As if adulting wasn’t enough, juggling final exams, project deadlines, and a social life, along with worrying about getting a job out of college, can make the last few months of your senior year feel overwhelming. The good news is you’re not alone.
Many graduates feel like they can’t find a job after college. In fact, 66 percent of them are not very optimistic that they’ll get a job that will fit their career goals. Although searching for jobs after graduation can be stressful, learning how you can prepare for the job market can lift some weight off your shoulders.
If you want to learn how to navigate the job search and dodge common mistakes recent grads make, this guide will help you better prepare for the future. You can also check out the Game of Life After College in our infographic below.
The Current Landscape for Getting a Job After College
Is it hard to get a job after college? There’s not a concrete answer to this, since each person has their own set of skills and experience. However, here are some stats to keep in mind and other pressing questions answered, including what percentage of college students get a job after they graduate and what is the average time to get a job after graduation.
- In 2020, the percentage of employed college graduates went down from 76% to 67%.
- In August 2021, employment rose by 235,000 in one month.
- The unemployment rate went from 14.7% in April 2020 to 5.2 percent in August 2021.
- In October 2020, 67.3% of college graduates were employed after they graduated.
- It takes an average of three to six months for college graduates to find a job after college.
- In March 2021, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 3.7% compared to 6.7% for those only holding a high school diploma.
Reasons People Struggle With Getting a Job Out of College
Finding a job after college can be challenging, especially when learning how to adapt to life after graduating. If you are in the position where you can’t find a job after college, the following reasons might help explain:
Not Being Prepared
Some college graduates will only start preparing for their career after graduation. Although preparation involves some effort, such as taking online courses, finding an internship, or networking, being prepared for the job market is crucial to getting a job after college.
Not Being Proactive
Not being proactive by following up with potential employers and reaching out to your network is also a common reason college graduates might take longer to land a job. Only applying on job boards is a common mistake job seekers make, as they tend to get lost in the pool of applicants.
Not Enough Experience
Having a degree in hand doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a job right after graduation. Most employers consider having internship and work experience one of the top factors for considering a candidate.
Not Making It About the Employer
Another common mistake recent graduates make is focusing on what they want out of a job and not the employer’s needs. Employers want to know what you can provide them with and how your skills align with the position.
Not Doing Enough Research
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you likely won’t be able to find it. Not doing enough research is another struggle graduates face when starting the job search. Researching what’s suitable for you and what career paths to take can help you achieve your career goals faster.
How To Get a Job Right Out of College
Now, with all these stressors against you, you might be wondering, “How do I get a job just out of college?” Even if this won’t be your first job ever, making the most of your college experience and job search process can put you at ease.
1. Get Experience During College
While in college, you’ll have many opportunities to join clubs and organizations, attend events and seminars, and learn new skills. Each of these can help you learn more about yourself and enhance what you have to offer — plus, it looks great on your resume.
Pro tip: If you didn’t have a job during college, use your participation in a club or organization as your job experience.
2. Start Networking
When you’re ready to start your career, you’ll likely hear that networking is very important, and that’s because at least 70 percent of open positions are not advertised. Meeting people within your major and professional organizations can be a great way to start building connections. But don’t limit yourself — even friends, family, and coworkers can be part of your network.
Pro tip: If you haven’t heard back from a job you applied for, ask for help from your network or college alumni who work for that company.
3. Research the Job Market
Just like a research project for a class in college, exploring different job fields can help you narrow down your job search. Learning about what kinds of jobs are in that field, what a typical day looks like, how the job market is, and what requirements are needed can help you understand exactly what to look for and increase your chances of getting hired.
Pro tip: When doing your research, take note of common skills and experience required in the job descriptions, and personalize your resume accordingly.
4. Be Proactive
If you want to find a job right after you graduate, being proactive is the key. Don’t just wait around — apply to different jobs, reach out to people in your network and on LinkedIn, and follow up on any jobs you haven’t heard back from. By showing interest and being proactive, you’ll let hiring managers know that you’re ready to put your skills and experience to work.
Pro tip: After applying for a job, send the hiring manager a personal email letting them know you applied and why you believe you’re a good fit for the job.
5. Become a Volunteer
Seeking volunteer opportunities can be a great way to give back to the community while also building your skills and connections. Finding a volunteering activity that you enjoy can also help boost your communication and interpersonal skills, and could potentially lead you to find your future employer.
Pro tip: Join a volunteering club or organization on campus to help the local community.
6. Attend Career Fairs
Career fairs might sound intimidating, but there’s a good chance your future employer is there. Recruiters at career fairs are ready to meet people and want to learn more about you and your experience. This is a great way to develop your interviewing skills as well as learn more about different companies and job opportunities.
Pro tip: Research companies on the career fair list ahead of time, so you can come prepared with specific questions to ask the recruiters.
