Landing your first entry-level job after college is no small feat: it can take plenty of time, discipline, and confidence to get your foot in the door. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed and in need of direction or you feel confident in your search, it’s always good to hear pointers from people who have been in the same position you’re in now. We took a look at a Quora thread that shed light on important things to do and not to do during this transitional period in your life.
1. Do your research.
Landing an interview during your grueling job search is an amazing feeling — but the work doesn’t stop there. Well before your interview, you should start preparing as many notes as possible about the company and the interviewer you’ll be meeting. “In order to be well prepared for an interview, make sure you know the ins and outs of your company first. Look at the company website, research their clients, and check out their social media presence — anything to ensure you’re fully versed on the position and the company. That way, you can answer each question thoroughly, and more importantly, tie your answers into the goals of the company,” says Josh Tolan.
2. Don’t wait for a job offer to jump-start your career.
When jobs seem to be few and far between, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel as though you have no control. A good piece of advice is that you don’t have to have a job offer to get your career started. “Say you’re a newly minted journalism grad (for example) — you’ve got to get out there and start building your journalism résumé now, even if you haven’t been offered a job. Start a blog, get involved in industry organizations, volunteer your writing services — create your own opportunities. And this advice applies across industries,” says Charles Purdy. Get motivated by researching the backgrounds of people you admire in your field. They had to start somewhere, too.
3. Do develop networking skills.
In other words, talk to as many people in your field as possible, keep your professional online profiles up-to-date, and keep in contact with any former colleague or manager who could later serve as a reference. As Charles Purdy notes, you should “be smart about networking and your online profile — looking for a job isn’t just about searching online and pressing that ‘apply’ button. After that, you’ve got to do some research and work your network to find an ‘in’ at the company.” Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges with any personal or professional contacts — you’ll be exposed to more opportunities and potential success.
4. Don’t think your online presence doesn’t matter.
If ever there were a time when your online profiles mattered, it’s now — especially during a job search. How you portray yourself on social media says a lot about you, and you don’t want to let that be the make-or-break factor that sets you a step below another job candidate. “The fact is, the majority of employers will look you up online before even interviewing you. Make sure you have a thorough, professional online presence. Consider creating a professional blog or website to showcase what you know. Share your thoughts and opinions on industry topics, and share your work, your résumé, and anything else that can help better establish your brand,” says Josh Tolan. Take the time to delete anything from your sites that could hurt the personal brand you’re aiming to establish.
5. Do treat your job search as a full-time job itself.
Candace Williams puts it simply: “Hustle. Finding a job is a full-time job. If someone were to ask you, ‘What did you do to find a job this week?’ you should have a long answer that includes time sending résumés/cover letters, networking events, cold calls, informational interviews, research, and time crafting your portfolio/interview materials.” It’s not always easy, but your hard work will eventually pay off, and you’ll definitely thank yourself later for putting in all those hours that led to your success.
6. Don’t make your cover letter and résumé all about you.
While the main purpose of your résumé is to highlight your personal experience, when employers view it, they’re really thinking about themselves and the company. “It’s important to remember the cover letter and résumé are about what you can do for the employer, not the other way around,” says Josh Tolan. “Showcase the skills you have that are most relevant to your prospective employer, and keep the focus on the company’s mission and goals.” This means that, yes, you should tweak your cover letter every time you send it out to a different company. It’s more time consuming, but you’re much more likely to hear back if you tailor your materials to the specific company rather than repeatedly sending out a generic summary of your past work experience. In each cover letter, mention something you admire about the company and how a specific skill you have could benefit that aspect.
7. Do have core values.
As Candace Williams notes, you should look for “a job you’re passionate about and fits your core values.” A prospective employer will be able to see through you if you truly aren’t interested in the company. While you shouldn’t be too choosy and limit yourself, you should have a set idea of the types of companies you’re striving to work for. “If you’re dropping random lines everywhere hoping for anything, you won’t show the focus or passion companies want to see. Figure out what you want as a person and how this should manifest itself in your work.”
8. Don’t assume blind submissions won’t be read.
You might feel stressed when looking through the seemingly endless posts on sites like Craigslist and Monster, but many companies do use those as reliable forms of application, and they will read your submissions. You’ve probably heard similar things as Candace Williams: “someone told me I should stop sending resumes via online forms because no one reads them. They are wrong. The key to Craigslist and online job hunting is to apply early,” and make sure your “application has evidence you’ve thoroughly researched the company and will go the extra mile.” Don’t write off a job posting just because you don’t have a direct contact.
9. Do play up any relevant skills that relate to the job.
While you don’t want to keep the focus all about you, you also don’t want to forget to highlight skills that the company clearly values. In fact, “you don’t have to have been paid for something for it to be included in your résumé’s summary section as a skill. Look at the job ad you’re responding to, and figure out what experience you have that speaks to it — even if it’s a soft skill like teamwork, you can cite a specific example of your success in that area,” says Charles Purdy. Talk yourself up a little — a dose of confidence goes a long way.
10. Don’t forget to treat the job search as a learning experience.
Above all, remember that seeking an entry-level job is a huge learning experience, and you should take in as much information as you can. Did you bomb a phone interview? Don’t sweat it — now you know what not to do next time. As Kellie Melloy puts it, “don’t get complacent. Always get momentum going, and don’t forget you should always be gaining knowledge.” Everything you experience during your job search will only benefit you in the long run of your career.
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