As thousands of students across America celebrate graduating from college, they might soon face a harsh reality — finding a job after college isn’t easy. With students loans waiting to be paid and new graduates itching to live on their own, many grads might feel discouraged after sending out endless applications without any job offers.
Making matters worse, college graduates are entering an inhospitable job market. The latest report from the Labor Department shows that the April unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent, but part of the reason for the large drop is because fewer people looked for work. And it’s not just older workers who are having trouble finding jobs. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that 8.5 percent of young college graduates are unemployed. And the underemployment rate for young college graduates is 16.8 percent, which means grads are either jobless, working part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work, hold jobs below their educational level, or have given up searching altogether despite wanting to work.
College students are entering a labor force where they have to compete for work with the unemployed, underemployed, discouraged workers, and long-term unemployed. It can be pretty intimidating for new grads as they settle into their post-college lives. That’s why it’s more important than ever for college grads to hit the ground running and present themselves as worthy candidates for hire. Here are 10 tips for new college graduates looking for work:
1. Fine tune your resume and cover letters.
Make sure there are no typos in your resume or cover letter. There are a lot of free resources you can utilize to get your resume and cover letter in tip-top shape. Ask professionals, family members, or close mentors to take a look at your work documents to make sure they are on point. Also, don’t just do a copy-and-paste job for each resume or cover letter you write. You should tailor each resume and cover letter to the job you’re applying to. The good news is that once you’ve done this enough, you’ll have templates you can utilize so you don’t have to start from scratch each time.
2. Apply to more jobs.
If you’re only applying to a handful of jobs each week, you’re not doing enough. You’ve got to get your resume out there and apply to jobs every day. After all, sending out more job applications only increases your chances of getting hired.
3. See if your alma mater is hiring.
Colleges have a ton of jobs that are perfect for entry-level applicants. As an alum, you might have a great chance at landing one of these positions. It’s a great way to earn money and gain experience before pursuing jobs in your field of interest. Remember: it’s a lot less stressful to look for a job when you’ve already got one.
4. Don’t wait.
It’s tempting after four or more years of college to take some time off to relax and enjoy the sun. But if your job prospects are slim, you have to hit the ground running. The truth is that if you’ve only just begun to apply for jobs after graduating, you might already be behind. Waiting a few months to look for work will put you in an even worse position. So start applying and getting your name out there. Besides, you won’t be applying for jobs all day. You’ll still have time to decompress.
Oftentimes, getting a job depends on who you know. Ask professors or faculty members if they have any career advice or contacts that can help in your job search. Ask your career office for help connecting you with people in your field. Visit offices for informational interviews. Make as many contacts as possible and attend career fairs or events for professions that aren’t even in your field of interest. The journalist you meet at a networking event might know someone in your field.
6. Take a job outside your major.
While working in a field other than the one you studied may not sound appealing, it makes sense — especially if you’ve already spent several months looking for work. By taking a job out of your major you will be able to gain valuable work experience that can help build your resume. While working, you should also continue to make contacts in your desired field by volunteering or attending networking events.
If you didn’t complete an internship while in college, you might be in trouble. A 2013 survey of 1,000 hiring managers by textbook company Chegg and Harris Interactive found that 82 percent think recent graduates should have completed a formal internship before graduating from college. So if you didn’t have an internship in college, apply now. It’s better late than never.
Even if you interned while in college, it doesn’t hurt to have another internship experience. Interning is a great way to get your foot in the door and make contacts with people in the industry. Ideally you’d be able to get a paid internship, but if that’s not the case, an unpaid internship is better than nothing.
8. Use social media appropriately.
More than ever, companies are looking at social media when considering whether to hire an employee. The last thing you want to do is lose out on a job because of inappropriate content on your networks. If you’ve got questionable pictures posted on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, it’s time to do some cleaning or make your profiles private. Change your profile pictures to something more acceptable if you’re shown drinking or partying hard. On Twitter, follow important people in the field you hope to pursue and share important news and posts from them. And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to create a LinkedIn profile.
9. Be persistent.
Just applying for the job through the company’s website sometimes isn’t enough. You should follow the company on social media. If the company is holding a mixer, see if you can attend. If there’s a career fair where a company representative is present, be there. An in-person meeting can help move you from just another faceless candidate to a serious one.
If you’re lucky enough to receive an interview, send an email of thanks afterwards. If you haven’t received a response after a reasonable amount of time, follow up. You need to make yourself stand out and there’s are a few ways to achieve that.
10. Stay positive.
You’re entering a tough job market and there are thousands of other young adults in your exact position. So don’t be upset if you don’t get hired right away. Keep applying and looking for other ways to make connections. Maybe you can increase your skills set by reading helpful books or looking at online tutorials. Don’t lose hope. You’ll eventually land a job.