After graduating with a college degree, you go straight to working in your dream job, right? I found out the hard way that this isn’t the case for many college grads and it can actually take months to find the right job.
For a lot of people, finding a job isn’t easy and can be a stressful or overwhelming process. I assumed that once I got a college degree, receiving a job offer would be simple–just apply to a few companies, do a couple of interviews, and then get hired. While this might be true in some cases, for many people it is a much more complicated process.
What no one tells you about finding a job
1. Check company websites rather than relying on LinkedIn
Generic job application websites don’t always have every job posting, so it is smart to check the website of the company you are interested in and look for open roles there. I assumed that websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Handshake would have the best job opportunities. Instead, I found that researching companies that are top employers for college graduates, going directly to the company website, and applying there worked better.
2. Always write a cover letter
You should write a cover letter anytime it is optional. A lot of people think that if the cover letter is optional, it’s not worth the time it takes to write it. Not writing a cover letter automatically makes you look less interested in the position than applicants who did do the cover letter. In your cover letter, make sure to include your degree, GPA (if it is above 3.5), past relevant positions, why you are interested in the role, and your career goals. One great thing about cover letters is that you can keep them mostly the same but just tweak them a bit for each company.
3. To stand out in the interview, study the company website
Study the company website like you are studying for a test. Be sure you know what the company does and practice explaining this to someone else before the interview. Also, check out the company blog, recent articles, the company values/mission page, the social media accounts, and have an in-depth understanding of what the role is and what you would be doing. Another way to stand out is to come up with ideas for the position. For example, if it is a social media position, think of some ideas of how to improve the company’s social media accounts.
4. Come to the interview with relevant and thoughtful questions
At the end of every interview, they will ask if you have any questions. Make sure you have at least two questions prepared. Here are a few examples of questions to ask:
- What is a day in the life of this position?
- What opportunities for growth could stem from this position?
- What is your favorite part about working at this company?
- What are the top skills you are looking for in a candidate?
- How would you describe the culture of the company?
5. They will probably ask about your desired salary in interviews
Be prepared for the interviewer to ask your desired salary at some point during the interview process. I was completely caught off guard the first time I was asked this, but after interviewing at several companies, I realized that this is a normal thing that is asked for full-time positions. At first, I was unsure of how to reply because I didn’t want to go over the company’s budget but also did not want to sell myself short. If you are unsure how to reply, you can ask the interviewer what the market range is for that type of position.
6. Always write a thank you note after an interview
After every interview, write a quick “thank you” email to the person who you met with. In the email, be sure to thank the person for their time and for telling you more about the role. Additionally, at the end of the email, mention that you are very excited about this opportunity.
7. You can go through multiple interviews and still get rejected
This was probably one of the most disheartening parts of applying for jobs. You go through several interviews before getting cut. Remember to treat it as a learning process and think of it as practice for your next interview. Some jobs even have you do an assignment during the interview process, which was another thing that surprised me.
8. The job application process can feel endless
One of the worst parts about the job application process is applying to tons of companies and just not hearing back or getting rejection emails. It is easy to wonder what you are doing wrong and it can start feeling hopeless. Getting rejected is never a reflection of you as a person and this just means you are one step closer to finding the right position for you.
9. Start messaging alumni from your college
Another great way to network is to reach out to alumni from your university on LinkedIn. You can send a short message to any alum who is working in a field you are interested in or any company you would want to work at. In the message, introduce yourself and talk about some of your career goals. You can also ask if they would be open to doing a quick Zoom meeting where you can ask them questions about their job and they can give you career advice.
10. Consider relocating for the right job
Unless you have a specific reason to stay in one city, your job search can be made much wider if you are open to relocation. This could be a lot of fun because you would get to live in a new city. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a permanent place for you, it could just be for a couple of years.
11. Consider different career paths
If your major is something broad such as business, communication, sociology, etc., be open to trying new things. Many companies are more focused on having a candidate with a college degree rather than having a candidate with a specific major. You will learn so much and might even enjoy it more than what you thought you wanted to do.
12. Most colleges have career services for alumni
Something many college graduates are unaware of is that most universities’ career services have resources to help recent alumni from the college. You can set up a meeting with an advisor and they can give you career advice and help you with your resume or interview preparation.
13. Networking can help you find your first job
One thing that surprised me was how important networking is to finding your first job. Many students get their first full-time job from friends of friends or through acquaintances. College is not just about getting an education but also about meeting the right people and making connections. One of my professors always claimed that college is not about what you know but is instead about who you know. There are tons of jobs that are not even posted online and are given to people that have a connection within the company.
Good luck in your job search.
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