Job Search Help for Recent Grads

Woo hoo, kudos to you! You got through school. Now it’s time to find a job. You’ve gotten this far; how hard can it be?

That depends on what advice you’ve gotten, if any, and whether it makes sense or not…for you as an individual, and for someone starting a career these days. There’s a lot of information out there. Where do you begin?

The whole task of looking for a job feels overwhelming. You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes you don’t even know what questions to ask. How do you begin?

Here are 4 tips to help move potential obstacles aside on the journey. You can do this! 

Job Boards are not the Yellow Brick Road.

But isn’t that where the jobs are, you ask? Sometimes, yes, but not always. Despite the megathousands of jobs posted online and the thousands of applicants applying for them, it’s not the way most people find their first or next jobs. Some external (or internal) voice may be pushing you, asking you how many applications you sent out today. Whether it’s three or three hundred, that is not the way. Though helpful to research what companies are looking for in candidates for certain jobs, 85% of people find their jobs through networking.

We often tell clients that if what you’re doing is spending all your time applying to jobs online, you’re not really conducting an effective job search. A better approach? As our friend and colleague Linda says, “Put down the mouse and get out of the house.” In other words, go offline and start talking to people and networking.

You have no experience.

Let’s think about that for a minute. Do you want to work in health care, but you’ve only had summer jobs in retail? What about those summer jobs might be meaningful to your next employer?  

Did you develop important interpersonal skills like listening well, understanding customer needs, prioritizing multiple job responsibilities? Being dependable, accountable, solving problems creatively and in a timely way? This will be important in creating a strong resume that demonstrates the value you will bring to a company or organization.

What if you haven’t had summer jobs or internships? Have you done any volunteering? That counts; it’s still work experience, just unpaid. What did you do, and how did you contribute?

What about leadership and teamwork, in the classroom or on campus? Can you identify projects and/or events where you were deeply engaged, collaborating with other students to get specific results or have impact? That counts. Write it all down.

You have no professional network.

Well then, time to begin building one. How do you do that? One conversation at a time, with one person at a time. Start making a list of friends, family, neighbors, and friends of friends, family and neighbors. You don’t need to have all the answers. There’s no way you can, so might as well let that one go and talk to people working in roles you think might be interesting. Be an explorer, an adventurer gathering valuable information from others already on the path ahead of you, information that can help you chart your own course. Be curious and ask questions about how they got started, what their job is like, whether they have any advice for you in your search, and anyone they think might be beneficial for you to talk to. 

Remember: you’re not asking for a job. You’re building professional relationships, investing in your own future. Some of these may last for years. Some may lead you to a great opportunity to start your career. You just never know.  

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Whether you’re one week, 2 months, or 3 years out of school, it doesn’t matter; resist the urge to compare your professional progress with family, friends, and classmates. Everyone has their own path, their own timing, their own experiences. You can only learn what kind of work environment feels right for you, what you do and don't want to do, by getting out there and talking to people doing it. You’ll meet interesting people, which is fun and educational. You’ll make choices that open up doors and opportunities. You’ll be on your way.