What to Do After College: Tips on Finding Your First Job

hat toss

high school graduates tossing up hats over blue sky.

So you did it. You survived all of those tiring all-nighters, grueling end-of-term finals and (somewhat) balanced keg stands and you’re ready for next phase of your life. Graduating from college is a huge feat that calls for celebration. But when the party is over, it’s time to find a job and knowing how and where to find your first job can be tricky without proper guidance.

According to a recent news experts are cautiously optimistic for graduates entering the 2021 job market. From newly crafted diversity hiring plans, to interest in maintaining or increasing hiring for 2021, things are looking better.

Even though these numbers are encouraging, there are ways to prepare yourself for the big search that will set you up for success. Follow these tips to gain a competitive edge in your very first post-grad job hunt.

Get a LinkedIn Profile

If you don’t have one already, you need to have an updated LinkedIn account. Professionals in nearly every industry are on LinkedIn so it’s important to have a strong profile that outlines your strengths and experience. Even if your profile is bare-bones, the sooner you’re on there the better. Be sure to list any extra-curricular activities, your strongest skills and any awards or academic honors received during college.

Even if you don’t have a lot of relevant experience, you should still include any jobs you’ve held, like lifeguarding over the summer or babysitting. They’ll at least establish your work ethic and you can always delete your early jobs and add new ones as your career progresses.

You’ll hear this throughout your career: Networking is vital. LinkedIn is extremely helpful for starting to build out your list of connections. When your profile is complete, make sure to connect with all the adults you know including family members, old teachers or mentors, etc. You never know what connections they may have that could be helpful to you.

Try an Internship

No matter what industry you want to work in, internships are a good opportunity for graduates to get their foot in the door and eventually advance to a paying job. In the same Accenture study, 36 percent of graduates who did an internship said it led to a job at the company.

“I need a job and I don’t have experience but to get experience I need to get a job!” said every college graduate ever. Even if internships don’t always lead to jobs, they do at least provide experience. Be proactive during your internship to get the most experience possible and make connections with your coworkers to build lasting professional relationships.

Use your School’s Career Services

This may sound like a given but I’ll be the first to admit I probably only stepped foot in my university’s career center a handful of times my entire four years in school. If I’d spent more time there I would have learned that these centers are packed with helpful resources like internal job boards, list of alumni in various fields, mock interviews, self- assessment tests, sample cover letters and resumes and so on. Your college or university has also staffed the center with career experts who can review your resume, connect you to alumni and help practice your elevator pitch or networking skills.

Network, Network, Network

Networking is absolutely crucial to your job hunt – hence why it’s a part of every other tip so far. Getting your face and name in front of people is so much more effective than just emailing a resume. Make strong connections with potential employers and keep in touch with them to stay top-of-mind when they are hiring.

Networking can be uncomfortable, especially for those that are more introverted. Practice makes perfect. Go to virtual or in-person networking events and take advantage of networking workshops or events at your career center (see above). Invest time in your developing your networking skills. It will continue to be an important skill throughout your career.

Keep an Open Mind

Be realistic. Unfortunately, your first job probably won’t be your ”dream job” – but experts encourage recent graduates to take any role that will build skills and keep them in the job market. Even a side-hustle like tutoring or podcasting is encouraged to grow your ‘brand’ as a potential employee. As you review job sites, be sure to keep an open mind to positions and companies that aren’t necessarily your first choice.

The tips above should help guide your job hunt as you kick start your career. Finding your first job is not an easy task but it is an educational process that you will only get better at with time. Corridor Careers is a resource for job hunters at all stages to better land jobs they love. Browse our job listings for the best jobs in the Iowa Creative Corridor.

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