How to Successfully Enter the Job Market as a Recent College Graduate
Posted on April 02, 2019 by Shalanda Wilder, One of Thousands of Career Coaches on Noomii.
Many college graduates accumulate student loan debt only to have a hard time finding a job. I answer the whys and how to successfully job hunt.
Why do so many student struggle to find jobs in their majors?
A lot of new graduates struggle to find new jobs because they don’t have the experience jobs are asking for. Competition is also fierce. Think about graduation day and how many people are graduating with the same or similar degrees. A lot of these people will not be moving to find jobs in another city, although that is a growing trend. In the meantime, new graduates are competing with one another as well as more established, experienced job seekers who are seeking to change or transition in their careers.
What are the top three pieces of advice you give to people who struggle?
First, I say to be patient. We live in a society where people want things as quickly as possible, but life is a journey full of lessons. The wise learn from those lessons and apply them to the next situation they face. It’s important to see struggles from a more positive viewpoint as this helps us cope through the hard times.
Secondly, make a clear plan and career map. Write down that plan and the career map, read it regularly to ensure you are staying on track (or as close to the plan as possible), and be flexible. There’s a quote that says life happens while we are making plans. While we are making plans, we must remember that this journey has its ups and downs and as we grow, sometimes we change our minds about what we want to do with our lives. So, make plans, but remain flexible.
Thirdly, find a mentor. I’ve experienced mentoring and being a mentee. This special relationship provides a lot of insight for both people involved. Mentors bring their valuable experience to the relationship. You can brainstorm ideas with your mentor and tell them your goals and dreams without judgment and criticism. I suggest speaking with a professor whose background and experiences matches your goals and meeting with them once a month or even once a quarter. Being a mentor doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Do this as early as possible in your college career so the professor can get to know you and write an honest recommendation for you once you begin searching for jobs.
How can a person get better at networking or interviewing to finally land the job?
A person can get better at networking by seeking out membership in clubs and organizations related to their field of study. Become an active member that attends events as opposed to just having the membership credential to put on one’s resume. Simply researching networking and reading about the dos and don’ts of networking is a big help because you can learn from someone else’s mistakes and successes. Then, apply what you have learned. Attend functions and practice speaking to people and making contacts. This face-to-face networking helps build confidence which will come across in interviews.
The same practice goes for interviewing. Learn interviewing skills through researching- read articles written by hiring managers and recruiters and watch informational videos. Also, practice interviewing. Practice giving answers to the most commonly asked interview questions like: Why should we hire you or can you tell me about yourself? Practice with someone who will give honest feedback and record the interview so you can see yourself. Unedited video is unbiased and will allow you to see if you are perhaps fidgety or use too many filler words like um or so.
What can a person do when they’re told they need more experience?
One important thing a person can do is volunteer or intern when they need more experience. Think about where you want to work or what industry you want to work in. Then, search company websites for volunteer opportunities and internships. You can also do an internet search using keywords “volunteer opportunities” and your city, for example. This should bring up websites that list opportunities in your local area.
When does it make sense to go back to school? How does someone know what degree or diploma to get?
People go back to school for different reasons. They can be for personal, financial, or even promotional reasons. It makes sense to go back to school to meet educational requirements for a work promotion. I have seen cases where an employee wanted a promotion but could not receive it because they didn’t meet the educational requirements.
Another reason people may return to school is when they are making a career transition. A person with a math degree may find it necessary to go back to school after deciding they want to become an attorney or medical doctor.
Career and personality assessments are a great way to find out what degree might suit you. MBTI and DISC assessments are popular personality assessments used to help people lay out a career path. At the time of this advice, onetonline.org is a popular website offering free career assessments. They even have an assessment for military members that allows them to search for civilian careers that are compatible with their military career and skills.
Why might moving be a good option? How do you find a place to move to? Should you move before or after getting a job?
Moving might be a good option for a person who lives in a small town that may not have a lot of career growth opportunities. Technology has opened a lot of doors for us. People can look for jobs in other cities and interview for out-of-state jobs without having to leave town. Each person’s circumstance is different and this decides whether or not they should leave town.
I advise listing what you prefer in a city before moving anywhere- military town preference, located in a cooler or warmer climate, specific industry location, near or away from family, and so on. This will help an undecided person focus their search and lessen the chances of them ending up in a city they don’t like, working at a job they hate. I also advise doing a job search along with a pros and cons list once the cities are narrowed down. You would begin the job search after narrowing down your preferential cities to keep down the feeling of overwhelm.
Another approach would be to simply search for a job with a particular title or job description. Then research the cities or country the jobs are found in to help decide whether to pursue employment in that region. One must also consider other factors like a significant other’s career and whether or not to uproot children.
How can you use transferable skills from your degree to get a job in another field?
You use transferable skills by showing employers how they are a fit for their job opening and company culture. Transferable skills are basically general skills one can apply in different environments. For example, leadership skills are transferable. You would tell employers how you demonstrated your leadership skills in previous positions and explain how you would use them in your new position.
What would you say to calm grads who are afraid they will never find a job in their field?
I would advise them to keep seeking out opportunities whether paid or unpaid. I would tell graduates to think about their future, tell them growth and success take time, and remind them that every situation is temporary and should be used as a learning lesson for the future. I would encourage them to take the time in their 20s for career building so they can begin reaping the rewards in their 30s.