You’ve made it through the difficult years of sleepless nights, coffee-fueled study sessions, anxiety about tests, and wondering if you’d cross the finish line with your diploma in hand or not. Congratulations!
Now it’s time for the next step—finding your first job. There’s a high probability that you’re not fully prepared for this chapter of your life. A 2021 study from the UK found that nearly half of university students are unprepared for employment.
In the US, only one out of four employers believe that traditional universities are “doing an adequate job of preparing graduates for the workplace”—according to a report by McKinsey.
If you’re having trouble landing your first job, you might be making some common job search mistakes that many fresh graduates make. After sending out applications to several companies and even attending interviews, you can easily get frustrated and disillusioned when you don’t get positive results.
Let’s explore some of the most common job search mistakes that fresh college graduates make. Read through the list carefully to figure out what you might be doing wrong and how to fix it.
A 2021 study from the UK found that nearly half of university students are unprepared for employment. In the US, only 1 out of 4 employers believe that traditional universities are “doing an adequate job of preparing graduates for the workplace”—according to a report by McKinsey.
1- Expecting to Find a Perfect First Job
Many new graduates expect the first job of their dreams, which might make them blind to great first job opportunities that can align with their long-term career development plans as they hold out for that “perfect” job.
Before you begin the job search, disabuse yourself of the notion that there’s such a thing as the ideal first job. Your first job is just that—a job that jumpstarts your professional career. It’s meant to help you gain experience, build your skills, and act as a stepping stone to your future.
It’s, therefore, advisable to adjust your expectations even before you start your job search. Research entry-level roles and their salaries in your industry and seek advice from other alumni and mentors. What were their first jobs like? How did they find those jobs? How did those jobs help them get to where they are today?
Unfortunately, many jobs, even entry-level ones, require applicants to have experience. You may have to work a job that isn’t your passion but provides a good stepping stone for your career.
If you’re not having success in applying for the jobs that you desire the most, think about the vacancies you might be overlooking? Are there related jobs available that also align with your long-term career goals? How about starting with smaller, less-known companies instead of focusing on vacancies in highly competitive companies?
Your first job is just that—a job that jumpstarts your professional career. It’s meant to help you gain experience, build your skills, and act as a stepping stone to your future.
2- Not Editing and Customizing Your Resume
Do you send out the same resume to all job applications? This might be the reason that recruiters and employers are not inviting you for interviews.
Tailoring your resume for each job is something that can’t be overemphasized. Most job applications pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which filters the resumes based on keywords. If your resume hasn’t met enough of the employer’s required keywords, it will simply be added to the “reject” pile.
Carefully read each job advert you’re interested in and make note of the employer’s keywords. Which skills are they looking for? How much experience do they require? What educational requirements do they require?
With this information, go over your existing resume and see where you need to make changes to show that you’re a great fit for the job. However, bear in mind that customizing your resume isn’t the same as embellishing your credentials. The idea is to emphasize the skills that you have that make you a great fit.
Also, when it comes to keywords, take care not to go overboard. If your resume looks like a mirror response to the job advert, recruiters and employers get suspicious that you’re embellishing.
After customizing your resume, proofread it for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. A resume that is full of these errors makes you look careless—and no one wants to hire such a candidate.
3- Not Including a Cover Letter
Many fresh graduates put a lot of effort into crafting a strong resume, only to overlook writing an equally good cover letter. That’s one of the gravest job search mistakes you can make!
A cover letter allows you to tell the recruiter or prospective employer about yourself in a way that a resume doesn’t. While a resume is a bullet-point breakdown of your skills, experiences, and achievements, a cover letter gives you the chance to tell a more compelling narrative about who you are and why you’re a great fit for the job.
Just like with your resume, you should always tailor your cover letter to the job you’re applying to. Share the experiences and skills that make you a great candidate.
Even if a cover letter is optional, it’s highly recommended that you provide one. Don’t miss this chance to stand out from the competition.
4- Being Inadequately Prepared for Interviews
Being invited for an interview shows that you’ve managed to impress the recruiter or hiring manager with your resume and cover letter. Inviting you for an interview means that they’d like to hear more about your skills and experiences to determine whether you’re the person they’re looking for.
Research the company before attending the interview to have a firmer grasp of what they do and the role you’re expected to play. In addition, prepare great answers for common interview questions. It helps to have a few go-to interview stories that you can use to answer questions on leadership, overcoming challenges, being a team player, and so on.
Make your stories succinct—interviewers don’t have the patience for rambling tales. Ideally, you should be able to tell any interview story in 60-90 seconds.
Lastly, make sure to dress appropriately in simple business attire and shoes. If you choose to wear makeup, it shouldn’t be distracting.
It helps to have a few go-to interview stories that you can use to answer questions on leadership, overcoming challenges, being a team player, and so on. Make your stories succinct—interviewers don’t have the patience for rambling tales.
5- Not Following Up After Interviews
Many new university graduates don’t follow up after interviews—they don’t know that it’s an expected part of the process. Understandably, you don’t want to come off as overzealous by pestering hiring managers after an interview.
However, sending a quick thank-you note shows courteousness and keeps you top of mind as they deliberate on which candidate to hire. Send the thank-you note within a day of the interview.
After seven days, if you haven’t heard back from the employer, it’s ok to follow up with a request for an update.
Have you identified any job search mistakes you’re making from the list above? Well, now you know exactly what to do. Applying the tips we’ve outlined will increase your chances of landing a great first job in no time.
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