Today’s economy isn’t exactly perfect for the masses of recent college graduates entering the real world for the first time looking for their first job in their respective fields. Don’t worry, it’s been worse than it is now, though, and the good news is that things are consistently on the ups in terms of jobs, especially for entry-level prospects.
But if I had to go back and do it again myself (the American economy was much worse off when I graduated college than it is now), I would have appreciated these 6 nuggets of advice to help me get started – advice that no one else had to give me. So here they are for all of you to revel in.
OK, just to set all you youngsters straight – the likelihood of you graduating with a job lined up to start a week after your graduation date is slightly unrealistic at this point. Not to say that it isn’t impossible, though – it’s just not common.
Rather than panicking over the fact that you don’t have anything lined up, set realistic goals for yourself. Say you’ll look for jobs solidly for the next 6 months, and if you don’t find anything within that time frame, it’ll be time to refocus your search efforts and try a different approach.
Don’t expect that the world owes you anything because you are a college graduate. Lots of people are, and all of you are fighting for the same jobs at this point. I hate to be harsh, but it’s true. Be realistic about the fact that it may take you longer than you had always anticipated to find the perfect job in your field.
Clean Up Your Facebook
Now is as good a time as any to delete all of those pictures of you doing keg stands at the biggest frat party on your campus.
Employers will, I repeat, will, look at your Facebook profile either before they interview you or before they decide to hire you. Facebook is a great way to get to know the kind of person a business is about to hire – but for you, it could be a death trap, depending on what you have on there.
Delete posts with obscene profanity and rid your photos section of anything inappropriate. Most employers won’t mind the pictures of you and a group of friends out at a bar (assuming you are, of course, 21 or older), but try to delete the ones that are of all of your friends taking shots at the bar. There is a big difference between a smiling photo of a close group of friends and a picture of a bunch of drunk college kids drinking themselves into even further oblivion.
Know where the line is – and clean up your social media act before you contact any potential employers.
Use Your Alumni Network to Your Advantage
Most colleges these days have a career development center that features an extensive web of alumni who are willing to help recent graduates by giving advice or possibly even job tips. And guess what? Most recent grads aren’t taking advantage of that FREE offer.
I’m here to tell you that if you aren’t using your alumni database or your college’s career development center, you’re not going to be successful in finding an opportunity. Do not hesitate to reach out to alums who are in your field – the majority of them will be more than happy to at least give some advice to someone just starting out in the field. Others will even know of job openings and help you get an in.
It doesn’t matter if you know the person you are reaching out to – you have the college in common and that’s good enough. They’ll help you however they can if you contact them, even if it’s just to give you some free advice.
Join Networking Groups
To take the idea of reaching out to relevant alums in your industry one step further, join a local networking group, like a county Chamber of Commerce or a Young Professionals group.
Most groups meet once a month in a “mixer”-type setting, meaning they’re often held in a local bar or restaurant the group is supporting and there is food and drink specials and tons of people mingling. Network your way through the group like crazy.
While many of the contacts you make in your new group may be irrelevant to you at the time, you never know when you’re going to need help from someone or you’ll have an idea or a way to help someone else out. You also never know who you’re going to meet – you could end up bumping into a CEO of a company in your field.
Take your chances, let people know who you are and what you do, build your network and get yourself seen and known.
Don’t Be In Such A Rush to Get Out
Is living with your parents really that bad, for now, anyway? The answer is no. And if you can’t afford your own apartment out of college because you don’t have a job, you’re not alone.
Even when you find your first job, if it’s local, consider choosing to be one of the few who lives at home with mom and dad to save some money. That way, in the very near future, you’ll have saved enough to afford both a security deposit and a first month down payment on an apartment of your own or with a couple of roommates.
Save while you can, and suck it up and live at home for a little while in order to do so. Don’t rush yourself into a situation you can’t afford. It won’t be worth it in the end. That said, though, if you do decide to live at home for any period of time, always continue pushing forward with the job hunt. You still don’t want to be stuck there forever.
Broaden Your Horizons
Maybe you studied geology and you think that your only career path is to become a geologist or a science teacher. Or maybe you were in journalism, and you think that you have to write for a swanky newspaper or magazine to consider yourself successful.
Whatever you studied in college, broaden your thought horizons when it comes to finding your first job. Maybe you have that dream job in mind, but take into consideration the kinds of jobs that you can take that will help you get to your ultimate goal – like stepping stones along your career path.
Don’t hesitate to take a paid internship in your field, or even a job that isn’t quite related to your field but uses many of the same skills. Your first post-college job should be something that you use as a resume builder. As long as you’re expanding your knowledge and your skills in the job that you choose, your future will be golden.
Jackie Ryan is a freelance writer who found what she thought was her dream job and ended up hating it. She encourages people to keep an open mind – whether you want to crunch numbers all day, design logo mats in a factory, be a TV personality or work from home, having an open mind can get you to places you never even imagined!