Pursuing That First Job as A New College Graduate

You’re coming up on graduation from college. Congratulations!  It’s a great accomplishment to gain the tangible proof of all your hard work: a diploma.

The hope is, all that hard work will land you a career where you’ll thrive, be fulfilled, and not the least of which… pay your bills!

So, what’s the best way to FIND that job, and what does the employer want to see from you in order for you to LAND that job???  Hopefully, this post will help!

While you’re still in school, prepare well and take advantage of resources available to you.

Internships

  • Internships help… a lot!  Seek them, and take them whenever you can.
  • The experience helps you know what to expect, what you like, and what you don’t like
  • Internships often turn into post-graduation job offers
  • They give employers more confidence in your ability to adapt to a professional work environment They give you an advantage over candidates that don’t have that experience

Campus Career Center

  • Get to know your campus Career Center well.
  • While their effectiveness varies from school to school, they are often a great help for those that dig in.
  • Often, when they see your consistent effort, they are more willing to help you directly.
  • They can recommend companies, contacts, specific job openings, and make referrals. Sometimes they facilitate job fairs with companies there that want to hire graduating students or interns. These can be highly effective events to talk to multiple potential employers.

Academics

GPA and extra-curricular responsibilities matter. Put in the effort.

While 2 years into your career your work experience far overrides your GPA, it does matter for that first job. Showing initiative and a high-capacity for responsibility beyond classwork gives employers confidence of your ability to perform on the job.

Network-Network-Network!

Your network is likely much bigger than you think… your parents, your parent’s friends, your friend’s parents, your professors, people you’ve worked with and for, and many more people you know… know people that can help.

People love to help people starting out in life. Help them help you!  They can help when you:

  • They know what you’re looking for
  • They know what kinds of people you want to talk to
  • They know your prepared to present yourself professionally to their best contacts
  • They have confidence in your ability to communicate effectively
  • They know you’re prepared

Jobs posted online and jobs listed at Career Fairs are certainly worth pursuing, however, they are public knowledge and everyone else is pursuing them too.

Jobs that come about because of networking often have no competition and you are given more of a benefit of doubt when you’ve been referred vs. just another applicant.

The more people you’re talking to, the more opportunities are likely to bubble up. AND you get better with more practice. Following a trail of breadcrumbs from one person to another will lead to the right opportunities.

Next, you’re landing interviews! What are employers looking for?

First impressions matter!

  • Dress appropriately professional for the organization, preferably a step-above average daily attire.
  • Smile!  No one wants to hire a grouch.
  • Communicate professionally. Avoid slang, profanity, humor, and inappropriate stories.
  • Be attentive. Turn off your phone and listen carefully.

Are you teachable and coachable?

  • Avoid the temptation to come across as knowing it all.
  • It’s OK to admit you don’t know something and looking forward to learning.
  • Be prepared with examples of how you’ve had to learn new things to complete projects in the past.

Are you capable? Do you follow through?

  • Be prepared with stories of projects, struggles, accomplishments, and examples of overcoming challenges to achieve end results.
  • Some stories of failures, with explanations of what you’ve learned in the process and would do differently next time can be strong indicators of  your ability to grow and develop.

Do you do your homework?

  • Not just in terms of assignments at school, but do you know how to prepare and research ahead of time?
  • Did you put in time and effort to learn about the organization?
  • Can you connect dots between your training and experience and their needs?
  • Did you learn something about their culture?

Do you have a healthy curiosity?

  • Do you have relevant and insightful questions?
  • Do you have an interest in the people and culture beyond the work requirements?
  • A lack of questions is usually perceived as a lack of interest.

Are you authentic?

This might sound like a lot, however, there’s one more that’s even more important… Are you authentic? Putting on a facade for the sake of being everything they want, generally ends up in a poor work relationship.

Thriving in the Interview Process

Even for entry-level roles, the interview process ought to be a two-way street! You need to determine if you will thrive working for them, as much as they are trying to determine if you will be successful in the role. Ask questions about culture, leadership style, how you will learn, and about future growth opportunities.

Sometimes, the right answer for both parties is that this isn’t the right job.

Seek God for wisdom, for discernment, for opening doors of opportunity, and for closing doors that lead to failure. Pray for peace in the process, for courage to do all that’s necessary, and for resilience and encouragement when things don’t go your way.

Take heart in Deuteronomy 31:6, which says:
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Consider this an adventure! This is the exciting first step toward your future career ambitions. Enjoy the journey!


Harry Urschel has 30 years of experience as a recruiter and is currently Managing Partner at Hansen Back. He leads the Minnesota Crossroads ministry out of Grace Church in Eden Prairie.

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