Congratulations on pursuing your new college degree! You're working hard learning new information and skills in your college classes, and while you may have day dreamed occasionally about life and work after receiving your degree, you may not have thought about next steps. So now you’re left wondering, “How do I get a job after I graduate?”
The short, quick answer to the question is understanding and using inside tracks to find the people who know what positions need filling - positions that often aren't advertised on websites that aggregate jobs that need to be filled.
The ways listed below are all ones you should work on before you actually graduate. Your goal is to successfully complete all the coursework necessary to get the degree you want, then transition to a job as soon as possible after you graduate.
How soon before graduation should you start your job search? At least several months is a reasonable time frame, but some of the strategies listed below may need a year's preparation.
The longer answers are in the details below.
A traditional way to get a job after college is to complete an internship in the career field you'd like to work in. Internships can be done anytime during your college time. There are even internships for freshmen.
Here are the pros of completing an internship:
- Gain valuable, hands-on experience and real world knowledge about your desired career field
- Make connections within the industry you want to work in from entry level workers to senior level executives
- See what the day-to-day work conditions are like
- Learn how to interact with other divisions and clients your company supports
- Get a sense of whether or not the company would hire you permanently after you graduate
- Receive a salary for your internship period
Being an intern is basically working as a temporary employee at the company and in the industry you're interested in. This experience is priceless, as you will be able to figure out if you like the actual daily work and conditions in your career field. You can also pick up skills and abilities that could help you in your course work, as often times this helps you understand the theory and concepts for the classes you take.
One of the biggest advantages is making friends and increasing your face-to-face networking abilities. If you get along well with the permanent employees and communicate your interest and desire to work in the career field, this goes far with people evaluating potential employees. Get to know co-workers during the day, at company events like picnics, networking events and holiday parties. People like to hire others they are comfortable with, and with whom they have common interests. Don't be afraid to be yourself and make some personal connections.
If your internship is a paid position, so much the better! Getting a salary while learning whether or not your chosen career field is really right for you is the most ideal situation. Saving some of your salary for future expenses when you're studying full time and are not able to work is an added bonus.
The cons of internships
Unfortunately, there can be some drawbacks to being an intern. In the end it’s up to you as to whether or not you think the experience would still be valuable for your resume and future employment opportunities. Some disadvantages are:
- Internship is not a paid position
- The company culture is not a good fit
- Lack of mentoring or leadership during the internship
- Not assigned meaningful work to gain experience in your chosen career field
The biggest negative factor can be that your internship is not a paid position. There are many internships that do not offer pay, and if you can't afford it financially, then you should concentrate on the ones that offer a salary, no matter how small. If the internship you want is far away from where you live, and it's unpaid, do you have savings or family support to give you living expenses during the internship? Is the unpaid position so valuable for your future job hunt that this is worth it? Only you can answer that question, but it's a big one.
If you take an internship and you discover the company or the culture isn't what you thought it would be, or your research didn't turn up negatives, you may have to just gut your way through the experience and get what you can out of it. Not every job situation will be ideal, and you have to go with the information you can find and make your best decision.
Additionally, if the employees you're assigned to aren't good mentors or leaders, you can either tough it out during the internship period, or you can request another mentor. This is tricky territory, but if you really feel you have a solid case, present it tactfully with dignity and respect for the individuals you want to replace. This is not the time to personally attack anyone, so be sure you have facts to make your case.
Also related to the previous two situations is a lack of meaningful work. This is not to say you're going to do advanced, senior level work, but if all you are doing is answering phones or basic data entry, and you were told you would be learning specific technical skills, then approach your supervisor or mentor and respectfully ask for clarification on what you thought you would be doing. All internships should offer you a chance to learn new skills that you can put on your resume to get a permanent job after you get your degree.
How To Use Networking To Find A Job
In-Person Networking Events
Even in this digital age, you still can't beat face-to-face networking to jump-start your job search. Most people who attend these events are knowledgeable about their industry and company. If you strike up a conversation with someone interesting, first seek to make a personal connection of some sort, whether it's a sports team, hobby or some other interesting thing to break the ice between you.
It's perfectly fine to be upfront at these events that you are still in school, but be sure to frame your interest to other attendees that you are first wanting to know what it's like to work in their industry, with their clients and how the other person likes her job. If you are interested in her company, ask if she can connect you with someone who can answer questions about your chosen career field. At this point, you are not looking for a job; you are still making connections with people who probably can steer you to the ones who need candidates to interview.
