You have the diploma. You’ve worked your butt off to set yourself up for an awesome, rewarding career. You have all the tools you need to strike out into the real world with the wind at your back. Or...nearly. What’s supposed to go into a cover letter again? What’s a security deposit? What does that light on your dashboard mean? What’s a credit score?! These questions—among many others—tend to keep those of us new to this “adulting” thing up at night. But have no fear! Read on and stay tuned for your go-to guide on all the things you missed learning about in school between the parts of a cell and the Pythagorean theorem. First up: job hunting.
Creating your résumé
Before you start looking for jobs, you’ll need to write a résumé. If you’re in college, there are career counselors who can help you with this. There are also lots of templates online that can help you get started. Word processing programs offer help too, and there are graphic design sites like Canva that can make your résumé stand out. As scary as a résumé can seem, it’s really just a list of your past job experiences, volunteering, and education with your name and contact information on it.
Writing cover letters
This one is a little more complicated, and not every job application will ask for one. In essence, a cover letter is a letter you submit with your résumé where you introduce yourself and relate your experience to the job’s requirements. Again, go to a career counselor if you need specific help or proofreading. I’m also a huge fan of this cover letter template on Pinterest. After writing several cover letters, you can develop a pattern for jobs that are similar, but make sure you always customize them for each job you apply to.
Applying to jobs
Your materials are ready—now where are all the jobs? To find job listings, try looking for job fairs in your area, searching online, checking local classified ads, or using local job resource centers. Again, if you’re in school or recently graduated, check with your college’s career center. If you know anyone in your desired field, ask them if they know anyone who’s hiring. You could also check the websites of businesses you specifically want to work for to see if they’re hiring.
Acing your interviews
Congrats, you’ve landed an interview! “But I have nothing to wear,” I hear you complain. Try secondhand stores if you’re on a tight budget (or borrow clothes from your roommate if you can).
What to wear
- Try to look respectable and professional, but you don’t need to dress like you’re meeting the queen.
- If you can find pictures on the business’s website or social media, take a look at what current employees wear.
- When in doubt, overdress rather than underdress, and whatever you wear, rock it with confidence to make your best first impression.
Have questions ready
We all dread the question employers ask at the end of every interview: Do you have any questions? Wait, isn’t this supposed to be where they interview you, not the other way around? If you have questions, you may feel hesitant to ask them, but don’t; asking questions shows that you’re engaged and interested in the position. If you don’t have any questions off the top of your head, try some of these:
- What is a typical day like?
- What kind of training is provided?
- What drew you to your position/this company?
- What sort of hours are expected?
- When would you want me to start?
- You can even ask about salary; just don’t make it the first thing out of your mouth. (Note that it’s typical to ask about salary in the second round of interviews.)
There you have it: all the basics you need to start your job search. Hopefully this has answered some of your questions on how to prepare, how to get through interviews, and how to find your dream job (or at least something to cover the rent).
Next up in Adulting 101: the apartment hunt. Until then, check out more job search advice in our Internships and Careers section.