By the end of February, the undergraduate and postgraduate student body should be fully immersed in finding a job upon graduation. It's the perfect time to start - a few months before you're out of college and at a time when you should have a strong idea of where you want your career to go.
Each year, a fortunate few students are recruited on campus while the majority of new graduates have to enter the job market and compete with their peers. While you may feel overwhelmed by or ill-prepared for the job search process, how you kickstart your job search today will determine where you land for your first job out of school.
Here are a few tips to help you get started on the right foot:
Set a budget: Talk with your family to determine how much financial support you can expect from them after graduation, and for how long. Next, try to gauge how much time you can financially afford to stay unemployed and whether you need an interim part-time position to make ends meet. If you’re not living at home, budget your rent, utilities, food, and entertainment costs to see how long your savings and income (if you have any) will cover them.
What you'll need: To begin, you need industry-appropriate interview outfits. If you're entering an industry where suits, ties, and formal businesswear dominate, you'll need to invest in a few sets yourself. If you aren't able to afford a business outfit, many generous donation services exist that can help you get set up. Outside of that, invest in some business-casual clothes for more casual companies and for the occasional dinners and coffee chats with people in your network. A separate Gmail account for your job search can be useful as well, allowing you to set up a professional-sounding address that is exclusively used for your job search and separate from your private life. In addition, start saving up whatever small income or allowances you may receive in the last months of college as an emergency fund.
Stay organized: When you're applying, you'll end up sending your resume to a few dozen jobs each month. This process can get really messy. Avoid mistakes like forgetting to follow up, missing an interview, or sending the wrong resume to the wrong company by staying organized. A free JobHero account can help you manage your entire job search process from top to bottom so you can always stay on top of your game.
Don’t restrict your search: Some graduates would love to work for a large company with strong a strong brand identity. Others want to avoid the world of big business and stick to small and mid-sized companies. Don't restrict yourself too heavily in this way. Figure out what you want out of your next employer on a variety of factors, from size to benefits to culture and beyond, and find companies that fit at least a few of your requirements. Be open to exploring outside of your ideal company profile.
Research the market: Find through 10-15 jobs you think are appropriate for you - they don't have to be in your geographic location. Review them all to see what the employers are looking for in a new hire and how well you match the requirements. If your skills aren't in sync with what's in demand, chances are you won't get a reply. Adjust your search based on where the market demand for your skillset lies, or take advantage of free online courses and paid certifications to bring your experience up to speed.
Take a personal inventory: Taking those 10-15 job listings, proceed to write down how well you fit each requirement based on your academics and any work experience you have. List all your business, technology and interpersonal skills and rate them on a scale of 1-10. You can then use this information to properly cater your resume for each role you apply to.
Start a network: You know people in the business world. Whether managers at internships, professors, or even fellow students, you already have a network. Get in touch with them and ask them for advice and referrals. Work every contact you have and keep nurturing your relationships. Personal referrals remain one of the strongest door openers to a job.
Start a job search group: Get together with 4-5 classmates or friends to start a job search support group. Meet once a week to set weekly goals and keep each other accountable. Share leads, expand your network, and make referrals. Discuss the interviews you had, what questions you were asked, your responses, and what you learned. You can also do mock interviews to help you get ahead.
Follow up: Don’t let job leads get cold - apply as soon as they're posted. The same holds true to any network suggestions you receive. Most importantly, however, go a step further and follow up on every job application and send thank you notes after interviews. That way you'll stay fresh on people's minds and increase your chances of hearing back.
Part-time job or interim staffing assignment: You may be anxious to get a full time offer, but part-time and temp work in the right environment can also help you make your mark at a company while helping to pay the bills. A contract job doesn't have to end at a set time if you make a big impact on a team. You can also use this to work to pad your resume nicely and expand network.
Keep positive: Looking for your first job can be a frustrating mess, but you need to keep everything in perspective and never lose confidence. If you feel your optimism slipping, take a break or reach out to friends and family for motivation. You can change your focus and job search strategies week to week, but a positive attitude is the one constant you need to get to where you want to go.