If you are graduating college this spring, you are donning your black gowns and caps and walking the stage in a few weeks (or maybe you have already) to receive the diploma you have worked so hard for.
I know this is an exciting time for you - you are finally done with college.
I also know that at the back of your mind while the commencement speech is being given is one thing: landing your first job as a college graduate.
The whole process can be overwhelming; but not if you break it down into bite-sized steps.
So in today’s article, I am going to present you with seven solid factors you must consider before finding your first job to make sure it's going to be a good fit.
Let’s get started on our best thoughts on finding your first job after graduation.
1. Your Degree Is Only A Piece Of The Pie
While your diploma is a qualifying factor for your first job, it is only one factor on a list of others that will get you hired.
Employers are typically looking for people who can demonstrate that they will produce specific results for the company.
Beyond your freshly minted diploma, what do you bring to the company?
To pinpoint this, it is important for you to look into your history and find any experiences you have had that generated the specific results the company is looking for.
Let’s say you are applying for a marketing position and in college while on your association’s executive board you were able to garner attention for an event that attracted 200 people. That is a specific marketing result you can highlight on your resume.
So go ahead.
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down specific results from your past - don’t worry that you were never paid for those results or if they seem “tiny” or insignificant.
Make sure to add these experiences in your cover letter and resume as you look for your first job.
An additional point that is worth emphasizing: don’t just send out “cookie-cutter” resumes. Customize your resume for each job you apply for with the specific results the company is looking for. You will increase your chances for an interview and get hired if you do.
2. Find A Job That Is The Right Fit For You
Everyone wants to find their dream job. This is great.
However, it is possible that as a new grad you will not immediately land your dream job.
Don’t let this bum you out.
On the other hand, there are grads who will take any and every job they can get their hands on because those school loan officers will come knocking in a month or two.
There is a middle ground between both extremes - finding a job that is the right fit for you.
Think about your personality, the people who work there, your responsibilities and turn-around times for turning in tasks and projects. Does it work for you? If it does, take the job.
If it does not, sometimes it is better to err on the side of caution rather than take something you will either get super-stressed by or one where you are literally afraid that you could lose your job any day now, no matter how hard you work.
Also, don't be ashamed to find work on the side if you think you're missing out on your passion or want to learn more.
3. Do Your Research On The Company
Doing your research before you either go on an interview or take an offer serves you in a few ways:
- A chance to know what the company is about and what they expect of their new hires so that you are not completely clueless when you interview.
- A chance to know who the key people are in the company and who might even be interviewing you.
- A chance to hear what former employees have to say about the company.
- A chance to learn about company culture.
Doing your research can consist of a number of activities:
- You can use Indeed, do a quick Google search or use Quora to find out what other people are saying about the company. Granted, you will always find a handful of wildly disgruntled former employees who will have nothing good to say about the company. However, by and large, the comments you find will give you a balanced view of the experiences of other former employees.
- If you can, visit the company incognito and just walk around the place or sit in their cafeteria to get a “feel” of the place.
- Go on informational interviews.
- During your interview, ask people directly what their experiences have been in the place.
Using one or a combination of these research techniques, you will arm yourself with enough knowledge to do well at your interviews and more importantly, it will help you accept the right offer.
4. Opportunities To Grow
If there is one question you absolutely must ask during your interview it should be to find out what opportunities the company provides you for growth.
A sign of a good company that remains successful and maintains longevity is that it has opportunities for their employees to grow.
However, like most great things, those opportunities are not discussed until you bring them up. So find out how you can advance in your career while you are working with a particular company.
- How long will it take you to get to the next level?
- What are the requirements for promotion?
- Does the company provide learning material - seminars, webinars, in-house courses etc - that allow you to continue to expand your base of knowledge so that you can do your job better, add to your skill set and climb up the ladder?
5. Compensation Packages And The Power Of Negotiation
A young lady recently graduated from a nursing program. Like a lot of her classmates, she had landed a job offer even before graduation. During graduation, one of her classmates disclosed their starting salary to her. He was going to make $20,000 more than what she had been offered!
She immediately read up on how to negotiate salaries and was able to get her employer to pay her $15,000 more per year than the original offer.
An essential part of your research as you look for your first job is your salary and the compensation package being offered to you.
Read up on how to negotiate salaries so that you are not getting grossly underpaid at your first job - an issue that can add to your frustrations.
6. Location. Location. Location.
If you are planning on moving to a new place to start a new job considering the location is important as well.
Does the commute make sense? How about rent? Is the standard of living higher than you are used to? How does your salary fit in?
While most jobs will pay you taking the general standard of living of the area into consideration, this is not always the case.
If you are going to take home $3200 after taxes and the average rent in the area is $1500, it might be wise to find a roommate to split the cost if need be.
Your commute will you be depending on public transportation or driving in? In places like New York City, traffic and tolls into and out of the city alone could cost you a small fortune each month.
If you have to drive in because public transportation in the area is unreliable, how much is it going to cost you in gas? In most cities where the places of work are found in and around the downtown area, rent could be as much as three times what it is just 10 or 15 miles away. Will it make sense for you to pay three times more rent so you can walk to work or you don’t mind the 15-mile/40-minute commute in the morning while you pay much lower rent?
These are all things to ponder.
7. Leverage The Power Of Your Network
Your network is your net worth.
It’s not just some motivational mumbo-jumbo.
As you look for your first job, don’t forget to take advantage of opportunities to network with key people at the companies you would like to work at.
Even beyond that, talk to friends and family and let them know you are available for work. They might have connections as well that could serve you well in the long run.
Looking for your first job can be taxing emotionally and psychologically. Go easy on yourself and break it down into steps. I just gave you seven things to consider and act on as you search for your first job. Use them.
Congratulations on your graduation and all the best in your search!
What has your experience been like looking for your first job? Have you successfully landed one? What are some other success tips you would recommend?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.