It’s easy to walk off of that college campus feeling on top of your game. After all, you’ve been soaking in the latest, cutting-edge trends in your chosen field for the last four years or more, right? You’re itching to get that career going, make an impact, and start to get those full paychecks rolling in to undo some of the damage that college tends to wreak on personal finances.
Tragically, though, that inaugural jubilance is far too often crushed by the initial search for a job. We’re all told that a sparkling new degree and post-college willingness to be a workhorse will quickly snag you the first career opportunity that comes along, but often that just isn’t the case.
If you find that the end of your college journey is upon you — or you’re wrapping up shop in your trade school — here are a few job-hunting tricks and tips to keep in mind as you set out in search of your first post-school job. They’ll aid in weathering all of the probable ups and downs along the way and help you walk that line between settling for any old job and holding out on every offer due to unrealistic expectations.
Fighting for your “dream job” and looking for work that you “love” is a common theme in the modern era. But the truth is, even the most fulfilling jobs aren’t going to always look as glamorous in the day to day as they do in theory.
That’s why it’s critical that you gauge your expectations before you start sending out those applications. Make sure that you understand the responsibilities and workload that go into the kind of work you want to do.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t look for a career that lines up with your passions. By all means, make that your goal. However, having a real-world expectation can be a huge help as you look for the ideal occupation to fulfill your lifelong dreams.
One more step you’re going to want to take before you start looking at job ads is to set up your job searching “toolkit.” Make sure that you have everything in order, including:
- A polished, up to date resume or CV.
- A portfolio of any past work — this can be presented online, in a physical format, or both depending on the contents.
- A professional email with your name — not some weird college nickname or moniker.
- Business cards — these are excellent for networking opportunities.
- Personal information like your address, social security number, etc. — some jobs will require various levels of personal information.
Also, practice writing clear, concise cover letters that are tailored to each job you apply for.
By the way, how well do you know the requirements that each job entails? This rings particularly true if you are aiming for a safety-sensitive position or applying for a company that is known to test job applicants for substances. Accordingly, prepare to pass the drug test with reliable information on the most common types of tests and their workarounds.
Finally, mentally prepare yourself for conversations and interviews. If you’re more of the introverted type, this can be especially challenging, but if you take the time to focus on things like finding common ground as well as being confident and intentional, it can make a world of a difference. Don’t be afraid to practice by talking to yourself beforehand, too. It may sound cliche, but it works!
Learn To Read Job Postings
This may seem obvious, but if you don’t take some time to understand modern job postings, you’ll likely end up hearing back from very few of your applications, that is if you ever feel confident enough to apply anywhere in the first place.
Let’s start with that confidence factor. It’s easy to feel qualified as you walk the stage and receive your diploma, but as soon as you start reading those job descriptions and requirements, you’re likely going to feel pretty inadequate in no time. That’s why it’s important to try not to let a lengthy list of requirements scare you away from applying for a job.
Sure, if you have an accounting degree, you shouldn’t be applying for a nuclear physicist or surgeon position, but when it comes to minor requirements like experience with Microsoft Excel or Google Suite, don’t let them stop you from applying anyways. It’s nearly impossible to satisfy all requirements, and you’ll likely be one of many imperfectly qualified candidates that could still fill the position well even if you don’t possess every skill on the job description.
When it comes to sending in the application itself, it pays off to strategize beforehand. In the crowded, tech-savvy modern job market, it’s critical that you send each application in with an eye towards individuality. Tailor resumes, CVs, and cover letters to each job you apply for. In addition, make sure to highlight various elements of your personality and passions in order to demonstrate why you’re qualified for the position.
That All-Important Follow Up
Finally, write meaningful thank you notes to any business or hiring personnel that is kind enough to give you an interview. Make sure to do this as soon as possible. While some employers are fine with emailed thanks, it can add a significant personal touch to send a physical thank you note, as well.
Make sure to keep the note short and concise. However, don’t be formulaic. Personalize the information and make sure that you express heartfelt and genuine gratitude for the opportunity.
Go Forth with Confidence
While there’s no guarantee that any one strategy or practice will land you a specific job, these suggestions should go a long way in helping grease the wheels for your first job-hunting adventure.
Go into the process thoughtfully, with an eye towards what kind of job you’re looking for and an updated job searching toolkit, to boot. Apply to each position thoughtfully and make sure to follow-up on any interviews with an expression of thanks for the opportunity.
If you take the time to set yourself up for success beforehand, you’ll likely find that you’ve landed a job you can thoroughly enjoy before you know it.
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