From College Graduation to Employment: 7 Best Tips for the Job Search

Be you a freshman or a graduating senior, college life forever involves panting from stress. It’s kind of like running a 4 year long marathon ridden with the occasional shin splint, while sweating from a heat wave of endless nerves. Even when its 3AM and you’re pulling up that unwashed dorm comforter to cover yourself to sleep (when finally the loudest roommates down the hall have passed out from their own loudness), still, there’s always that stubborn nail-scraping itch at the back of your mind. It’s the itch that makes you fret about the next set of immovable boulders that you need to try rolling aside in the mornings to come. It’s not to say that college isn’t fun, it’s just to say that it isn’t easy.

Some hurdles are minor, as minor as passing that surprise pop-quiz in PSYC 101. But the others though, now those are major. Those are the ones weighing down your backpack every day and hawking over your head each night: Like facing your student loans; figuring out your road to freedom from debt, 15 long years down the road; scraping the bank for tuition to make grad school, or more immediately, dreading landing that job you need after college which you so want, but don’t have. Worry not; if you came here looking for help with the last one, well that’s exactly what you are going to get!
Credit – HGTV Dream Home Dorm
I know what it’s like to wonder “what am I going to do after college?” “Did I even choose the right freaking major!?” “Will all this get me the job I want?” “Am I actually going to be unemployed after my last paper is done?” Or “with no more parent-funding, where will the money I need to live come from?” Listen. All that matters is that you try hard, but do so smartly. Follow these tips and you might just give it your best shot ever and smash a boulder or two either on your way in, or at least on your way out.
1. Forget wearing Armani, first iron out and tailor your best academic suit: people might tell you that internships, experiences, and inside contacts matter most when you start job hunting. Or they might proclaim that your GPA “isn’t everything so don’t worry about it.” While some credibility exists in the importance of experiences beyond your academics, understand that your academics can sell you like a hotcake.
Maxwell Scott – Gentlemansgazette
If you have a mediocre GPA, don’t let someone falsely comfort you with an “it’s okay because everything else matters more.” No. If you have a mediocre GPA, you work thrice as hard in your remaining semesters so that you jack it up. When you submit that printer crisp resume to a prospective employer, you need to be confident about that 3.5 or that 4.0. It might be just a number, but that number tells employers what your standards are, and how hard you’ve worked to maintain it. Doesn’t matter if you took easy-A courses all through college or enrolled in just-stop-n-shoot-me-now graduate classes. An A is an A, and the more of them you have the more impressive you are on paper. Resumes knock, and interviews open doors. So better start knocking loud and hard.
But what if I already graduated and it’s too late to get a better GPA? Then, my friend, you will have to ramp up everything else to make up for it by presenting a stronger “whole package.” AKA – experiences, internships, qualifications, references, contacts, charisma etc… Don’t forget to also be resourceful. Use the resources available to you – career guides, career centers, search engines, tip sheets etc. I was heavily reliant on the AU Career Center, and other career guide books. Their influences are imprinted all over this piece. 

