For most people, finding that first job can be a frustrating experience, but you can make it easier for yourself if you are organized and have a plan for how to proceed. There are steps that you can take before you graduate that may help you land your first gig right away, but even if you don’t have that job lined up by commencement, having a plan can get you started on a more dedicated job search. This page is divided into two sections: things to do before you graduate and what to do after you graduate if you don’t have a job yet.
Before you graduate
Take a close look at your schedule and find two or three times during the week when you can devote at least 30 minutes to your job search. Then create a checklist of things you want to accomplish, and use that time to complete all the items on your checklist. Your checklist might include the following items:
- Create a list of job titles that appeal to you.
- Create a list of organizations where you might want to work.
- Find out the dates and locations of career fairs on your campus and in your community and add them to your calendar.
- Produce a personal business card.
- Identify your skills and strengths through online assessments.
- Update your resume. Produce different versions that focus on different aspects of your skill set if you will be applying for a variety of types of work. Realize that you may want a slightly different format for print and electronic versions of your resume.
- Practice writing cover letters.
- Visit your career center for advice.
- Practice your interviewing skills.
- Produce and practice your elevator speech.
- Schedule and conduct information interviews (see more about information interviews).
- Create your reference list by contacting potential references and asking their permission to serve as a reference. Keep in mind that you may need different references for different types of work.
- Investigate professional associations relevant to your career goals. Take advantage of student rates and join appropriate groups to build your network and access job boards.
- Create a system for keeping track of your applications (see more about keeping track of job applications).
- Complete your 1st Gig profile.
- Clean up your social media sites to ensure that they are professional.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. Join relevant LinkedIn groups.
After you graduate
If you don’t have a position lined up by the time you graduate (which is probably the most likely scenario), you can relieve some of your frustration if you treat the job search like it is your job. Get up every weekday morning and sit at your desk and do the work of finding a job. Work at it eight hours a day. Continue to use the checklist that you created while you were in school and add the following:
- Follow up on contacts from 1st Gig or applications from other sources. While there is mixed advice about whether you should do this, it is unlikely to hurt to follow up with an email message or handwritten note if you have not heard within 10-14 days after submitting an application. This is especially appropriate if you (1) have the address of a specific contact (hiring manager) within the organization, (2) submitted your application via email or mail, (3) really want this job, and (4) think you are a good match.
- If you hear from an employer that you did NOT get the job, you can politely ask if they could tell you either why they chose the person they chose or what you lacked so that you can improve your chances with the next opportunity.
- Attend meet ups, professional association meetings, or other community events that will allow you to expand your network.
- Join your alumni association and contact alumni in your field to ask for assistance with your job search or for information interviews.
- Take breaks, just as you would for a regular job. And enjoy the weekends. Don’t burn yourself out with the search process.