The first job after graduating from college is very significant for your professional development. It determines where you will be for the next five years.
Research shows that even graduates who go into a field that has little to do with their area of study are likely to stay in that field for the next five years.
It’s easy to see why that is. You end up building experience, skills, and networks in the field of your first job, making it harder to switch to another field.
It’s important, therefore, to put your best foot forward in finding your first job after graduation. Here are some tips to help you stand out from the competition and land your dream first job.
1- Make Your LinkedIn Profile Shine
70 to 80% of job vacancies are never advertised. Astounding, right? Such vacancies are usually filled through networking, whether online or offline. LinkedIn is the best platform for you to start building your professional network.
A well-crafted LinkedIn profile is like a resume that is easily accessible to employers and recruiters. Today, plenty of recruiters and employers browse the platform when looking to fill vacancies. If you don’t have an optimized LinkedIn profile, you’re missing out on potential opportunities to snag your first job.
Start by uploading a professional headshot—no one wants to connect with a profile when they can’t see who’s behind it. Next, write a punchy headline that tells potential employers and recruiters exactly who you are and what you have to offer. For example, you can write “Honors student looking for a marketing position” or “Journalism major aspiring to be a leader in digital media.”
Write a great summary that tells employers who you are as a student, the internships you’ve had, and your aspirations. Remember, you have to include the right keywords in your headline, summary, and throughout your profile. You can find the keywords by checking relevant job postings. Using keywords will increase your visibility to the right people.
Once you’ve set up your LinkedIn account, start connecting with people in your field. Start with your classmates and professors and slowly work on expanding your network, focusing on quality over quantity.
2- Use All of Your Resources
You may feel all alone in your hunt for your first job. But you’re not really alone—there are plenty of resources to help you along the way, starting with your professors, college career centers, mentors, former colleagues, former supervisors at internships, and your personal contacts.
All these people can help you in crafting your cover letter and resume, advise you regarding interviews and networking, and recommend you for job vacancies in your field.
Your college career center is a great place to start. They can provide support in fine-tuning your resume, giving you mock interviews, and recommending you to recruiters. Make sure you take full advantage of your college career center.
Mentors are another awesome resource you shouldn’t overlook. You can discuss your struggles and aspirations with a mentor openly and benefit from their insights. Mentors can also tap into their networks to help you find a job that will kickstart your professional development.
Don’t underestimate the power of networking with alumni and your peers. Your peers and other recent alumni can provide you with crucial information that someone who’s older or more experienced doesn’t have. For instance, they are more likely to know which organizations are looking for entry-level employees or interns.
4- Start Creating Your Own Experience
In today’s competitive job market, even entry-level positions are known to require experience. This presents a catch-22 for fresh graduates. How are you supposed to gain experience if entry-level jobs also require experience?
Don’t wait to be hired to start creating your professional experience. A great way to start honing your skills is by taking on side projects in your area of interest. Highlighting these projects in your resume and during the interview will help you stand out from other candidates.
You don’t know where to get started? How about reaching out to a local business to provide your skills for cheap? You can also look for freelance gigs, write a personal blog, and participate in online challenges.
Track the results of your projects so you can impress recruiters with hard numbers in your resume and during job interviews. Taking up side projects as you prepare to find your first job shows initiative, passion, and the ability to follow through.
5- Polish Your Interview Skills
Interviewing is one of the most crucial parts of finding a job. If you don’t impress during job interviews, even if you have all the hard skills, you run the risk of losing out on awesome opportunities.
There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself to shine during job interviews. Start by looking up common interview questions and how to answer them effectively. Practice your answers over and over till you feel confident.
It helps to have a few go-to stories for interviews. Prepare stories to tell about when you solved a problem, when you overcame a challenge, when you lead a team, and when you were a great team player.
Additionally, review each job posting and build comprehensive knowledge about the company and the role. What skills are they looking for? What are their values? What is their company culture? If you know someone who works for the company, reach out to them and ask for tips.
Don’t forget to prepare some questions for your interviewers. When you don’t have any questions, it shows a lack of interest and engagement. Seize the opportunity to get a better understanding of the role and show that you’re already picturing yourself in it.
Do you want to learn more about studying abroad and how to find new scholarship opportunities?