For many college graduates, finally leaving school and entering the job world is a time of great excitement. The prospect of getting out there, snagging that dream job and carving a future for themselves is likely to get anyone pumped. But with that excitement can come stress. Stress that comes from not having enough experience, entering a competitive job market and just plain not knowing what employers are looking for.
To help those recent grads on their entry into the professional landscape, we’ve compiled a list of helpful advice to put their best foot forward.
Network, Network, Network
They’re ready, diploma in hand, to make a name for themself and show the world what they’re made of...but how does a recent college grad actually get their name out there? Through networking, of course! On the journey to snag a job, it’s important to carve out some time to engage with professionals in the desired industry through either networking events, email correspondence or one-on-one meetings. No one should be afraid to pick the brains of those who came before them with plenty of questions.
But, engaging is only half the battle. After making contact, it’s important to keep in touch. The hungry networker should regularly follow-up with those they’ve engaged with, to stay fresh in their minds. Otherwise, all those handshakes and emails will have been for nothing.
Craft a Resume That Shows What They Know
It can be intimidating for a college graduate to enter the job market, especially when they have little to no job experience. If they were to hand over a traditional resume, it would have a whole lot of white space. To help their resume look a little more fleshed out, they should think outside the box. Instead of focusing on work experience, they should instead showcase the specific skills that would make them a shoe-in for the job. All the things learned in college that would specifically apply to this position should go on there. Speaking of college, putting their grade point average (GPA) on there can go a long way, especially if it’s good.
Another great thing to include in a resume is non-paid experience. This is a given for internships, but they should also include any volunteer work, such as donating time to an animal shelter or helping out at an after-school program. While the volunteer experience might not specifically be applicable to their prospective job duties, it may help fulfill another set of criteria employers look for, which we’ll get into next.
Employers Look Beyond Qualifications
Degree? Check. Resume? Check. Internships? Check. Qualifications can get someone far, but that’s not all one needs to make a splash at their next interview. Across all industries, employers not only want someone who knows their stuff, but also someone who can add as much to the job as they get out of it.
They look for someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions, not because they’re not educated, but because they’re driven to understand every facet of the job. Likewise, employers look for someone who takes the answers to the questions they ask and applies them to enrich the quality of their work. Asking questions shows that they have an actual passion for the work that they do and are willing to go above and beyond for the benefit of the company.
They also look for someone who can coach, train and impart their wisdom to others. One of the hardest things to do is get everyone on the same page and if a prospective employee can show that they’re able to help with that, on top of having a deep level of expertise, it means a lot.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
A common misconception among people new to the workforce is, the higher the paycheck the better the job. Couple this with the fear that if they don’t accept the first job offer they get, they’ll never get another one, and many are left selling themselves short. A good long look should be taken at the benefits package. For example, one place could offer $60,000 a year, full dental and unlimited time off, while another offers $75,000 a year, but offer no dental or paid time off. At first glance, the latter may seem like the sweeter deal, but those benefits, or lack thereof, add up.
We get it. After applying and interviewing for jobs for what felt like forever, finally getting that job offer can make one feel downright grateful. But, that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to negotiate your benefits. In fact, many employers will initially low-ball applicants on benefits, fully expecting a little back-and-forth until they both reach a happy medium. Before signing on the dotted line, one should read the fine print, come to the table informed and be willing to counter with what they feel is fair.
There’s More Than One Dream Job
This one can be a tough pill to swallow. College grads, stepping out into the job world for the first time, will often have that “dream job,” that one magical place they envision starting their career. But what if that dream job isn’t in the cards right now? The job market can be competitive and sometimes there’s people more qualified. This can be a heavy blow to some, especially if it’s their first whiff of rejection. The important thing to remember is to not wallow in defeat and understand that this will probably happen a lot and is a natural part of the process. The best thing to do is to use that rejection to become even better. They should figure out why they didn’t get the job. What qualities were they perhaps lacking? Most importantly, what can they do to improve, so the next time they’re interviewed, their value is undeniable.
They should also accept that, even though they didn’t get that “dream job,” there are several great jobs out there. Jobs that may even surprise them and end up being better in the long run. Even still, if they still want to chase after that ideal position, they should use the opportunity provided from another company to learn and grow, so when that dream job presents itself once again, they’ll be ready this time.
Breaking into a desired career is an extremely exciting time for any young professional, and if they take this advice to heart, they’ll be one step closer to achieving their career goals, which in turn may impact their financial success.
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