How to Get a Job After College: A Guide for New Graduates

Published by Brian Meiggs on

If you’re a recent college graduate, congratulations! You probably are looking for a job after college, right?

You should be very proud of all the hard work that went into your diploma. If you don’t have a job lined up prior to graduation, you might be wondering how to get your first job after college.

With the current state of the economy and your student loans to pay off, it can be quite frustrating.  While unemployment is at an eight-year low, nearly half of college graduates – 44% – are underemployed, meaning they are working at a gig that does not require a college degree.

Many companies have very few open positions or may not be hiring at all. This is especially true for entry-level positions due to the fact that so many experienced professionals are currently in the job market and some have become desperate. While you can look for ways to make money on the side, you’ll want to utilize your college degree to find a job and a career.

When your job search feels like an impossible task, it’s easy to get discouraged. However, there are a few things that you can do to make sure you stand out with potential employers.

Legit Ways to Get a Job After College

Landing that first job after college can be a stressful (and exciting) process for many college seniors and recent grads. However, you can use a few simple tips to help you get ahead and noticed by employers.

Here are seven tips for landing your first job after college.

1. Check With Your Career Center

Start by utilizing your college’s career center for opportunities, career advice, and services and programs available.

If you opted to talk to a career advisor at your school’s career center, you will be in good hands. They can help prepare you for interviews with the most common interview questions, give you career goals, provide tips for writing your resume and help set up a job search plan suited for your career.

One sure bet that can lead to a full-time job is attending your campus job fairs on campus, these offer you opportunities to get hired by companies who want to hire students at your school. Win-win.

2. Experience Counts

feeling empowered

If you have any hands-on experience that is related to your field of interest, make sure you use it to your advantage. This could include gig jobs, part-time jobs, volunteer work, or internships. If you did not have the chance to do this prior to graduation, it’s not too late. While you might not find an internship program, you can always look for a part-time job or even a volunteer position so that you can proudly say that you have proven experience.

Depending on your area of interest, you may also want to consider temp jobs. Many employers use temporary employment agencies to pre-screen potential entry-level employees because it offers them a risk-free opportunity to determine if the person is a good fit for their organization. As they have a chance to evaluate their work and see that they have potential, many top-of-the-line temp workers are offered permanent positions. You can search for local temp jobs hiring near you here.

Along the same line of thought, you might also consider a position that is a little below your standards if it allows you to get your foot in the door with a highly-desired potential employer. If you are stuck wondering how to get experience for a job after college, this will give you a chance to showcase your skills and show that you are motivated. Make sure that you excel at the tasks that you are given and continue to ask for more responsibility. Someone may keep you in mind when an entry-level position in your area of expertise is available.

When you are applying for a job that you’re not qualified for, just remember these few tips:

  1. Be confident, yet humble.
  2. Emphasize your motivation and desire.
  3. Get experience through a side project, internships, or volunteering and highlight it.

3. Networking Makes a Difference

Getting a job after college can be done by finessing your networking skills. Knowing the right people makes a huge difference when it comes to finding a job at any level. While employers will advertise that they hire the person most qualified for the job, the vast majority of positions are attained by knowing the right people. While working within a company to gain experience will allow you to make valuable contacts, don’t discount the people that you will meet in the volunteer world.

Many large corporations promote community service which means that you could be working next to an executive while handing out food to the homeless or walking for a popular charity. The best rule of thumb is to always act as if the next person you come into contact with could be your big break. If professional organizations for your specialty area near you, join them and become a regular participant. You can get some more networking tips here.

4. Target your Resume and Cover Letter

tips for writing a resume

While you will want a standard resume that you can hand out at a moment’s notice, it’s also a great idea to tailor your resume towards your prospective employer when you can. For a tailored resume, make sure that you emphasize any classes or hands-on experience that is particularly relevant to their operation. You should also include a cover letter with each resume that is customized for each employer. When possible, find out who is making the hiring decision and address the cover letter directly to them.

In general, start off with your educational background. Make sure you list any awards that you may have received. List your GPA in general or within your major if it was outstanding. You can also provide examples of classes that you think will be particularly relevant.

Next, list your experience whether it was paid or unpaid. If you don’t have any experience that you feel is relevant, think of something that would apply. Even if you’ve only flipped burgers, find something that would show you have a great attitude and the proper motivation. You can also check out resume revision services that can help you along the way or learn about tips to become a better resume writer.

5. Have Letters of Recommendation Ready

mba worth it

In addition to listing references on your resume, ask a few of those valuable contacts you’ve cultivated to write letters of recommendation that you can attach to your resume with your cover letter.

While many will not take the time to call your references while they are reviewing resumes, most people will scan reference letters.

