If you’ve recently graduated college then congratulations are in order—you’ve reached a significant life milestone and should be proud of your accomplishment! That said, just because you’ve achieved this goal doesn’t mean your work is done. For many people, graduating from college is the starting point for the next big life challenge—the job and career journey.
Unless you’re lucky enough to not have to work (or get rich quick by inventing something amazingly innovative and are able to retire early to some sunny and tropical beach), most of our professional journeys span several decades and are a major part of our overall life satisfaction.
Therefore, it’s worth your time and effort to take your first job out of college seriously; often, your first job after graduation can set the tone, pace, and trajectory for your climb up the career ladder—so plan carefully.
Today’s job market is no easy environment. On top of intense competition (both from other new graduates and seasoned work veterans) across most industries and sectors, economic uncertainty, increasing globalization, and rapidly changing technological innovation that’s revolutionizing the staffing needs of companies means that recent graduates face significant challenges when seeking their first jobs.
Yes, unless you’re incredibly lucky or well-connected, chances are you’ll face some challenges as you hunt for your first job out of college—but don’t despair! The truth is, those who work hard and dedicate themselves fully to their job-search efforts have the best chance of landing their target jobs and beginning their career journeys on the right foot, while those who take a more casual or lackadaisical approach will likely face a bigger struggle.
Which approach are you going to take?
If you’re fresh out of college or soon will be, consider utilizing the following strategies for locking down your first job and moving forward on your path to professional success.
Determine your target field
In order to conduct an effective job hunt you need a clearly defined target—the industry, field, or sector that you’d like to work in. Consider this your “starting point,” the direction you’d like to move towards and where you’d like to devote your professional energy and efforts.
Use your college experience as a guide—what is your degree in? Did you have any internships or extracurricular or volunteer experiences that can help inform your choice? Are there trusted mentors or family members who can help you figure out a potential career fit for you?
Use the research tools at your disposal to get a closer look and a better perspective of the fields that seem attractive to you. For example, many industries have professional associations that maintain an active online presence, including websites with loads of helpful job and career information. Your college’s career office may also have additional resources and may even hold special events like job fairs and info sessions to help you get started. Also, keep an eye and ear out for professional networking events in your town or city. Use your experience, interests, passions, research, and the trusted advice of others to take this crucial first step and determine the target field that feels right to you.
Determine your goal position
Once you have a target field in your sights, focus on a position that you’d like to pursue. Be realistic—you may want to start at the top (and stay there), but very few folks get CEO jobs straight out of college. You’re more than likely going to have to pay your dues while you learn the industry, so focus on assistant-level or junior-level positions to start. Look at people whose career trajectories mirror your aspirations and see how they started their first jobs in the field. See if your background, education, and experiences have prepared you for realistically pursuing your goal position. If so, then go for it!
Once you know the position and field you’re aiming for, use the job search tools at your disposal—everything from online job sites to resources at your college, professional connections in your network, and job events in your town—to find suitable open positions. Research companies in your target industry and see if their official websites have career pages that list available job openings. Then prepare yourself for what will hopefully be a steady stream of potential opportunities. Make sure your cover letters and resumes are professional, polished, and perfectly targeted for the jobs you’re going after. Make sure your interview skills are razor sharp (remember, practice makes perfect). Having the desire to get a new job is great, but it won’t help you leap ahead of the competition. You’ll need a complete pitch-perfect package if you’re going to make your goal a reality.
Don’t let failure stop you
A key component of a successful job hunt is patience and determination. Very few of us land a job after just one interview—or even after a few attempts. The truth is, a job hunt is more like a waiting game, with plenty of rejection and disappointment along the way. Don’t let this discourage or deter you in your quest to land your first job out of college—stay focused and determined, learn from what you did right and wrong, and be confident that each attempt will be better than the last as you move closer and closer towards success.