that it’ll be the right stepping stone for you and can accept the offer confidently. 

What can you do to set yourself apart from the competition? 

  • Update your LinkedIn – This is still the first place recruiters check when vetting candidates. Don’t disqualify yourself by having a profile that isn’t up to date, has no connections or experiences. Be sure to reach out to professors and past supervisors to ask them for recommendations. It looks great when a recruiter can see you take an active part in growing as a professional and has connections in the industry.

  • Narrow your search - Your chances of being contacted for an interview are higher if you tailor your resume for the job you're applying for. It's going to be hard to sell a recruiter if you look like a jill of all trades. This takes time but will pay off in the end when you can just let a few skills shine through. Also, when you're truly passionate about a topic, a hiring manager will see that during an interview. So narrow your search down to the jobs you actually want. 

  • Launch a personal website - Regardless of what your major was, having a personal website is a great way to show off your work. If you’re in engineering, you can take pictures and write posts about your projects. If you’re in a creative field, you can showcase your work digitally easily, which is always a plus. 

  • Send thank you notes – Handwritten thank you cards are so rare these days that it’s now seen as going the extra mile when you send them. After an interview, be sure to pick a thank you card and mail it immediately. There’s also nothing wrong with sending both an email and handwritten note.

Pro tip: In interviews, try to bring an iPad so that you can show a hiring manager your work right from your website. They’ll appreciate a hard copy portfolio, but this is sure to impress them too. 

 

RELATED: 5 ways to land a job at a company that isn’t hiring

 

2. Volunteer – Going back home means you can now give back to your hometown and local centers in your community. If there’s any way you can help a nonprofit or community center, take the opportunity to reach out to them. This is a great way to get experience, and it will also look good to recruiters and allow them to see you as a person. You’ll always go further because of who you are as a person and how you treat people, as opposed to your experience.

Pro tip: Be sure to save any work you can from these experiences because they are portfolio builders. Any design work, writing or developing you do for a nonprofit will be a great example to tell a hiring manager in an interview.

3. Travel – If you find yourself with extra time on your hands after graduation, the best thing you can do is travel and go to events. The best opportunities always come from your network, so make sure you’re taking the time out to meet new people. Understand that networking isn’t meeting someone and asking them for a job or referral but showing a genuine interest in getting to know them. Be yourself, be genuine and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You never know who you’ll meet that can help you get where you want to be.

4. Go on informational interviews - There is nothing wrong with asking for an informational interview with someone you’d like to work for someday. It's a great way to meet people who can give you real advice that you can use to land interviews at the company or help connect you to someone else. Also, what can give you more credibility is asking your boss/mentor/sponsor to set up one of these meetings. Ask for an email introduction from a respected industry worker you know to add a little priority to your meeting. 


Did you find yourself without a job after graduation? What advice would you give to recent grads?