6. Use Niche Job Sites

resume writer

While wondering how to get your first apartment or job after college, you have probably used a few online job sites. If you haven’t tried a niche site yet, they are a great way to develop contacts and find job leads. Find one or two that focus on your career choice and spend a little time there.

Get to know the other users, and let them get to know you. As you become a part of their online community, you will find that they will pass on job leads as they hear about them.

In addition, many prospective employers will come to niche sites to recruit prospective employees. Here are some of the top niche sites to check out and have you stop wondering how to get a job after college.

7. Create a LinkedIn Profile

Most employers will search for you online. When they come across your LinkedIn profile, you can showcase what you have to offer other than what’s on your resume. LinkedIn is also a great place to build your network, search for jobs, and connect with recruiters and potential employers.

Check to see if your college alumni have a group that you can join and use that as another resource for finding a job. Be sure to fill your LinkedIn profile with information that highlights your skills, education, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, internships and ask your colleagues and former bosses for recommendations.

Networking Lessons to Help Accelerate Your Career

Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating, especially if your keen for social connections that can put you at an advantage to boost your career.

Millennials reached a milestone in 2015 when they surpassed Generation X as the largest component of the US workforce. A Pew Research Center analysis showed that one out of three employed Americans belong to the generation of 20- to 36-year-olds.

Despite this and their reputation as the social media generation, however, millennials have a tougher time maintaining their connections. A recent LinkedIn survey showed that being unable to reconnect or simply not knowing what to say are the top reasons millennials are unsuccessful in their networking pursuits.

Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating, especially to the generation whose aptitude for social connections puts them at an advantage or hate corporate America. Here are eight networking lessons that millennials can apply in their networking to help advance their career.

how to get a job after college

Come prepared

Being mentally hyped up is good but nothing beats actual preparedness in a networking event. If you can get your hands on a list of participants, you can narrow down the parties that you want to network with. Try to find companies or people who are in your field of interest and use your internet prowess to learn a little bit about their background (in a non-creepy way) so you can find your point of entry.

Carpe diem

There are countless opportunities for networking anytime, anywhere and you don’t even have to wear a tie. Attend an alumni party; meet people in a friend’s gallery opening; arrange a casual meet-up in a cafe. Forbes reported that some moms even use their kid’s playdates as a chance to network with other parents. Go out there and seize the day, because anything can pass off as networking.

Be specific

Networking is much like dating except that two people have to be upfront with what they’re hoping to gain out of the relationship. Take a page out of the older generation’s playbook and don’t beat around the bush while waiting for the other person to initiate contact or move the conversation along. Know what you need before you get into anything and clarify your reason for connecting.

Give and take

Now that you know what you want, you have to tell them what you can do for them. Networking is a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” type of relationship. My Millenial Guide previously advised identifying your skills and knowing how to market them effectively. Everyone has something to offer so share your expertise with them as a way to show gratitude just for entertaining you. Don’t be too demanding or expectant of a payback. Not everyone may return the favor when you need it, but more connections mean your chances are higher.

Build authentic relationships

Of course, expanding your network is not just about increasing your number of connections. Remember to consider quality as well, so build meaningful relationships and tend to them genuinely. Seek contacts that add value to your career and to which you could do the same so that helping each other out becomes a natural aspect of your relationship.

Follow up online

If there’s one thing that most millennials are good at, it’s the internet. There are several online professional platforms like LinkedIn which Menlo Coaching recommends using to your advantage because they can be very efficient. Maintain professionalism in the way you interact with your contacts online and only friend them in more casual websites if you’ve established a more comfortable relationship.

Find a mentor

A mentor can be someone you know or someone you sought out professionally. Find someone who’s had experience in the same field so they can be trusted as your go-to for career advice.

Keep track

Finally, keeping track of your contacts is of utmost importance. It can be as simple as a notebook to a more detailed spreadsheet, and it’s advisable to attach photos so you don’t get confused with their names. Staying on top of your growing network enables you to maintain the strength your professional relationships more effectively.

Other Resources to Help You Find a Good Job After College

Here are some of our resources that’ll help you find a good job after college:

You’re Ready to Get a Job After College

Now that you are fully equipped with sound career advice for college graduates, you can get more interviews, and do well in those interviews to land your dream job.

Remember, it’s a numbers game — so apply for as many job openings that interest you on a daily basis because it only takes one job offer.

The key is not to get discouraged if you haven’t found a job as quickly as you would have wanted. Use these job hunting tips and so you know how to get a job after college.

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Brian Meiggs

Brian is the founder of GigsAcademy and has tried every side hustle under the sun. He teaches people just like you how to make money in the gig economy and has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, Discover and more. He normally shares the latest news, videos, and topics for gig workers so they can earn more money in the gig economy.