Kathleen Quinn Votaw
Landing your first “real” job after graduation can be challenging for many students. If you feel confused about applying for jobs or how to conduct yourself in an interview, you’re not alone. They don’t teach these things in college or high school—practical things like the type of conversation you should have in an interview, what your résumé should look like, what employers are looking for in candidates, and how you can demonstrate values such as work ethic, honesty, and reliability. Here are a few of my top tips for young job applicants pursuing their first career-type position.
- Don’t “post and pray”: If you post or submit your résumé and pray that you’ll get noticed, you risk getting lost in a sea of other candidates. Go the extra step by finding companies you want to work for and researching them online. Then send your résumé to the CEO, president, or owner and convey your enthusiasm about working for them. Ask them who you can talk to at the company about getting hired. When they see your proactiveness, sincere interest, and research, you’ll have a much better chance of being interviewed.
- Start networking: The adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still applies; networking is a long-proven way of landing a job. Contact professionals in your chosen field for informational interviews. Join a professional group related to your field and attend conferences and webinars. Get lists of alumni from your school’s career office to gain insight into their career paths. See what contacts they know that could get your foot in the door for an interview. Do the same with past employers, faculty, friends, and others who’ve observed you and know some of your strengths.
- Develop a personal website: This is an effective way to stand out in your job search. Linking to a personal website at the top of your résumé gives employers access to a larger platform that showcases your personality, skills, and portfolio. You can also add content reflecting who you are through blogs and videos. It goes well beyond a standard résumé or application, and search results for your name will turn up your website, allowing you to reach more employers with more information about yourself.
- Prepare an elevator pitch: You never know—a big break for a job might come unexpectedly at a store or restaurant. That’s why it’s important to have an elevator pitch ready. Preparing one starts with having a grasp of your strengths and aspirations, then boiling them down to a 30-second infomercial about yourself. You want to get right to the essence of who you are and what you’re looking for.
Find even more job search advice from the experts in our Internships and Careers section.