Obtaining your college degree is a great achievement. However, now that you have your diploma, your next step might seem just as daunting: How to get a job after college. Unless you already have a few job offers waiting for you, you will likely need to organize your resources and prepare yourself to effectively search for and land your first job.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to find a job after college and what you can do to make sure you’re ready for that first interview.
Research potential career paths and jobs
Although you may have graduated with a specific major and career path in mind, it may not be clear how to apply what you’ve learned to the job market. Begin by researching which jobs are available and narrow in on the ones that match your skill set and interests.
It’s important to note that there are multiple ways for you to apply the skills you learned in college. The labor market changes frequently, and the type of skills you’ve developed over the course of your studies may be very valuable in an industry you haven’t yet considered.
Here’s how to begin your research:
In the search box, enter your degree (e.g., “Communications,” “Mechanical Engineering,” “English/Language Arts,” etc.) and browse the jobs that match that term. You can save the jobs that interest you and continue to refine your search until you find the set of opportunities that you’d like to apply for.
Research companies to discover employers that seem interesting to you and meet your needs. You can find reviews, Q&A, average salaries and more on Job Career Crirtic. You might also explore company websites and any recent press releases that can tell you more about their growth and what it’s like to work there.
Explore different career paths and learn what different jobs entail, their salary ranges and see current opportunities for those positions.
Do a web search for “Type of jobs for [X] degree” (using your specific degree program) to learn more about which jobs could match your credentials.
Seek out a career counselor at your university and inquire about potential career paths. Career counselors regularly update their information regarding career options for different degree programs. You may find that they also have insider information for different companies. Some companies even prefer to hire directly from specific colleges and universities, so it’s a good idea to see if any local or national businesses have an eye out for graduates from your school.
In addition to job title, location will play an important role in your job search. You can search the entire country, a state or specific city to learn more about the options that feel right for you.
Build your network and get referrals
Building a network is an important step in the job search. The research you’ve done into career paths will help guide your networking conversations. Once you have a good idea of the area of the labor market where you want to focus, you can ask informed questions that better enable people to help you.
Start with family and friends. Even if you already know these people very well, you may be surprised by what you learn when you start asking them career-focused questions. Here are some questions to get started:
What does your day to day work entail?
How did you get your first job after college? How did that lead to your current job?
Which skills have been most important in your career?
Does your current employer have any jobs that you think are a fit for me?
Based on my interests and background, is there anyone in your network who would be a good contact for me?
Family and friends are likely to be your best resource, but you will still want to network outside of your closest ties. You may also want to consider:
Joining your college or university’s alumni network
Looking for and attending networking events
Attending and making connections at job fairs
For job fairs, in particular, it’s important to not only talk to potential employers, but other applicants as well. You may benefit in the future when these new friends find jobs at companies that you’re interested in. Many employers value referrals from existing employees to fill open positions—the larger your network, the more you can benefit from this.
Write your resume
Alongside researching opportunities and networking, writing your resume is an essential step in finding a job after college.
Once you’ve narrowed in on the set of jobs that are appealing to you, take note of the keywords that appear in the job descriptions. What kinds of skills and attributes are employers looking for and what terms do they use? You’ll want to include these same phrases when you’re describing your qualifications.
Including keywords is important because many employers use software called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to sort incoming applications. This software may rank applications based on relevance, and an important sign of relevance is keywords that match the job description.
If you’re applying to jobs that have different keywords, you may want to create multiple versions of your resume so that you are surfacing the most relevant skills in each application.
Because you are a recent graduate, employers will be interested in a summary of your education. Make this one of the first sections of your resume.
Here are several resources to help you write a resume that best represents your skills and experience:
How to Write a Resume Employers Will Notice
139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out
How to List Education on a Resume
Examples of Best Resume Skills
You can upload your resume to JobCareerCritic to speed up the application process. With Job Career Critic Resume, you can easily apply to jobs without uploading your resume as an attachment.
