Finding A Job After School
Alright! So you’ve finally finished your post-secondary education. You’ve donned the gown and cap, picked up that very expensive piece of paper, and you’re brimming with a well-earned sense of accomplishment, and an eagerness to get started in the “real world”.
Congratulations! Your degree or diploma means you can move directly into your dream job, right? I mean, isn’t that what it was for? All the sleepless nights finishing essays, all the panic-ridden cramming sessions before exams; you worked hard, so now finding work should come easily, no?
The truth is that walking out of any school and into a career has always been a bit of a myth. While it’s certain that being educated provides you an advantage in jumping into the rat race, you haven’t exactly crossed the finish line just because you graduated.
Many young people are feeling jaded about the effectiveness of higher-level schooling these days, in terms of improving their chances at getting into their dream job. It’s more common than you’d think to find a recent grad struggling to break into the working world, and at no immediate fault of their own. Honestly, their efforts are matched only by the mounting pressures placed on them to move out, move up, and generally get a move on with making something of themselves.
If you’re a recent college or university grad, and you’re in need of some tips to help you with your job search, then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve assembled some food for thought to help you over the hurdles to your first job post-post-secondary!
Narrow Down Your Search
You may be thinking that now is the time to make serious long-term plans about your career. I mean, you’re an adult now, and you should be looking for the desk you’ll be sitting at for the next 45 years, right?
Well, if you think that way you’d be wrong. And now is the time for you to be wrong about a few other things too.
I’m talking about being ok with trying your hand at a few different organizations and different fields. You need to suss out what sort of worklife is right for you, and you’re honestly not going to know until you explore on your own.
But when it comes to exploring, while you may be drawing the map as you go, you should at least pick a direction to start. That means narrowing down your search to an industry or type of position that appeals to you.
Once you decide what area of work is perfect for you, you can make moves towards the perfect job itself.
Be SMART About Your Goals
Looking for a job can feel very open-ended, especially when you’re wide-eyed and making your first foray into the working world. But the steps you take don’t have to be.
Make a game plan for how you will handle your search for work. Break down your approach into chunks and set deadlines for meeting each one. Once you establish your basic essentials, like resumes, portfolios, and personal branding, then keep a regular schedule. It’s almost like looking for a job is a job in itself…
Make sure you make SMART goals. SMART is a mnemonic acronym that stands for:
- Time bound
You can read more about this process online, but to sum it up, it is about setting realistic goals that include timelines and some form of accountability so that you go from having open-ended ambiguity to clear-cut goalposts.
Interning Can Be An “In”
While the idea of working without pay, or at minimal pay, may not be ideal from your perspective, when it comes to getting your foot in the door with larger companies and industries that require a depth of work experience, interning is an excellent way to build up your rep and resume.
By no means should you expect it to be easy, but if the nature of the internship is exciting enough to you, then it is easy enough to stay motivated.
You should target positions that remain flexible, with part-time hours, so you can continue to work something more menial for income on the side while pursuing your dream career. Eventually, you will have built up enough experience to break into full-time work in your desired industry, on top of which you’ll already have built a reputation with a particular employer.
Who knows? Maybe then that internship could turn into something more…
Revamp Your Resume
Typically, before you graduated, your resume was focused on simpler jobs, part-time or summer work, and high-school extracurriculars. Now that you have an education under your belt, it’s time to switch lanes and focus on your educational and professional qualities.
Having finished your post-secondary education, you can confidently describe accolades and acknowledgements you have from your time at college or university. This could be awards, special programs, or even certain grants and bursaries that add flourish to your qualifications.
You may also have references from well-respected teachers and professors to build in, highlighting your value from the perspective of an expert in your field.
In addition to amplifying your latest educational accomplishments, it’s time to weed out some of the mentions of high-school career points and unrelated employment history. This shows that you’re focused on the now, and moving forward with laser-focus on the standards required by your industry in particular.
Scrub Your Social Media
It’s not just family members posting baby pics and friends making memes that are crawling your social media profiles these days. Recruiters are doing it too, and they don’t always like what they see.
Social media is a two-edged sword, and you need to be careful while you wield it.
On one side, you need to groom your accounts for embarrassing content that could send up red flags to potential employers. Auditing your privacy settings and removing unpalatable content is important to protect your personal (and professional) image.
And on the other side, you can promote yourself through manicuring quality content that showcases your best traits. Setting up professional accounts, especially LinkedIn, and keeping active with industry trends can help make a name for you online and improve how employers see you.
You Should Never Not Network
You are exponentially more likely to get a job through a referral or with an acquaintance than by just applying out of the blue. It’s not necessarily nepotism, but rather employers are more likely to trust the insight of someone they know over a complete stranger.
But how do you get referrals? You leverage your network.
And how do you get a network?
Never. Stop. Networking.
Networking is a 24/7 job. Every interaction is an opportunity for you to plant seeds in someone else’s mind that YOU are a great candidate for working with them. That doesn’t mean asking everyone you know for a job, though. Instead, build relationships with people as a form of investment. Talk, joke, discuss; the rest will take care of itself.
You can also improve your networking by seeking out the best intersections of people in your chosen industry. That could be social groups online that discuss trends, trade shows or expos where you can get some face time in, or one-on-one mentorships with industry leaders you choose to learn from.
If you want to do a certain type of business, go where the business is!
Research For Free
What you don’t know actually can hurt you. Or at least your chances of landing your dream job.
So wherever you’re headed, you can set yourself up for success by using online resources which are free and convenient, and can shed some light on what to expect.
Blogs (like this one!), surveys, and forms online can help you gather information about yourself and your chosen industry, on topics like:
- Potential career paths
- Company culture at different businesses
- Expected salary for certain positions
- Networking tips for different platforms
- Professional writing skills
- Industry events and meetups
- Specific requirements of your dream job
When it comes to starting your career after school, to quote pop giants Coldplay: “Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard”. Hopefully things will be a little easier with these strategies and suggestions in mind. Remember, you already got this far, and if you study these tips as well as you studied to pass school, you’ll be ready to graduate into the working world too!