Advice on Finding a Job After College

When the economy is bad, employers are hesitant to invest in inexperienced applicants, and older workers delay retirement.  Campus recruiting has also dried up, eliminating a way for graduates to find real entry-level jobs.   These factors create significant barriers for new graduates. But it’s not all bad news.  Hiring of 2010 graduates is greater than hiring for 2009 graduates, and SimplyHired’s blog reports increased opportunities in a variety of industries.

I found a job in a bad economy after changing careers.  If I can do it, so can you.  Some advice from someone who has actually been there:

Keep looking

The number one key to finding a job is to just keep looking, even when you think you’ve exhausted all possibilities or even if you’re expecting an offer.  A few years ago, a large percentage of graduates had a job upon graduation.  The realities have changed and you’ll need to adjust your expectations.  A difficult job search is not a reflection on you, but on circumstances beyond your control.  Many talented people are out of work now, so don’t doubt your abilities.

Take a break

Some people say that job searching is like a job, but it really isn’t.  During a job, you get paid to work.  In a job search, you don’t get paid and may even spend your own financial resources on interview clothes or travel expenses.  It’s fine to take a break from looking for a few days.  Constantly searching without any responses can lead to depression, which will reduce your motivation.  When you start to feel discouraged, stop and do something fun.

Stay busy

Not only will keeping active help ward off depression, but you can also increase your chances of finding a job.  I briefly did temporary work in an unrelated field, but still gained skills that I can use throughout my career.  Temping also exposes you to a variety of workplace environments, which helps you identify your preferences and develop more specific career goals.  You can also volunteer, obtain certifications, or get an internship.  Potential employers will admire your motivation and work ethic.

Don’t be picky

Even as a recent graduate, you’ll need to have standards.  You probably have loans to pay off and you don’t want to take such a low salary that it will set you up for lower salaries throughout your career.  However, being too picky can hurt your chances of finding a job.  Many companies don’t have the money to pay the same entry-level salaries they did several years ago.  It’s not fair that because of your graduation year you’ll start out with less money (and probably higher student loan debt) but a lower salary than you expected is better than none at all.   Visit PayScale.com to find out what you’re worth, based on your specific qualifications and company characteristics.  Also, be open to taking a job in a less-desirable location or at a company you haven’t considered.

Focus on local positions

I got a much higher rate of response from local employers, or employers in nearby cities (within 50 miles of my address).  Many companies aren’t paying relocation expenses of non-local candidates and many limit the applicants they consider to local candidates. This doesn’t mean you should ignore jobs in other locations, but spend at least half of your job search time applying to local jobs.  When applying to non-local jobs, use the address of a relative on your resume if it’s closer to the job to which you are applying.

Diversify your search

I got my first job through an online job board, but I also searched local newspapers, sent out resumes cold to nearby employers, and contacted recruiters.  Don’t rely on just one (or two) job search methods.  If you don’t want to apply to a position through an online job board, try to find the hiring manager’s email or apply directly through the company’s career site.  Aggregator sites like Indeed and SimplyHired are especially helpful because you don’t have to visit individual job boards or company websites.

Bypass HR

When applying to large companies, resumes are often filtered significantly by computers or by human resources staff.   At smaller companies, hiring decisions are usually made by the department that has an opening.  For larger companies, you can search for a department manager’s contact information on LinkedIn and other professional sites.  Your goal should be to get your resume into the hands of a professional in your industry.

Tell people you’re looking

As you’ve probably heard, most jobs are never advertised.  The more people you tell about your job search, the greater your chances of hearing about potential openings.  Some people might even be nice enough to put in a good word for you at their company. Recommendations from insiders prove much more influential than outside references.  If you don’t like networking, just casually mention that you’re looking for a job instead of asking directly.  This gives people the opportunity to help without putting too much pressure on them.

There is no formula for finding a job.  An offer may come when you least expect it, so don’t give up on your search.  See the Online Resources page for websites where you can research employers, craft a good resume, and brush up on interview skills.

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