A sweet friend of mine asked me to write about… *drum roll please*… post-college JOB HUNTING! Whether you’re still a student, a newly minted graduate, or if college is far behind in your rear-view mirror, job hunting can be a challenging season of life.
There’s a LOT to be said about job hunting, but I condensed the best advice I’ve ever heard into 5 nuggets of wisdom to keep in mind as you search for a job. (Or, you can just file this away for the next time you’re on the hunt!)
1.) Still in school? Invest in an INTERNSHIP!
If you are still in college, you can help your future post-college self by investing in an internship NOW. This is SO important! Whether it’s for an entire semester, a summer, a month, or even a few weeks here and there- find an internship program that will provide experience in your field of study. Even unpaid internships will pay off BIG time after you graduate! Of course, every field of study is different, but in all of my 16 interviews in the 2 months after my college graduation, not a SINGLE prospective employer asked me about my GPA, or how involved I was in my classes. They asked me about my experiences. They wanted to know what sort of hands-on, real-life experiences I’ve had in the field. To every employer I spoke with, EXPERIENCE mattered a whole lot more than my 3.9 GPA.
2.) Apply EVERYWHERE.
I remember talking with a friend who had been a college grad for several months, and he was discouraged that he was still job-hunting. I asked him, “How many places have you applied?” He replied, “Two or three so far.” Woahhhh wait a second! Almost 3 months of job hunting, and only 3 applications submitted!? No wonder he hadn’t found the right job yet! The odds of scoring a good job are DRAMATICALLY higher when you are more assertive in your job-hunt strategy. When you don’t have a job, your full-time job is FINDING a full-time job. How many hours a day would you spend at work if you were employed? That’s a good estimate of how many hours a day you should be searching for jobs, filling out applications, attending job fairs, etc. I submitted a little over 60 applications in the 2 1/2 months that I searched for a job straight out of college! The job market for my field was tough to break in to, but by submitting SO many applications and opening so many doors of opportunity, I boosted my chances of nailing the fantastic job I ended up with.
3.) Ask good questions.
Job interviews can be really intimidating. You go in a brightly lit room, cameras all around, in front of a table of three judges who will decide whether or not you’re ‘Hollywood worthy’…. oh wait. That’s American Idol. Never mind. But hey, the pressure is still SO REAL in a job interview! You’re there to BE judged, but don’t forget that you’re also there TO judge. You’re not only there for the employer to find out if you’re a good fit for them, but you’re also there to find out if the place of employment is a good fit for YOU! So, come in with a few questions prepared, so that when the interviewer asks- “Do you have any questions for me?” (which, 9 times out of 10, they WILL ask you if you have questions), you won’t have that deer-in-the-headlights blank stare. You’ll have a couple of well-versed and thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer, and you’ll take note of his/her response so that you’ll have a better picture of the opportunity.
Here are a few example questions you could consider:
“Could you please tell me a little more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this position?”
“How would you describe the culture of this company?”
“What do you think are the most important qualities needed for someone to succeed in this role?”
4.) Find Career-Specific Job Fairs.
More than once, I wasted my time at a job fair that was too generic and/or ambiguous. There are recruiters out there who are looking for ANY graduate they can get their hands on to fill many different types of positions, but those positions might not be right for you. I went to a career fair that was advertised as being for college graduates, but in reality, every company representative I spoke with made it clear that employees only needed a high school diploma, and the majority were call-center positions. (Nothing at all against call center positions, but that was one career path I was determined to avoid, and I didn’t want to settle if I didn’t have to.) If I had done a little more research to find career-specific job fairs, I would have spent my time more effectively and likely would have had the chance to network with other young professionals and recruiters from companies I actually WANTED to meet up with! So, don’t just jump on board and sign up for a job fair before you do a bit of research to make sure it’s a job fair that fits with your career path.
5.) Chill out.
Stop panicking. Stop comparing yourself to friends who might have landed a job faster than you. Stop allowing your negativity to cloud out opportunity.
STORY TIME: I distinctly remember one night 2 months into my first post-college job hunt, I was sobbing into my then-boyfriend/now-husband’s shoulder. My dramatic blubbering went something like this: “Babe… *sniff*.. I just won’t find a good job. I’ve tried. No one wants me. Maybe I should just apply at Sonic… at least they have really good tater tots…*sniff*”. Sounds funny now, but back then, I was devastated! And yet, 3 weeks later, I was interviewing with my current workplace and landing a FANTASTIC new job that was better than anything I could have hoped for. So, stop wasting precious time wondering if you’re hireable, and spend more time developing and emphasizing your hire-worthy skills. More often than not, it takes time and effort to land a solid job in today’s economy. You might not score the job of your dreams right off the bat- in fact, that’s unlikely. But that’s okay. Your happiness in your job comes primarily from your perspective: a higher title and a heftier paycheck aren’t a guarantee of satisfaction. In the meantime, stay positive, keep an open mind, and most importantly… chill out.
A job-search can be a tough season, but hang in there! If you have any other tips, advice, or comments about your own past/current job hunts, please let me know- I’d LOVE to hear from you! Thank you for reading, and happy job-hunting!!!