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Tips for New Grads Entering the Job Market

Your last semester has been squeezing in one last everything. One last football game, one last all-nighter, one last meal in your dining hall, one last dance party. You’re about to leave college, and can’t believe your four years has come to an end. 

As with all endings, though, finishing college is just the beginning of a new chapter in your life一one in which you enter the workforce. For most new college grads, uttering those words feels scary. You’re not sure if you can land a job, let alone be any good at it. You’re catapulted right back to the bottom of the totem pole, knowing you’ll have to work your way up.

But as intimidating and un-fun as it sounds, the workforce is an exciting place. It’s a place where you can show off all you’ve learned, meet new people, and gain new skills. It’s a place where you’ll grow so much, not just professionally, but as a person, too. Entering the workforce is a fantastic opportunity, you just have to know where to start and how to prepare.

So, where do you start?

Well the first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of job you want. That sounds like a big question, one that could affect the trajectory of your whole life. In some ways, that might be true, but remember that your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job. In fact, many people use their first few jobs as stepping stones to get to their main goal.

With that in mind, think about a few areas that pique your interest, whether it be HR, finance, tech, sustainability, or healthcare. Once you’ve narrowed down to one or two areas of focus, ask yourself if you want to stay in a certain location or move across the country. Filter your search criteria based on that city. Now, enter that information into LinkedIn, AngelList, Indeed, or any other job search engine and take a look at the results.

Ask yourself, who might you know that works at one of these companies or a tangential one? Do some research as well. What are the companies’ mission and vision statements? Do they align with your values? Read reviews about what it’s like to work at those places, bearing in mind that probably only the worst and best experiences get highlighted. Try to learn as much as you can about the companies you’re interested in as you start to prepare to apply.

4 ways to prepare

As you’re building out a shortlist of companies, it’s important to check off a few more to-dos. Here are four things that I highly recommend before applying anywhere: 

Build your LinkedIn profile – Your LinkedIn profile is often the first thing people in the working world look at, so make it count. Upload a professional-looking photo, add relevant skills, connect with people you know, and include helpful details about your job experience. You should also use LinkedIn to reach out to people you don’t know. Alums are often very enthusiastic about talking to current students or new grads, so find some that work in an industry you’re curious about. Then, send them an InMail asking to take them out to coffee or conduct an informal interview.

Create your resume – You might be asking yourself what to put on your resume if you’ve not had a formal job. The important thing is to find a way to showcase your skills in the context of the industry you want to be in: highlight relevant internships, research projects, leadership experience, and part-time jobs. You might also mention the coursework you completed or extracurricular activities you did on the side. For extra inspiration, try searching for templates online. When you have a draft ready, ask several people for feedback. Reaching out to a recruiter is an excellent idea at this stage. They know a lot about various industries and can help you tailor your resume accordingly.

Practice interviewing – Interviewing is always nerve-wracking, but it becomes less so when you’ve put in some reps. While you’re still at school, leverage your career center. They typically host mock interviews and give you useful pointers. For a little extra practice, google commonly asked interview questions and practice saying your answers in the mirror. If you’re having trouble articulating your answers, you can watch YouTube videos of interviews. But don’t rely too much on those canned responses一interviewers can tell if your answers aren’t original or heartfelt.

Network, network, network – While networking can feel daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Go to your school’s career fairs, reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn, ask to take a professor or alum out to coffee. You never know who these people might be connected to, and having a genuine conversation about them and their work will make them remember you when something rolls around that you might be interested in. I strongly believe in the power of networking; I got my first job that way!

Embrace going out of your comfort zone

Entering the workforce is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it’s a big, scary step, and on the other, it’s a huge opportunity. I’d encourage new grads to frame it more as an opportunity. With the right preparation, you have the power to score the best job for you. And no matter where you land, you’ll learn something new that will propel your career even further.

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