What Every College Graduate Needs to Know to Get a Job

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new graduates

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Congratulations! You’ve graduated. While you deserve to celebrate your accomplishment, it’s also time to face the fact that you still haven’t landed a job.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many new graduates struggle to find their footing after college. The trick is to adapt to your new situation and change how you approach your job search. Instead of relying on your university’s career counselor, you need to step up and be more proactive.

Here are four actionable steps new graduates can take to get their job search moving in the right direction:    

1. Search niche job boards

Often, new graduates have trouble finding a job because they’re unsure of what they’re looking for. Looking at large, general job boards, there are millions of options to explore and it becomes overwhelming. The best course of action is to narrow your focus.

Every industry has its own niche job boards. Looking at these specialized job sites gives you a better feel for what options there are in your field. You can see what specific job titles exist from company to company and what skills organizations are seeking.

Don’t just look at entry-level positions. Check out a wide variety of job ads and take notes on similarities. With this information, you can better see how you fit into the industry.

For example, if you’re looking for a tech job, make a list of qualities most companies want. You might notice that a large percentage of job openings ask for organizational skills and creativity.

The majority of job seekers will be looking to prove they meet these qualifications. You’ll want to consider how you exhibit these characteristics uniquely so you can craft better resumes and cover letters that will pique employers’ interests.

2. Join the alumni network

Never underestimate the power of an alumni network. The events these groups host might seem forced or intimidating, but they can open countless doors for your career. As someone just entering the workforce, older, more experienced alumni want to give you a leg up.

What’s nice about alumni networks is the built-in icebreaker. Instead of worrying about how to strike up a conversation, you can just ask people about their college experience. This will lead you to discover shared classes, clubs, or interests.

Just be sure to transition the discussion to your professional aspirations. Be open to any advice other alumni have. They might have a lead on a job or a recommendation for a job search app that helped them.

Be sure to exchange contact information so you can pass valuable leads or industry knowledge you gain onto them. They’ll know how to reach you or share your information with their connections, as well.

3. Focus on informational interviews

Many new graduates make the mistake of playing the waiting game while job searching. They send out applications and then cross their fingers that a company will call them back. But that leaves job seekers with a lot of unproductive time on their hands.

If job interviews aren’t happening, schedule informational interviews instead. Make a list of companies you’re interested in and reach out to an employee with a job you’d like to have in the future. Politely let them know that you’ve recently graduated and would like to learn more about what they do and what has helped them succeed.

When you meet with the person, prepare an introduction about yourself. Something short that focuses on what you’re interested in and how your experiences have helped you prepare.

Also, have questions ready that are specific to the company and what the individual does. While the conversation might not lead to an immediate job referral, it will create a professional relationship that will help in the future.

4. Take gig jobs

When you think of a gig job, driving for Uber might come to mind. Never fear, though, that’s not your only option. In almost every industry, there are freelancing and temp jobs available that will help you gain experience. In many cases, these gigs can also lead to full-time employment.

Pick a few companies you’re interested in and think of a short-term project you could do to help them out. Be sure to focus on the organization’s needs and how you could support the team.

Then pitch the idea. Find out who would make a decision about hiring an outside contractor and explain your offer. Let them know what you’d liked to do, as well as how you plan to accomplish those goals. The more specific the better. This way the individual can clearly see what you bring to the table.

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.