Some recent college graduates say they're unprepared for the job search. Here are 5 tips to get work-ready.
- Recent college graduates may be feeling lost, especially with students returning to campuses.
- To help recent grads feel more work-ready, we wrote "Survive & Thrive."
As college starts up again, most recent graduates are probably in the middle of their quarter-life crisis — adjusting to the real world, applying to jobs, and missing their college days.
We wrote "Survive & Thrive: A Graduate's Guide to Life After University" to help recent grads navigate this new era in their lives and aid them in landing their dream jobs.
It's not easy. In a 2023 survey from Intelligent.com, 40% of business leaders polled said they thought recent college graduates were ill-prepared to join the workforce. Many recent grads we talked to also felt like their colleges did not properly prepare them for the job search.
If you haven't landed your first job out of college just yet, don't worry. We have five tips for getting out of the college mindset and becoming work-ready.
If you're reaching a breaking point, take a job-hunt break
Snatch a well-deserved rest — even if it's just for a couple of weeks — because searching for a job is like a full-time job. Plus, rejections, an inevitable part of the process, can be mentally draining. It's very easy to burn out or lose heart when facing radio silence.
When you start looking in earnest again, applying on a schedule can help, with regular breaks throughout the day.
This is a process that requires effort, detective work, and concentration. Staying positive is half the battle.
Make sure your essay and application materials are perfect and personalized
Hiring managers spend about 30 seconds scanning each cover letter and résumé they receive, so you'll need yours to make an immediate and lasting impact. Get into the habit of tweaking your cover letter for the role and the employer you're sending it to.
Some of the information, including your qualifications and work experience, will stay the same, but your opening statement should try to echo the vocabulary in the description of the job you're applying for. You can use the interests section to show you have the skills the company is looking for. For example, if they want a team player, tell them about the hockey, volleyball, or ultimate-frisbee league you've played in for the past 10 years.
Once that's sorted, create a profile on LinkedIn that matches. Hiring managers and recruiters use this platform to find candidates, so be sure to switch your settings on LinkedIn to "looking for work." You can use it as a jobs board, a professional-networking tool, and a way to research companies.
For the interview, bring your A-game — and your questions
It can help your nerves to think of a job interview as a conversation — and all the best conversations are two-way. Good preparation is key to boosting your confidence and putting you at ease so you can present your best self and make a lasting impression.
Always come armed with questions of your own. Ask questions about the company, the culture, and the role.
One grad we spoke with said: "I was told that I'd lost out on a job because I didn't ask enough questions at the end, so I didn't seem interested enough in the role. The same thing happened to a friend who was a serial job interviewee. Now she knows why."
Take on part-time or temporary work and treat it like an audition
You may not get the dream job right away, but there's no shame in taking a part-time or temporary job in the meantime. In some cases, employers can make a full-time offer after you have proved yourself in a temporary gig.
So be curious, ask questions, and volunteer for tasks. Showcase your skills that are in high demand, too. If you're a budding graphic designer, show them exactly what you can do. At the end of those gigs, ask for informal feedback to help you improve. Always follow up with a thank-you email.
Make sure you never stop learning
We're all works in progress. To figure out what hard and soft skills you may be missing, talk to people already working in the industry. What courses do they think you'll need, what books do they recommend that you read, and what industry magazines can you look at online?
Sophie and Julie Phillipson are the coauthors of "Survive & Thrive: A Graduate's Guide to Life After University," which is available on Amazon.
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