5 Things College Didn’t Prepare You For to Land Your First Job

To all of my peers who just graduated, congratulations!

To all of my peers who just graduated, congratulations! You just walked across the graduation stage into the real world. Feel ready?

When I graduated college, I apparently missed the class where they explained all the practical tips that could help you in a job hunt. Now that I’ve done it for myself, I’ve compiled all the things that college didn’t teach me while I landed my first job.

It’s okay to not have a job right out of college!

If you are one of those people who thought employers would be lining up to hire you even before you graduated, welcome to the club.

In the last semester of college, it can often feel like you are the only student who doesn’t already have a job secured. Between seeing other classmates receive offers and avoiding the dreaded question about your non-existent post-graduate plans, feeling stressed can be a bit of an understatement.

But don’t freak out just yet! I promise you are part of the majority, even though it may not seem like it at the time. Enjoy your summer and stay positive in your job search!

Where to look for jobs

The career center at my school told students to look for jobs on LinkedIn and the school’s own career site. I started there in my job search, but soon found better alternatives.

While it’s very important to have an up-to-date and professional LinkedIn profile, companies have to pay to post their jobs there. Because of that, not all companies use the site.

And as for many school-specific career websites, most all the jobs posted will be for in-state positions. For someone like me who was interested in relocating, this didn’t leave me with many options.

What ended up working for me was figuring out where I wanted to end up. Once I knew Arizona was my target, I looked up companies and trends in the area. I researched recruiters for these companies and arranged informational interviews. One of my favorite tools to find and evaluate companies was the website Glassdoor, where you can read company reviews from current and former employees.

Reading between the lines

Once you secure interviews, it is important to remember that you are evaluating the company as much as they are evaluating you. You could have an interview at a company that may sound absolutely perfect on paper, but isn’t the best fit in person.

It is up to you to critically analyze each company you interview with and determine if it is somewhere you can picture yourself being successful and happy.

Here are a few things I kept in mind while interviewing:

  • Can I definitely see myself working here?
  • Do their current employees seem happy? (Try to make conversation with current employees while you are waiting to interview — these informal exchanges can give good insight!)
  • Do they have employee-driven goals that provide opportunities for growth, or do they place most of their focus on the bottom line?
  • Do they have a lot of turnover? Why is this particular position open?

Be authentic

In school, your professors, mentors and counselors will spend a ton of time telling you how to impress employers: dress professionally, perfect your resume and cover letter, ask informed questions, always send thank you notes, ect.

While these pointers can be useful, it is crucial to remember to always remain authentic. Think about it — why would you want to present yourself differently than how you are? Of course, making a good impression and following etiquette is important. But you should never sacrifice your personality during a job interview.

Negotiating salary

We are stepping into big-kid land with this lesson, and it was one that I had to learn the hard way. It is important to understand what a realistic salary is for the position you are applying for. While many companies are upfront about a position’s salary, others may not be.

Do some research before your interview. This isn’t doing a quick Google search and assuming these figures are reliable. Ask real people! When you are conducting informational interviews with various professionals in the field, ask what they think would be a realistic figure based on your experience and financial situation. One of the professionals that I talked with told me that salary negotiations have taken place every single time she has been hired as well as everytime she has hired someone.

Salary can be an awkward subject to discuss. Remember to be clear, respectful and to never devalue your worth as a professional.

Landing your first job isn’t a walk in the park. Take time every day to do something that will help you in your job search. Whether that’s editing your resume, writing a new cover letter or just doing research into different companies you may be interested in, keep chipping away toward your overall goal of getting hired. While rejection can be tough, push through knowing that when you do land that dream job, you will be so glad that everything else didn’t work out in your job hunt!