Curate your social media
If you have social media profiles, now is the time to review them and determine if they may have a negative impact on your job search. Many employers look at the social media accounts of potential employees. You should carefully check your privacy settings and hide or remove anything that may leave potential employers with a bad impression of you.
Types of content you will want to consider hiding or removing include photographs, posts and comments, and reshares.
Knowing that employers may look at your social media profiles, it’s worth considering how you can enhance their impression of you with the content you choose to include there. This is an opportunity to further showcase your skill set and interests. For example, you could start following industry leaders or companies that interest you. You may want to post about interesting developments in this sector or participate in conversations and groups related to the profession you’d like to pursue.
Practice your interview skills
For many people, interviewing well is a skill they practice and get better at over time. You can set yourself up for success by beginning to practice for interviews even before you have one lined up.
While it’s not possible to know exactly what you’ll be asked in each interview, there are several ways to prepare to look your best and answer any question well.
Prepare to dress professionally
Even if you’re interviewing for jobs in an industry where casual dress is appropriate, consider dressing slightly more formally for the interview. As you research jobs and employers that interest you, review their social media or ask your network to learn more about dress code.
When you’re choosing what to wear to an interview, make sure there aren’t any rips or stains on your clothing. Pay attention to your overall appearance as well. You may want to have a brush or comb and floss or mints in your bag to ensure you look your best as you walk into the room.
Practice confident body language
It’s nerve-wracking to interview for your first job after college. Often, body language can help offset your nerves and convey confidence to your audience. As you’re preparing for your interviews, you may want to start using confident body language into your everyday life.
When you walk or sit, keep your back straight and pull your shoulders back. When sitting, your hands can rest in your lap or on the arm rests. Your feet can rest on the floor or cross at your ankles. Get used to making eye contact with someone when they’re talking to you. Practice firm but not too forceful handshakes.
Expect to arrive early
During college, your professors probably emphasized the importance of arriving on time to class. This is even more applicable in the workplace. For every interview, you should aim to arrive 10–15 minutes early.
If being punctual is something you struggle with, start adjusting your schedule to allow for early arrival even when you’re meeting friends or going to other appointments. By making it a practice, you’ll be more likely to arrive with ease for your interviews.
Prepare answers for common questions
It’s important to note that interviews are not tests. Even if it’s a technical interview, employers are not necessarily looking for the “right” answer. In most cases, they are instead curious about how your qualifications match with requirements of the jobs and how you problem solve, work with others, take responsibility or show initiative. They ask questions that they hope will give them insights into these traits and behaviours.
By preparing for common interview questions, you can get accustomed to answering in a way that helps employers understand your background and work style so they can clearly see that you are a fit. Here are a few resources to help you prepare:
Top Interview Questions and Answers
How to Use the STAR Interview Technique
Behavioral Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)
Phone Interview Tips to Get You to the Next Round
Avoid common interview mistakes
One common interview mistake is to focus too much of the conversation on what the employer is offering you, rather than what you can offer the employer. Keep the interview centered on your skills and how you plan to apply them to the job. To achieve this, avoid the following:
Do not ask about salary. While it’s important to understand the salary for the job, this is a topic to bring up in a later interview or once you’ve been offered the job. At the same time, it’s a good idea to prepare answers to questions about salary, in case you get them.
Do not inquire about benefits, time off or leave. Similarly, you may want to prepare answers to questions about these topics but should avoid bringing up the topic until a later interview.
Take care of yourself
Getting your first job out of college can be a stressful experience. It’s important that you do not spend the entire time letting stress take over. Set goals for yourself to mark milestones: How many jobs will you apply for this week? Have you proofread your resume? Can you meet a friend to practice interviewing with?
When you reach these milestones, take intentional breaks (they can be small breaks) and find meaningful ways to reward yourself. Spending time with friends and family, taking a walk or exercising, or reading or watching something entertaining can be cost-effective rewards during a job search.
Once you do get called in for an interview, you will want to be well rested. You never know when that interview call may come, so try to take time to get enough sleep, eat well and do the things that recharge you in your downtime.