How to Land Your First Real Job Out of College

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Sep 11, 2020

Sep 11, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

This past spring saw hundreds of thousands of newly minted college graduates pouring out into the real world looking for work.

How have they fared? 

The answer to that is simple: “It’s complicated.”

Many of those new graduates entered the job market just as the pandemic tore down so many economic and financial monoliths that no major, medium, or even small business was left unscathed. While blue collar workers and those in the gig economy took the brunt of punishing new realities of unemployment and underemployment, the world of white collar work, where most new college graduates intended to enter, also took a major hit -- it just took longer to manifest itself. 

The upshot is that for the job seeker fresh out of college the challenges he or she faces today are unlike anything faced by new college graduates as recently as a year ago. This topsy turvy new world demands flexibility and creativity in order to locate and obtain that all-important first job after graduation.

It can be helpful to meet with the financial aid office to discuss the various options when it comes to student loans. For example, the financial aid office could advise students on certain options such as consolidating their current loans into a single monthly payment, loan forgiveness options, or even student loan refinancing options. Student loan refinancing allows students to replace their current loan with a new loan at a lower rate, allowing them to save money. All of these options are different and every student has a unique job situation coming out of college. Therefore, it is always helpful for students to meet with the financial aid office to review their choices and decide what is best for them.

So that’s good news for those of you who, for whatever reason, have decided you can’t or won’t be going back to the ivy halls of higher education to wait out the pandemic -- it means there’s less competition than there might have been.

Now that the playing field has been shrunk, if not leveled, it’s time to give serious consideration to the new paradigms taking hold for the college degreed job hunter. This isn’t your parent’s job hunting world -- it isn’t even your older sibling’s job hunting world anymore! Some of the rules to successfully getting that first good job are the same as always -- except they’re now slightly different. And some of the new rules are . . . let’s face it, completely and sometimes surprisingly new, with no precedent to draw upon. 

So buckle up, pilgrims, and let’s consider what you need to be doing to land that great job you’ve always dreamed about.

Take care of your LinkedIn profile

This is not an advertisement for LinkedIn; it’s a simple acknowledgement that this social media platform is now one of the most important recruiting tools for companies around the globe. Since the pandemic has made in-person interviews so very much more difficult, a professional, truthful, profile on LinkedIn can be the gateway to an invitation to start the interview process. HR departments are desperate to scoop up the best new talent coming out of universities and colleges, and many of them turn to LinkedIn to see how the latest crop of grads are handling their social media accounts to maximize their exposure and strengths, and minimize their liabilities. Let’s get one thing straight: The one rule that hasn’t changed since the start of the pandemic, and is never going to change, is to be truthful with your resume or profile. Don’t exagerat, don’t gloss over, don’t pad it with meaningless fluff. Get everything out in the open when it comes to positives, and never identify anything as a liability -- but be sure to indicate you’re not a deity either. 

Get an internship and find a mentor

Ideally you did this while still in school. But if not, it’s never too late to start!

Look to your local nonprofits to begin an internship, and never mind about not being paid. What you want is the experience to put on your profile. And don’t be shy about asking someone in your circle of acquaintances to become your mentor. And don’t just settle for one mentor; you can have several at the same time. These people will give you guidance and advice, and act as the radar to pick up employment blips you may not have noticed. And they make excellent references. 

Your school has a career services office. Use it.

It doesn't matter whether you graduated from Yale or Podunk University -- they’ll have a career office dedicated to helping you get established in your chosen profession. You should be in consultation with them long before graduation, but even after you graduate and are off to far flung lands, stay in touch with them for the latest information in your field of interest. Sign up for their newsletters and stay in touch with any counselors you feel you may have established a bond with. These are the people who hear about job openings first.