Many networking events are free or have a small entry fee for gaining access. Evaluate the event and determine if the connections you seek are even at these events. For example, if you are an engineering student, a marketing networking event may not have the people you'd like to connect with - other engineers or technical professionals who can answer your questions.
Conduct an internet search for local networking events, and target any that are specific to your degree and career field.
Some local business networking events include:
- Chamber of Commerce
- Meetup groups
- Industry associations
Dress appropriately, have some business cards with your contact information, and be sure you can introduce yourself in a few short sentences that clearly communicate your professional interests. For example, if you are getting your degree in marketing, practice saying what type of marketing careers interest you.
Online Networking - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
Online social platforms are great places to find out which companies have open jobs. There are probably many ready-made connections you're not aware of who can help you land interviews.
The best social media site that's worth investing time in is LinkedIn. Create a professional profile, participate in LinkedIn groups, make connections with industry professionals you'd like to get to know and see what jobs are being posted that relate to your degree. The free LinkedIn membership is all you need to get information on jobs at companies that interest you. Be professional, post items of interest that relate to the job you want and do research on businesses. Did you know you can also blog on LinkedIn? You can, so if you have some thoughts about your chosen career field, be sure to write up interesting articles and post them to your profile. You never know who may read it and contact you for more information.
While Twitter is very informal, it can be a valuable resource to connect with industry leaders, find out the latest trends in your desired career field and check out companies that interest you. Post industry-specific information that interests you, re-tweet other's articles and news, and send messages to make further connections with people who are in the industry you want to work in.
There are plenty of business professionals who are on Facebook, both with personal profiles and business pages. It’s perfectly acceptable to post on Facebook that you're actively seeking employment in your industry. People naturally want to help, and it might surprise you that your Facebook connections could provide the perfect answer to steer you to company decision makers for interviews.
While we are talking about social media, be aware that you may have items in your streams that reflect personal and/or political points of view that may not be conducive to your job search. While you have every right to post what you feel, think about if there are social events, pictures or articles you've featured that could reflect negatively to potential employers. Yes, this is tricky, but especially if you have pictures of you at a party that are questionable in any way, you should consider removing them.
Use Other Organizations To Help You Land a Job After You Graduate
Belonging to an alumni association is one of the best ways to get a job after graduating from college. The common connections of being from the same school, cheering for the same teams, and possibly even from the same degree programs are strong. Many large cities have active alumni associations, so before you complete your degree, check to see if there's one near you. If there is, join it and start attending events. Talk to graduates who are in your chosen industry or in similar ones. Again, ask them for information, not job interviews. Learn all you can from them and see where the connection takes you.
Your local church can be a great source for finding out where jobs are in your community. Become active in the extracurricular activities and reach out to other church members. If they've known you for a while, they can be excellent recommendation sources. Ask them if they know people at companies and industries you're interested in.
Participating in volunteer opportunities can expose you to senior executives, hiring officials and entry level employees who can give you valuable insight on your chosen career field. If there is a volunteer organization in your community that is aligned with your career goals, you can use your volunteer experience on your resume as experience in that career field. You already have something in common with the people you ask for career advice as you each support the volunteer organization's mission.
Working out, doing yoga, participating in hobbies like rock climbing, stand up paddle boarding, doing crafts or any other recreational activity can lead to great career connections. Tell your acquaintances while participating in these activities where your career interests lie. Senior executives, hiring officials and managers also have lives outside work, and they are just like you when they do the activities you also enjoy. Use this common interest as a starting point for a conversation about career opportunities.
When you're discussing possible job opportunities, don't always talk to senior level people; talk to entry-level workers, since that's where you'll be starting from. They can give you valuable advice for getting started by sharing lessons they've learned in the workforce and the industry.
Do your homework and research the company and department/division you'd like to work in - you can look up the company at https://www.glassdoor.com and the company web site. You can learn all about the company culture, their values, specific projects and clients with whom they work. When you get an interview, it's important that you share what you've learned about the company and what you like about it, so the hiring people understand that your interest is genuine, and is not just for a paycheck and benefits.
Be sure you perfect your soft skills - listen to the other person, look people in the eye, speak well, speak positively, have a good, firm handshake, and dress appropriately for the position you want. Don't be afraid to ask about the dress code. Practice with family and friends on introducing yourself, shaking hands and answering questions about your goals and motivations clearly and easily. You'll gain confidence by going through this exercise that will ease some of your nervousness when you're in the interview.