2. Expectations can be the root of all heart-ache: it really is okay to adjust your expectations early on. If your dream in life is to go out there and work for the U.N. or the State Department, and nothing you do (and you’ve done everything) seems to work to get you there, be flexible with your immediate aspirations. Maybe now’s not the time and something will come up later. I’m a big believer in “everything happens for a reason,” and that God has a plan. You’ve got to realize that you are young (20 somewhat I’m guessing), and this is only your first or second job. You have your whole life and career ahead of you to start making turns as you go along, so don’t be afraid to settle at first for something less.
Some of you probably scowled at point 2’s advice, because you are of the kind that won’t stop until you get what you want. That is somewhat admirable, but it’s also not for everybody. Think about what matters most to you, and also what is most necessary. For example, is it more important for you to make the bills on time and be employed, or continue to be in the 1000+ candidate database for your dream organization and be jobless? Make the hard choices but be smart about it by not neglecting your own context. Well planned choices are the number 1 cause of death in regrets.
Credit – HTEG Positive Thinking
3. Networking, and not just the social media type:Be a busy bee, and talk to everyone. When you are newly on the market and looking for employment, you should let everyone you know know that. You never know where one conversation might lead you to. Someone’s someone’s friend’s daughter might be in HR and looking to hire for their department for all you know. Or, Aunt Nancy was gossiping the other day with a CEO’s wife and might just have happened to name drop you if she had known you were on the prowl for employment. Whatever it is, talk to people, make meaningful relationships, and start networking any and every way that you can. People hire, and some people know these people.
4. The Game of Internships: Internships are very important; you don’t, however, need 6 to land a job. For me, graduating from AU (#1 University for internships in 2012 – U.S. College News) leaves one almost peer pressured to rack up as many internships as quickly as possible, almost like that eager old lady who cuts the line every time, just to speedily collect more ExtraCare Points at the pharmacy. It doesn’t really say much if you have 4 internships, and in three of them you did the coffee rounds and you were recognized by the team as an amazing barista or known as: His Grace, The Copy Machine King, the First of His name, and Lord of the Seven mail rooms. What really matters, though, is that you have solid internships in your field(s) of interest. These should be ones that provide you with usable experiences that grow you professionally. They provide you a cutting edge advantage over other candidates via personal experiences, recommendation letters and stellar references. Internships will help you realize what you like and dislike, but go for quality over quantity.
5. Success comes easier to those who strive harder: Truth be told, most of the success stories that you drool over have been built by the sweat, blood and tears of hardworking people who have worked their #%@$$’s off for what they’ve accomplished. I think Anderson Cooper was spot on when he said go out there and be a “Rock Star”. You should strive to be that one person they cannot do withoutin the classroom, your internship, or that part-time job. Everyone recognizes the one they cannot do without and turns a blind eye to the ten they can do without.
Credit: The Literary Lady – The Interview
6. Every rejection brings you closer to perfection: People have been rejected for more jobs than accepted. When rejection punches you square in your face the clobbering leaves you hunched and stunned. Your self-esteem starts to wobble and your self-worth trembles like Jell-O at the mercy of your own judgment. You thought the interview went so well, but you were rejected, with a capital R; and now you begin to lose all hope.
When I look back at times, I think about how happy I am to have been rejected by some of the positions I interviewed forbecause my life would have turned out so differently had it not happened that way. Like I said before, I think everything happens for a reason and you, my friend, are just waiting for that moment where your paths are meant to be aligned with your destiny. Oprah once said, “there is no such thing as luck, only preparation meeting the moment of opportunity.” You won’t get there however, without perseverance, so keep striving onward. Just do it.
7. The secret recipe for a successful interview:You will need all of these ingredients at hand (resumes, cover letters, thank you notes, references, pens, notepads, suit and tie etc.). Begin, preparing with a dash of confidence, a pinch of marketing, and a whole lot of likability. Serve only after warming up.

The people that interview you are going to be, in most cases, the people that work with you. Amidst all the preparation, what some interviewees really forget is to be likable. It’s not just enough to demonstrate that you have the chops for the position. People hire people they like. The competent likable people are who they remember at the end of the day, especially when 20 applicants were interviewed for one opening. So smile away, and jump on making a connection with your reviewer like you would a friend, not forgetting to reaffirm your skills as related to the job description(s) (which you should know down to the T).

Also, little details go a long way. When shaking hands, make sure your hands are warm (!) Cold handshakes can dampen first impressions. Either hold a hot cup of coffee before you go in, or rub them hot. Have thank you cards with you on the day of the interview. Once everything is done and you have their business cards, cross the street, go to a café and start writing your thank yous then and there. Deliver them to the reception desk and ask that they be given to each of your interviewers. They’ll never expect it, which is a good thing, because no one else did it but you.   

Failure in past interviews can only make you stronger for the ones in the future. Take note of all that you did wrong in the past to make it right for all that you will do in the future. Know the job; use buzz words; and always provide vivid, real-life past experiences as examples to make your case. Nothing like a rich colorful story to make the stiff hiring manager remember that crazy Starbucks Mocha latte driven 19 hour workday you pulled off in Quarter 2 in your last job/internship to ensure the client’s deliverable was handed over on time.
Credit – Bible Study Image
No one can tell you how to get a job with 100% certainty. What people can tell you is how to have the best shot at it. Never stop trying because every next knock can be the door that opens. I hope these tips help you and motivate you to know what you need to know, to go do what you need to do to secure yourself a spot in the real world. Until then, let me know if I’ve missed anything or if you have other helpful tips you’d like to share as well. Adieu.

Context for this piece: Being on an alumni panel last month was great. But I also left the event feeling like there were so many things left unsaid. So here’s my way of making up for that.    

4 thoughts on “From College Graduation to Employment: 7 Best Tips for the Job Search

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