Is there anything better than college graduation? You are at the top of the college food chain. You know all of the go-to spots on campus, and you have survived 4 grueling years of studying. It is time to celebrate! As you walk across the stage to receive your diploma, you reminisce on all of the all-nighters, binge-watching Netflix when you should have been studying, and of course, all of the friends you have made along the way. But, whether you realize it or not, the moment you exit the stage you find yourself on the bottom of the food chain again. You are about to enter into what people call “the real world.”
How prepared are you for this?
It’s perfectly normal to not know which path you will take at this time. I remember when I returned to my university for the first time after graduation, and I ran into a former professor of mine. He said, “Brian, how does it feel to be an adult?”
I replied with, “I’ll let you know when it happens.”
Now is the million-dollar question that I am sure every family member has asked you: So, what’s next?
As someone who struggled to find a full-time position after I graduated college, I wanted to use this platform to help those who may be in a similar position or prevent other recent graduates into falling into an endless cycle of waiting to hear back on job applications. Here are 6 tips I wish someone had told me on graduation day.
- Treat your job search like it IS your job.
While you look for full time employment, it should be your top priority every day to spend time sending out new job applications, reaching out to new contacts or researching new companies. This is not something you should do every few days or something you do when you have some free time. You also should not wait to send out more applications just because you are waiting to hear back on another. Increase your odds!
Set goals for yourself. Aim to reach out to a certain number of contacts each day and/or apply to a certain number of jobs per week. The sooner you realize your current job is searching for a job, the quicker you will find yourself starting your career.
- Narrow down your search.
It’s unlikely that the first position you have will be your dream job. As most know today, it’s also highly unlikely that this will be the company that you ultimately retire from, like many parents and grandparents before us. While it’s great to aim high on your first job search, there is nothing wrong with taking a part-time position or working as an intern. I often found entry-level positions that were asking for multiple years of experience. If you also notice this trend, why not go out and get that experience while you search? Plus, working for a company in any capacity is great for getting your foot in the door, which ultimately is what you are looking to do in your first job.
- It’s normal to make mistakes, but make it your goal to learn from each one.
Making mistakes is a normal part of everyday life, of course. But, how can we grow individually if we do not learn from our mistakes? Think back to an unsuccessful job interview you may have had in the past. Have you thought about why you didn’t receive an offer? Could you have prepared differently? How strong did you feel your answers were to their questions? And, perhaps more importantly, how strongly did you feel your own questions represented your understanding and interest in the company and job?
If you are treating every application or interview process the same and still not seeing any results, let me remind you of the definition of insanity. Switch things up! Contact family members, friends, neighbors and anyone you think may be a help with your search, attend job fairs and networking events, and reach out to recruiters in your area or area of focus. (Remember: Many, though not all, recruiters specialize by industry and/or job function.) Why not try something new if what you are doing is not working?
- Social media is your friend… and should not be a frenemy to your search.
While social media can be used as a great tool to stay in touch with old and current friends, it can also become very toxic when job searching. I often saw lots of my friends and classmates posting about all of the exciting new opportunities they were presented or all of the exciting places they were able to travel to because of their new career. I would see these posts and wonder why I was not in the same position as friends in my newsfeed.
Social media is meant to showcase the highlights of our lives. I can’t recall anyone ever posting, “Just had a job interview. I bombed it and never heard back from them!”
So, while friends and classmates may have found their first job sooner, it does not mean that they did not have some bumps along the way.
- Do not let one person’s opinion of you become your reality.
After a few months of not many responses, failed interviews and being passed on, I started to believe that I was not a fit for most jobs I found. I would read job descriptions and immediately disqualify myself if I did not meet each and every requirement. If I had not gotten an offer from a different company for a similar position, why would this company be any different? What a terrible mindset to have! How can you know you are not a fit for this company unless you apply? What is truly the worst thing that could happen? They say no thanks. Throw your name in the ring, you never know what might happen. Maybe you have a mutual connection with the hiring manager, maybe you attended the same college or grew up in the same area. My point is, you won’t know until you try.
- Success is a journey, not a destination.
If there is anything you take from this, let it be this: everyone is on a different timeline. Some are farther ahead on the timeline than you, and that’s totally fine. Just remember that you are a fresh grad and do not need to have your whole career planned out in your early 20s. Start focusing more on achieving your goals instead of how long it takes to accomplish them. This should be a very exciting time in your life. Every year you have known exactly what was coming up next when you were in school. After sophomore year is junior year, after junior year is senior year. For the first time, you get to decide what is next for you. Embrace the unknown and approach your job search with an open mind!
So, what’s next for you? Comment below to share your aspirations, goals and questions related to your career search.
Brian is an associate recruiter with a passion for helping others find their calling in their professional lives. Brian’s leadership experience as a college drum major speaks to his passion and dedication for helping others reach their highest potential. Brian hails from a healthcare company focused on driving new patients to clinical trials, where he was responsible for managing owned and earned social media campaigns.