If you’ve just graduated college, but don’t have a job offer yet – there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
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“Companies are still hiring, and they’re looking to hire more graduates and to pay more than they did in the past,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “The needs from corporate America are still there.”
But you need to get to work. Do your research and look for companies with cultures that will be conducive to your success, experts advise. Even though you may not land your dream job at first, you can always work your way up and through a company that you like. First things first — be smart and purposeful about how you present yourself, as this will help you find that right position.
“Your first job should be a really good experience, and you want to come into the workforce with a positive attitude,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of Human Resources at career website Indeed.com.
Experts provide these tips for landing your first job after college.
Build Your Personal Brand
Tell your story, which means creating a resume and LinkedIn profile that showcases your skillset and portfolio to show to potential employers.
Use information in your resume as the basis for your online profile and include links to your work and portfolio. Experts recommend joining LinkedIn groups and following companies, since this is a great way to learn about new opportunities. Also, add a professional photo and update your profile as you obtain new skills and experience.
The experts also warn to clean up your social media. You don’t want a potential employer to find any unprofessional photos or social media feeds when they search the Internet for you. Use privacy settings that require you to approve who looks at your social media feeds.
Refine Your Resume
Your resume tells a story, experts say, and you need different versions. Use a general format for networking, but tailor your resume for each job application to show you have the requisite skillset and read the job description.
If you’re not getting any interviews or offers, “instead of just your pair of eyes, share [your resume] with friends, family, mentors and career experts,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor. You want to present your experience so that it catches an employer’s attention.
You may decide to take time off and travel, and if you’re fortunate to do that, show that you’re a self-starter— add to your skillset by blogging or building a portfolio. If you’re staying stateside, use this time to enhance your resume while searching for work.
“You’re a lifelong learner,” says Haefner. “The world is changing and you need to stay current.” The right skillset makes you a more attractive candidate. You may not want to enroll in a six-month program if you’re unsure of what you want to do, but you can add to your skillset by taking advantage of inexpensive massive open online courses (MOOCs) or online tutorials.
Volunteer: Volunteering is a great way to learn if a certain job or organization is right for you. “A lot of people want to work someplace with a purpose and there’s that tie in from volunteering — you can start with volunteer work and then look to move into a paid job,” says Wolfe.
Intern: “If you can swing it, get an internship to test the waters before you commit [to a full-time job],” says Wolfe. Consider your financial situation first before pursing this route, since you won’t make a lot of money as an intern.
Apprentice: Trainee and apprenticeship jobs across various industries are on the rise. “These have on-the-job training that results in a job upon completion of the program,” says Dobroski. “You have to show you’re committed to the work and show up for the training and be present.”
“Any job, first job or an experienced hire, it really is about degrees of separation and networking,” says Wolfe.
Professional association events, Meetups and job fairs can help you make contacts and learn about industries to give you an edge. Stay in touch with your fellow graduates and people from organizations at school too, since they can be great resources now and in the future.
While knocking on doors will likely not result in an introduction today, Dan Black, Americas director of recruiting at EY, suggests sending a tailored LinkedIn message to a seasoned professional with your degree.
“You’ll likely get a response — it’s the new doorbell,” he adds.
As you build your network, experts recommend keeping in touch with people by inviting them to coffee to ask about their careers. Once people get to know you and your goals, they’re more likely to refer you to potential opportunities, suggests Lori Almeida, Chief Talent Officer at Siegel+Gale.
Broaden Your Search
Graduates hoping for a particular job or company may have missed out on opportunities. “Start thinking outside those companies, roles and industries because that’s what will open doors for you,” says Black. “There are lots of companies that are actively looking for graduates, and you may have been looking in the wrong spot.”
Also consider working in a smaller market as this can be a great steppingstone to a national market, but you may have to relocate. “You have to keep an open mind with what you’re going to land,” says Almeida.
Use Your School’s Career Center
Career centers help companies with last minute needs for new hires and also help students with their job search, including assistance with resumes and interviews.
These are great resources, experts say, and most schools allow you to use them for free for an extended period of time after graduation. Career centers can also connect you with other alumni with similar backgrounds who can potentially provide advice regarding your job search.