7. Create a Portfolio Website
Take an extra step and create a personal website to showcase your skills and experience. Even if it’s just a simple website, this is a great opportunity to share your writing, photography, or art, or just to tell your story.
Pro tip: Add your website to your resume and job applications as well as your LinkedIn profile to make you stand out to employers.
8. Land an Internship
Finding an internship can be a great way to test the waters and see what a potential job in that field might look like. As a matter of fact, 55 percent of employers believe having internship experience is one of the top factors for considering candidates. Getting an internship can also help you build connections and could even lead to a full-time position.
Pro tip: Taking an internship position after graduating college can help you sharpen your skills if you didn’t get enough experience during school.
9. Consider a Part-Time Job
Even if it’s not in your field, pursuing a part-time job can also help you build connections and skills. Getting a part-time job on campus can not only allow you to earn some extra bucks to pay your tuition, but it can also help you understand your work style and what kinds of tasks you enjoy doing. Finding a part-time position in your field can also get you a foot in the door, and potentially lead to a full-time position.
Pro tip: Working part-time after college can help you build your work ethic and bring in extra money while applying for full-time positions.
10. Keep Your LinkedIn Updated
A lot of recruiters will take a look at your LinkedIn profile during the hiring process — in fact, 72 percent of them use it for recruiting. Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated with your most recent resume and experience can help show recruiters that you’re open to work.
Pro tip: You can also add an #OpenToWork frame to your profile picture on LinkedIn to let recruiters know you are actively looking.
11. Leverage Career Services
On-campus career centers are one of the best sources for new job opportunities, especially locally. Many employers will leave their information with university career centers, which means they’re open to hiring graduates from there. On top of giving you career guidance, career centers may also offer resume and networking workshops, mentoring programs, and mock interviews.
Pro tip: You can still visit your campus career center after graduating to get tips and strategies on how you can improve your resume and interview skills.
12. Take Online Courses
If you want to level up your skills aside from what you learn in class, taking online courses can help you get hands-on experience in the field. It can also guide you to figure out if it’s the right career path for you.
Pro tip: There are a variety of open online courses you can take for free on websites such as Coursera, Udemy, and edX.
13. Find a Mentor
There are many benefits of having a mentor, like providing career guidance and constructive criticism. A mentor is someone you trust and look up to, and can be a supervisor, coworker, teacher, or even a friend. Building a relationship with your mentor can also help you strengthen your communication skills and avoid common pitfalls.
Pro tip: If you don’t have someone close to you to become your mentor, many college career centers have mentorship programs that link you to alumni.
14. Create a Routine
The job hunt can seem endless at times, but building a routine can help you keep track of your goals. Schedule times on your calendar for each task, such as searching for jobs, updating your resume and profile, following up with recruiters, taking online courses, and networking. But don’t forget about your health! Schedule mental health breaks, such as working out, taking a walk, watching a movie, or reaching out to a loved one.
Pro tip: Try using time management techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique and time blocking to help you stay on track.
15. Join Professional Development Groups
Job board websites can feel overwhelming when there are so many job postings. Narrow down your search by finding groups for a specific field or location. These groups can also be a great place to connect with other job seekers who can share career insights.
Pro tip: Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to find groups, such as remote job seekers and city-specific jobs.
16. Level Up Your Resume
Since some job postings tend to get hundreds of applicants, many job seekers are finding ways to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is by spicing up your resume and making it creative. You can do that by trying different resume layouts, colors, and even adding a fun facts section. Although some would go as far as sending a donut box resume, be mindful of the company you are applying for.
Pro tip: You can create your resume using a template from websites such as Canva. Make sure it’s saved as a PDF so resume-scanning softwares can still read it.
17. Apply on Company Websites
Another way to stand out from the crowd and not get lost in the sea of job applicants is to apply directly on the company’s website instead of only big job boards. Some companies will keep their websites updated with current job openings and actively check for candidates. Applying through their website can make it more personal and show that you’re especially interested in working for them.
Pro tip: If you find a place where you genuinely want to work, it may be worth emailing them even if they don’t have current openings to show you are interested.
Why Your First Job Out of College Matters
Your first job out of college might not be a perfect fit, but it’s still one of the most important. If you happen to be in a position where you realize the job is not what you expected, use it as a learning opportunity.
This is your chance to develop your skills and learn from your mistakes. So dive into your first job like a pro and learn negotiation skills, tackle your time management abilities, connect with others in the industry, and discover your preferred work style. Taking advantage of a not-so-great first job can set you up for career success down the road.
If getting a job out of college is one of your main goals, preparing ahead of time can not only help you stay motivated while job searching, but can also help you land a job faster. By learning what common mistakes you’re struggling with and following the tips in this guide, you can get one step closer to achieving career success.