How to Start Your Career Search After College

Graduating college is a huge step in your life. Whether you’ve completed a four year degree, two year program, or even post-bachelors/masters program, it’s important to remember that your next job isn’t just about a paycheck. It’s the start of your career journey, one that can influence your path for years to come.

The typical full-time employee spends 40 hours or more a week at work, so an employer can have a major impact on your overall well-being. If you’re a recent or soon-to-be college grad, you may be wondering how to choose the right company to work for and how to find a job after college.

The time you’ve put into college is valuable. Use these tips to begin your job search and successfully start your career.

1. Map Out Your Career Journey

As a college grad, you’ll likely want to get a job where you can put your degree to use. If you’ve made a financial investment in college, you’re probably interested in a meaningful outcome related to your degree.

Before you start applying for entry-level positions related to your degree, think about your long-term career goals. Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 or 20 years? Use your long-term career goals to identify the types of jobs that can get you there.

If you’re unsure of jobs in your field you should be applying for, reach out to a professor or mentor for advice. You can also take a job skills assessment to see how your passions and skills match up with possible careers.

In addition to working on tasks you enjoy, think about what your ideal employer looks like. Do they offer a flexible work schedule? Do they emphasize teamwork, or enable you to work autonomously? Factors like these will help you compare companies as you look for your first job out of college.

2. Reach Out to Your Network

Now’s an important time to leverage your network. Reach out to your contacts so you can ensure you’re at top of mind when compatible job opportunities open up.

Send a personalized email to people who care about you and whom you respect professionally. These can be personal contacts, professors, former employers and classmates you worked with. Remind them you’re a recent college grad and tell them you’d appreciate if they kept you in mind for relevant job openings.

Let me them know what your degree is and the types of jobs you’re interested in. Express your gratitude for any job referrals they send your way.

Ask them how they’re doing and how you can help them, too. Showing an interest in others can help you build meaningful relationships that benefit you in your career.

Also, look for opportunities to build your network. Connect with your college’s alumni group and look for meetups and mixers. Many today are virtual, so you can attend even if you moved out of state from your college.

Search for professional associations in your industry, too. These may provide continuing education, events, conferences and online forums where you can connect with professionals in your field.

3. Optimize Your Online Reputation

As you put yourself out there as a job-seeking candidate, now’s also a good time to clean up your online reputation.

A 2020 report by “Inc.” found 54% of employers have chosen to not hire a candidate based on social media content. You may want to make social media profiles like Facebook and Instagram private, so employers don’t find questionable photos or updates. Untag yourself from photos that may be misinterpreted.

Search for your name online to see what pops up. Delete inappropriate comments you may have made on websites. Reach out to webmasters whose sites feature inaccurate information about you and ask them to remove it.

Once you’ve managed your existing reputation online, you can create more opportunities for positive search results when employers search your name. You could create your own website and online portfolio, or use LinkedIn (more below) to optimize your online professional presence.

4. Edit Your Online Resume & Career Profiles

Make sure you have a resume ready so you can quickly update it and send it when job opportunities arise. If you’re starting from scratch, there are free resume templates that provide formatting guidance. Be sure to include:

  • Professional contact information, including a formal email address
  • Recent and relevant job experience
  • Education, honors and awards, and volunteer experience
  • Keywords that relate to your experience and the positions you want

Review your resume before sending it to an employer. You may want to edit your resume based on the job you’re applying for. For example, you may want to feature certain work experience more prominently if it relates more to a specific position.

Building a job match profile on Pipeline AZ automatically creates a resume that can be downloaded at any time. Like other job platforms, it allows you to create and store multiple resumes and cover letters for future use.

Also, make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and update it with your experience. You can turn on the “open to work” option on your profile, which will differentiate your photo and alert hirers you’re available for work.

You can add to your LinkedIn profile by asking trusted professors, former employers and mentors for recommendations. To get LinkedIn recommendations, follow these steps.

  1. Tell the person you’re asking for a recommendation from why you’re approaching them and why you value their input.
  2. Detail why you’re asking for a recommendation. Explain you’re on the job hunt. As a new college grad, you’d appreciate their endorsement on your profile.
  3. Provide details for what they might want to highlight in the recommendation. You might mention a specific project you worked on or accomplishment you achieved so they have something to mention in the recommendation.
  4. Offer to write a recommendation for them, too, if they’re interested.

With LinkedIn recommendations on your profile, you provide recruiters and hiring managers with social proof you’re a worthy candidate. If a potential employer asks for referrals when you’re interviewing, you can go back to those who have previously recommended you and ask them to be a referral, as well.

5. Research Companies You’re Considering

As you apply for jobs, carefully consider the companies you’re interviewing with as much as they’re evaluating you. Research a company’s website and social media profiles to gain insight into its values and mission. Search for employers on Glassdoor, which enables current and former employees to review companies.

During a job interview, ask the interviewer how they’d describe the company culture. See if those details align with what you’d want out of a workplace.

According to a 2020 report by research firm Quantum Workplace, there are certain factors that make a workplace more likely to have “engaged employees.” These are employees who are loyal, enthusiastic and focused on helping their company succeed. Factors to consider are:

  • Leadership values
  • Career growth and development opportunities
  • Ability to use strengths at work
  • Potential success of a company
  • How an employer shows employees they’re valued
  • Employee recognition

You may also be interested in employer qualities that grant you flexibility and autonomy. These might come via features like remote work, flexible schedules and non-micromanaging management styles.

Think about employer characteristics that are important to you. Make sure the companies you’re considering align with your values.

Broaden Your Job Search

As you’re thinking about your next move after graduation, a work-based experience (WBE) like an apprenticeship or externship may offer benefits. You can gain real-world experience you can add to a resume, which can give you an advantage over other college grads who don’t have relevant experience.

WBEs also expand your network. You might be able to secure a full-time position with that employer or network with professionals in your field who can recommend you for other jobs.

You may also want to work with a recruiter who can connect you with relevant opportunities while you’re on the job hunt. It’s a recruiter’s job to bring employers great candidates. When you’re a fit, that can save you some time in your search.

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