The end of your time in college can be both exciting and overwhelming. You’re finally done with classes and tests, but you’re about to be thrown into a world with forty (or more) hours of work each week, retirement plans and no spring break. If you’re still not sure of your career plans after you finally graduate, it can only feel even more stressful.
Many grads-to-be expect to have a position lined up already when they leave school. Unfortunately, this isn’t a reality for everyone. Certain industries or companies may not hire far in advance or you may just not have the time to dedicate to an intense job search. No matter the reasoning, it isn’t completely unexpected to graduate without a full-time offer waiting for you.
If you’re about to graduate and you don’t have full-time employment, don’t worry — you’re not alone. But if you want to land a job soon, there are a few things you’ll need to do. Here are nine steps you should follow to get an offer as a recent college graduate.
1. Stay Calm and Make a Plan
Many people who are new to the job world panic when they don’t hear back after sending in one application. Although you may be a perfect fit for the job, the hiring manager needs to think so, too. If they don’t think you’re a great fit or the other applicants just fit the description better, you may not be contacted for an interview.
Applying for a position and not hearing back can be a blow to the ego, but it isn’t the end of the world. If you allow yourself to become frustrated or start to doubt yourself, finding a job will only become more difficult.
Remember to stay calm throughout the entire job application process. Create a plan that helps you focus on sending in your applications, following up with hiring managers and constantly moving towards landing an interview. When you’re looking to the future and not the past, you can retain your confidence and not become distracted.
2. Contact Your Network
When you apply for a new position — especially one posted on an online job board — you’re typically competing with hundreds of other applicants. In order to get noticed by a hiring manager, you need to stand out. One of the best ways to get noticed is to have someone within the company introduce you to the hiring manager or even turn in your resume for you.
Your network can also alert you about jobs before they’re posted to job boards or positions that may never make it to the public. With this inside information, you can get a leg-up against the competition and at least make it to the first rounds of interviews.
Consider who in your network might be able to help you out, but don’t stay limited to your immediate friends or family members. If you were a member of professional organizations, Greek life or other communities, they might have an alumni network to connect with. Additionally, your college probably has a network of alumni at your disposal. Look up a few in the industry you hope to go into or a company you’d like to work with and send them a message.
3. Expand Your Options
Many recent grads struggle to find a job because they’re limiting themselves too much. They only want to stay within a specific city and they only want to take a job at specific companies. While this kind of persistence may pay off eventually, it may also be longer before you get a full-time job offer. If you don’t have time to wait, consider expanding your options.
Consider which is more important to you: the industry or the location. If you know you’d like to be in a certain city, even if it means taking a job outside your industry, take a look at other positions you may qualify for. It may also mean looking for jobs in other places, such as with smaller companies or startups.
On the other hand, if you know what industry you’d like to go into, you may need to look at other cities or locations. Applying to jobs across the country can open new doors and present you with new opportunities. Again, you’ll want to look at companies of all sizes if you’re serious about getting full-time employment soon.
4. Find Experiences in Unexpected Places
When you’re fresh out of college, it can feel like you’re not qualified to do anything. It seems like companies are asking for more and more experience to fill entry-level jobs. So when you’re searching for your first job, you may need to get creative about the experience you have.
While things like internships, summer jobs or part-time positions may translate into real experience more easily, other hobbies and activities may give you experience for a job you hadn’t thought about. If you held a leadership role with a club, volunteered in your spare time or even helped tutor peers in your class, you may have more experience than you think.
Don’t let a call for a certain amount of experience hold you back from applying for a position. Even if they’re looking for more than you have, try to come up with some other ways you’ve gained experience that you can speak about in an interview. If you’re able to explain why you’re qualified for the position, a hiring manager won’t care how many internships you did or what job you worked in your spare time.
5. Check Your Career Services Office
Colleges and universities want to see their graduates go off to have fulfilling careers. They put in the time and resources to help their students secure those positions, typically through a Career Services Office.
If your college or university has a Career Services Office or something similar, it won’t hurt to stop in. While you shouldn’t expect to be handed a position as soon as you walk through the door, the individuals who work in this office can help you create a stronger resume and cover letter and connect you with hiring managers at certain companies.
Try to schedule a meeting with the office before you graduate and leave campus. However, if you’ve already graduated and moved out, you can probably still get some assistance. Give the office a call and see what they can help you with.
6. Consider an Internship or Part-Time Job
Not many people want to take an internship after they’ve graduated, but it can be a great way to get your foot in the door — especially if you don’t have a lot of real-world experience. If you’re struggling to get a full-time position, a part-time job or internship may be a way to ease into a more traditional work environment.
Some smaller companies simply don’t have the money to take on a full-time employee, but they still need help here and there to pick up some of the slack. A part-time position can help you show off your skills and make a few connections within a company.
Just keep a clear budget in mind. If you’re able to move back in with your parents, this may be a great option. But if you need to cover the cost of rent and bills, don’t try to take on a full-time unpaid internship. Be realistic about what you can do and what will truly benefit your career.
7. Create a Personal Blog or Online Portfolio
When everyone is applying to jobs with a traditional resume, you need to find a way to make yourself stand out. A personal blog or online portfolio can be a great way to boost your resume and stand out from the crowd.
Many applicants create a professional website they can connect with their job applications. This can give a hiring manager something to remember you by or just provide them with more information than they would get on a resume or traditional cover letter. However, remember that a website typically doesn’t take the place of a traditional application packet. You should still send your resume and cover letter — just use your website as supplemental material.
An online portfolio, professional website or personal blog are extremely beneficial to certain positions. If you’re in marketing, a creative field or web development, you can show off your skills with your website.
8. Check Your Expectations
Maybe getting a job offer isn’t your problem. Instead, your problem may be that you just can’t find a job that feels “right” to you. While you can be picky about the job you accept, having unrealistic expectations may leave you unemployed after graduation.
Many recent grads come out of college prepared to take on any challenge they’re given. When a challenge doesn’t seem high enough or they’re not given enough responsibility, they may decide to pass on it. Additionally, if the benefits package doesn’t include unlimited vacation days, free snacks in the break room or flexible hours, they may decline an offer.
The perfect job may be out there, but it can take great lengths and resources to find it. Instead of looking for a position that fits all your criteria, consider what’s most important to you. Whether that’s vacation time, a salary or a retirement plan, knowing what you really need can help you say “yes” to a job. And remember, you can always negotiate benefits down the road.
9. Find Your Passion and Purpose
Companies want to hire professionals who are passionate about the work they do. They want employees who are excited to come in each day and who are going to put in the time to go above and beyond to get a project completed the right way. If you go into an interview without knowing why you’re passionate about the job, you probably won’t get an offer.
While you don’t need to eat, sleep and breathe your job, you should be excited about the benefits it can bring you. Relating how the position will help you do something you love, help other people or work on something close to you can help you build a stronger relationship with your hiring manager.
Before applying to any job, think about how that position will relate to your passion and purpose. Then, include these answers in your application and keep them in mind when going in for an interview. When you’re excited about the job, you’ll make a better impression.
Many recent grads and soon-to-be graduates stress over not having the job of their dreams just yet. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. Your career should be treated as a marathon — not a sprint. For now, you just need to focus on getting a job, making connections and improving your network and experience level.
Are you a recent or soon-to-be graduate? Tell us your tips for landing a job in the comments!
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