With the economic downturn and rising unemployment rate resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a job after college can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be!
With a little planning, imagination, and patience, you can make the process of searching for an entry-level job that much easier and more successful.
Here are a few don’ts – and several dos – to help you in your post-college job search.
Even if you’re a freshman, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your job prospects after college. (Some schools even employ career counselors specifically for first-year students.) But no matter how far away graduation day is, visit your college’s career center and research companies you might want to work for. If these companies don’t have open entry-level positions now, they may in the future.
Also, you’ll want to give your references plenty of notice if you want written recommendations – or even if you want to give out their information like phone numbers and email addresses. References appreciate a heads-up when a potential employer might be contacting them.
Don’t feel limited.
Most likely, you won’t be able to land your dream job right away. Try not to rule out any entry-level jobs because you feel overqualified. Temporary or part-time work may allow for more flexibility in your scheduling, so you can continue to search. Nearly any job provides opportunities to improve your skills. A retail position, for instance, can hone your quick thinking, flexibility and interpersonal effectiveness.
Don’t worry too much about being underqualified, either (unless a job asks for specific qualifications that you don’t have). If a job describes certain skills, such as fluency in Spanish, as “helpful” or “a plus” but not required, apply even if you don’t have these skills and make sure your resume and cover letter focuses on the strengths you do possess.
Employers will appreciate and remember you showing interest, even if they can’t hire you for that particular position.
That being said, don’t apply to any and every job you qualify for — make sure you really want it. It’s better to put a lot of effort into three job applications than to send the same generic resume and cover letter to 20.
Don’t make easy mistakes.
Proofread your cover letter (and then have someone else proofread it), send thank-you notes after interviews and carefully follow application instructions. In a job market where a lot of candidates look similar, little things can make a big difference. An error-free resume and a polished appearance give the impression of a candidate who’s serious about the job search.
It’s also an easy mistake to send the exact same cover letter and resume to multiple employers. Each should be tailored to the job. The changes, however, don’t have to be major. Try looking for key words and phrases within the job description. Rather than copying these exact phrases, try to blend the job’s depiction of their ideal employee with your description of what you can bring to the company.
Don’t be afraid to network.
It’s not as difficult as you think! In fact, you may have been networking without even realizing it. You don’t have to drop business cards into the hands of everyone you meet, but you can let people know you’re looking for a job. Your college’s alumni network is a good place to search for potential contacts. If you find others in your field of interest, politely ask them if they’d be willing to tell you what their job is like. Many alums will be happy to talk on the phone or even sit down for a cup of coffee and answer your questions.
In addition, keep in touch with colleagues from previous jobs and internships. People who know you and trust you will probably consider you for jobs if they can, and provide leads or references if they can’t.
Don’t get discouraged.
Solid work may guarantee good grades in college, but the job market is a little trickier – sometimes a perfect, solid entry-level resume simply isn’t enough. Stay realistic, but stay positive. There will be rejections — don’t take them personally. Think of every application and interview as valuable practice. Hang in there!
Plenty of employers of entry-level jobs would love to hire someone with a recent college graduate’s credentials, but they may not be able to afford it. A new hire is an investment for a company. It’s your responsibility to prove that you’re worth it! If you’re confident and hopeful, you’ll find it easier to sell yourself.
Getting a job after college will be challenging. But if you’re optimistic, ready to work hard and prepared to be patient, you can meet this challenge head-on.
What are you doing to make it easier to find a job after college?