You’ve crossed the stage, your college diploma in hand.
Now you’re left with one question:
How to find a job.
More to the point, you’re wondering how to get a job once you find the one you want.
Finding a job and landing it isn’t easy.
In fact, without some devoted effort and a solid plan, your job hunt could be long and arduous. Knowing where to start and how to navigate the job market as a new graduate or job seeker can be intimidating and overwhelming.
Lucky for you, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can increase your chances of finding a job, getting an interview, and securing an offer by working through our handy checklist below.
1. Decide what kind of career you want
The world is vast. So are the possibilities. This first step can be daunting if you don’t already know what career you want.
The good news?
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to some key interests, the job search activities will likely fall into place.
Make a list of everything you love to do. What did you like and dislike about past jobs? What are you good at?
This is a brainstorming session, so go crazy:
If you loved cat sitting for Grandma Bev last summer, write down “taking care of cats.”
This exercise isn’t meant to pinpoint your forever career. It should help you see a pattern in the types of activities you enjoy (or don’t).
Make a list of your values—the things that are important to you right now. Do you value family? Friends? Philanthropy? Status? Money?
These exercises help to identify jobs that may be a good fit for your lifestyle and interests.
If you love helping others and meeting new people, but you value weekend leisure time with friends, you can probably mark “car salesperson” off the list, and any other job that requires working weekends.
Keep your “likes and values” list handy while checking out the “Careers Insights” section to get an idea about what kinds of jobs match your skills and values. Jot down a list of jobs that sound interesting.
Likewise, if you find yourself skipping over some on the list, be cognizant about why you’re eliminating them.
You may consider yourself a “people” person. But if you keep scrolling by the jobs that require daily interaction with people, it could mean you’re better suited for an individual contributor role rather than a job that requires a lot of teamwork and nonstop collaboration.
2. Assess your resources
Okay, so let’s say you know what you want to apply for.
Time to whip up the ol’ resume and publish that baby to every job site from here to Internet Timbuktu.
Let’s do this!
Finding a job is a prime example of when you should work smarter.
What do we mean?
While you certainly want to expand your search for the perfect job far and wide (or at the very least, the distance to which you’re willing to travel), there’s something to be said for quality over quantity.
You can spend a lot of time applying cold to leads from Internet job sites. Or you can be strategic and potentially save a lot of time.
3. Use your network
A recent survey published on LinkedIn found that 85 percent of hires result from networking.
You read that correctly, and this is huge.
You’re probably thinking:
Network? What network!? I’m just starting out! I want to be a medical device development engineer, and I don’t know any engineers in that industry!
Calm down. Deep breaths.
A network is a pretty cool thing. Think of it like a web where everyone is connected. Think about all of the people you know: family, friends, teachers, past co-workers, the guy who takes your latte order and knows you by name, church acquaintances, coaches—seriously, anyone you know.
You may not know a development engineer in your immediate network.
But your Uncle Jim may have a fishing buddy whose son works for Johnson & Johnson. And you know Uncle Jim just thinks the world of you, so he has no problem texting his buddy: Hey! Does your kid still work for J&J? My nephew is looking for something in that field.
It’s like sending out a troop of job soldiers, all keeping an ear to the ground for you.
4. Research companies in your field
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few key jobs, what next?
Well, now you’ll want to know the best companies for growing that type of career. Even if those companies or organizations don’t have current openings, this is great intel.
Read their web content. Familiarize yourself with their brand. What is their mission? What are their values? What types of services do they provide and to whom?
Learn “How to Research a Company“.
5. Take advantage of career services and alumni networks
Your college most likely has a career services department. If you haven’t visited yours, then you’re missing out on a wealth of resources.
Today, you’ll find that many colleges offer opportunities to enhance your job-seeking skills. This may include everything from scheduling mock interview sessions to helping you fine-tune your resume and cover letter.
Want to know a secret?
Lean in a little closer…
YOUR COLLEGE WANTS YOU TO GET A JOB!
Colleges want to attract top students. But they can’t do that if they have a reputation for producing unemployable grads. Besides, you paid for the use of career services when you paid your tuition.
Use it, if available.
While we’re talking college, another invaluable resource for job-seeking grads is the college alumni network.
Most alumni networks take their outreach beyond the college and onto the web, so search your school’s alumni network to see what pops up. There might be a private Facebook group you can join or a group on LinkedIn.
See if you can subscribe to the alumni network newsletters. If they host a job fair, you definitely want to be in the loop. If they highlight alumni profiles in the newsletter, you want to scan the list for anyone in your field.
6. Clean up your digital footprint
The devil is in the details, right down to the email address you’re using to apply for jobs.
Now is the time to retire your college email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Instead create a polished, respectable one that won’t offend a hiring manager.
Save your creativity and flair for your cover letter.
Google yourself. Do the search results show someone you’d want to hire?
Employers today will definitely search your name on the web to get an idea about what kind of a person you are. A recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder indicated that a whopping 70 percent of employers snoop around a candidate’s social media account, and over half of them decided to pass on a candidate because of what they found.
Do a major audit of every social media account you have.
You know that picture of you with your cousins last Thanksgiving playing ping-pong in the garage while sipping apple cider out of red Solo cups? To an employer, it may look like you were playing beer pong at a party.
Aunt Milly makes the best homemade cider, after all, but it’s the new normal. And whether it’s fair or not, you will be judged based on how you present yourself online. That includes jokes, memes, photos, status updates, and even spelling and grammar.
