It was spring, 2007, and I was sitting in a computer programming class while the instructor talked about big opportunities with big companies. The average business major coming out of college was expected to make $46,000 that year, but the programming business jobs easily went into the $50k range.
He painted a very vivid picture of the end goal, but I saw that something was missing. How are you supposed to go from point A (where you are now) to point B (earning $50k per year)? So I asked him.
"Get a job," was his reply. My classmates laughed and I sheepishly put my hand back down. It was funny, but it still didn't answer my question. It's like you were expected to have a job fall into your lap as soon as you graduated.
Well, I've learned a few things since then. And since I'm a huge fan of lists with actionable items, I've put this together for you. Let me know if you agree or if you see any gaps by leaving a comment.
Without further ado… the Top 5 Secrets To Getting A Job After College:
1. Use Your Network
Networking in real life is different than how it was taught in college. I'm a pretty shy person sometimes, and I put a high value on having real relationships. The last thing I want to do is rub elbows with a bunch of business hotshots at a career fair and give an elevator pitch 25 times. Plus, the way students prepare and get worked up for some of these networking events, you'd think they were going to meet President Obama.
It's so much easier than that, thanks to Facebook. Post a simple status message letting people know that you are looking for work, and anybody who knows you can see it. The number of available jobs out there is increasing, but if you can get a referral through somebody who can personally vouch for you, the odds of getting work are stacked in your favor.
You can also hit your email contacts list and send people one-off messages asking if they know of any leads at their workplaces. I made a habit of telling friends all over that I was looking, and a few people really came through for me.
2. Fix Your Resume
Ok, if you are fresh out of college, you probably have next to zero real work experience. But that's ok. You probably also have more community service time under your belt than you'll ever have again, and I'm willing to bet you participated in some kind of extra-curricular activities (beyond getting wasted).
You can probably find a job with requirements that mirror some of the projects you did in school. And you can use some of your favorite professors as references on your resume. Just play up the enthusiasm factor and be very willing to learn. Many companies would rather hire a yet-to-be-proven rockstar than a washed up corporate veteran, and they will often pay to have you trained on the job.
And it always helps to have your resume hand delivered by a friend on the inside. It literally sets you apart from the pile. Also, bring your resume by the career services department at your school…and have a friend or professor take a look at it before you send it off.
3. Nail The Interview
Wear nice clothes appropriate to your desired position, and dress up half a notch if it's your style. This means wear a tie or a jacket if the dress code is slacks and a button up (for guys, obviously). Be sure your clothes are comfortable, and that you smell good but not overpowering. If you feel comfortable and confident in your appearance, your body language will naturally follow.
Speak clearly, comfortably, and naturally. And ask questions so the interviewer sees that a) you care and b) you aren't a vegetable. When the interview is over, follow up by mailing a handwritten thank you card to your interviewer. This is a nice touch that will set you apart in the e-mail age.
4. Negotiate For Your Salary
I've successfully botched this step, and it set me back for my entire two year duration of employment at one company. I've also played this card right and earned the quickest $10,000 in my life.
Don't get overexcited when they give you a job offer. If you take a few minutes to prepare for this step, you can dramatically jumpstart your career. Talk with friends or search around to find the appropriate salary for somebody in your position, so you have a reference point. I have a good rule of thumb though, especially if you are shy: Ask for more money than you think you are worth. This gives you some breathing room in case they come back with a lower counter offer.
5. Work Harder (And Smarter)
Ok, admittedly this tip won't help you get a job…but it will help you keep a job, and it may even help you get promoted. Never be afraid to ask questions if you don't know the answer. Most people have a fear that people will think of them as stupid or weak because they asked too many questions. In reality, the people who ask questions will make fewer mistakes and develop a stronger relationship with their boss.
Also, be willing to do the crap work that nobody else will touch. It will make you look like a go getter, and the boss will be able to count on you to get the job done when better work comes along.
I hope this helps. If you have anything to add from your own experience, leave a comment below. If you want to learn more, check out www.youwillgetajob.com. And if you like this, tell a friend!