7. Optimize your resume
If you have a basic resume, that’s a great start. But resumes should never be one-size-fits-all.
Instead, use your baseline resume as a template for building and customizing based on each specific job posting.
If you use your network effectively, there is a chance your resume could end up in the hands of the right person. But when you apply through online channels, your resume could end up with anyone from an HR rep to a hiring agency whose sole purpose is to weed out unqualified candidates.
Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to pre-screen applicants. These systems use sophisticated technology and algorithms to search resumes for qualified candidates using keyword functionality.
Play it safe if you’re submitting an application to a sizeable company in case they use ATS technology to pre-screen.
Here are some quick tips:
- Read the job description thoroughly and make note of keywords.
- Don’t use fancy fonts, formatting, images, or tables; this could jeopardize the ATS functionality and land your resume in the slush pile.
- Use the keywords in your cover letter as well.
Does the job description mention a specific skill, certification, or competency that you have? Plug it into your resume profile verbatim from the job posting.
Job descriptions are written based on the company’s pie-in-the-sky dream candidate. They may consider training the right individual to fill in the gaps if that person meets a majority of the other requirements.
Learn “How to Write a Resume“.
8. Prep your cover letter
If your resume lists your skills, experience, and education, then your cover letter sells you and what you can do for your employer.
- If possible, find out to whom the letter should be addressed. Do not address your letter generically as “Dear Sirs.” (As a female manager, I cannot stress the speed at which I crumpled and shot those babies into the trashcan.)
- Don’t rehash your resume.
- Do imbue some of your personality into your cover letter.
- Highlight how you will use your skills and experience to directly contribute to the company’s mission, goals, and values.
- Keep it short. One page will suffice. (And don’t use 6-point font to cram your life story into one page.)
- Use 2 – 3 subheadings to break up main ideas and create visual interest.
- Thank the person for reviewing your resume.
- Always include your contact information, even if it’s on your resume.
Learn “How to Write a Cover Letter“.
9. Apply for the job
Before you click the Submit button to send your application, there are two things we believe you should do. We believe skipping these two steps could make or break your application.
If you want to avoid embarrassing mistakes or misspellings, have one or two friends read your resume and cover letter. Then read them aloud to yourself. Then have a friend read them aloud to you. Once you’ve done all of that, you’re golden.
2. Follow directions.
This is huge. If an employer lists specific instructions for applicants—follow them. If you don’t, guess what that tells the employer?
That you can’t follow basic instructions. Also, that you’re not detail-oriented.
If the job ad says, “No phone calls please,” then for the love of Pete, do not call them.
10. Wait, but keep searching
You haven’t heard back. It’s been two days. You’re sweating it out, wondering if you landed the job.
Should you call to follow up?
The truth is:
You can really put a manager off by calling. Especially if you call too soon.
Opinions differ on this subject. If it’s really killing you, wait at least one full week, then email instead.
Here’s great advice:
While you’re waiting to hear back about a job, continue gaining experience by keeping up your search. Jobs open every day, so another great opportunity could post tomorrow.
Meanwhile, consider volunteering with an organization to continue building your experience. Or get an internship in the field you’re interested in while you work a job that pays the bills in the evenings. Network some more.
Most importantly: relax.
You’ll eventually get that call for an interview.
Learn “How to Prepare for a Phone Interview“.
11. Give a great job interview
Once you get an offer to interview, do a happy dance! That’s a sign that you’ve done some things right.
Interviews can take place over the phone, Skype, or in-person. They can be facilitated by one person or a panel. Some jobs require multiple interviews, sometimes with multiple individuals.
If your interview is via phone or Skype, then ensure you have an ironclad phone signal or a strong Internet connection.
Also, never do a phone or Skype interview with children or pets around. Clear your house out or go to a quiet, private room at a local library or your college.
Do a quick search for common interview questions and ask someone if they’d be willing to practice with you. Call your college’s career services and ask if they offer mock interviews. If so, schedule a mock interview. Practice talking about your skills and experience and how you’d apply them in your new role.
Always dress professionally. Even for the phone interview.
Yes, even the phone interview.
Think about it:
What are the odds you’ll be focused during an interview if you’re taking the call from your couch wearing last night’s comfy-cozies? Trust us. You’ll interview better on the phone if you dress the part.
Be personable, enthusiastic, and professional. Just be yourself. Trying to be something you’re not will come through in your interview, but not in a good way. Make sure to write a thank you email after an interview to demonstrate your ability to follow up.
12. Start your new job
Starting a new job is a bit like that first day of junior high minus the acne. It’s scary, a bit awkward, and you’re exhausted at the end of the day.
Give it some time. You’ll settle in and learn the ropes. Remember, you’re adding to your network! Everyone you’re working with in your new job is a potential gatekeeper for future career growth and opportunities.
Focus on your job and developing yourself through available training and development opportunities. Ask who will be your mentor for the first 30 days.
And remember to be yourself. The rest will fall into place.
LinkedIn. (2016). New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking. [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler/ [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].
Press Room | Career Builder. (2017). Number of Employers Using Social Media to Screen Candidates at All-Time High, Finds Latest CareerBuilder Study. [online] Available at: http://press.careerbuilder.com/2017-06-15-Number-of-Employers-Using-Social-Media-to-Screen-Candidates-at-All-Time-High-Finds-Latest-CareerBuilder-Study [Accessed 14 Oct. 2017].