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Common obstacles that keep you from getting your first job

You crushed it in college, but now you’re struggling on the job front. This is how you get unstuck.

Common obstacles that keep you from getting your first job

Landing your first job takes patience—and a strategy.

College graduation season is around the corner, but you’ve got bigger things to worry about than ordering your cap and gown. The reality is you might not have your first job lined up by the time you collect your diploma.

Sure, the job market looks good. Case in point: Employers plan to hire 5.8% percent more new college graduates from the class of 2020 than they did from the class of 2019 for positions in the United States, according to results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2020 survey. However, finding a great first job is always challenging. 

Monster spoke with career experts to find out why many recent college grads find themselves in a rut—and how you can make sure you aren’t one of them.

You’re not robot-proofing your application

To get your resume into a hiring manager’s hands, it’ll likely need to pass through an application tracking system, says Wendy Enelow, executive resume writer and co-author of Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed … Get Hired. That means you’ll need to incorporate the right keywords, says Enelow; find them by looking at the language used in the job posting.

Formatting also plays a factor. While your resume may contain the necessary keywords, if you have a complex design (e.g., you use a fancy font choice) it may prevent the document from translating to the hiring manager’s computer or smartphone. “Don’t get overly creative,” says millennial career coach Kim Carbia.

You’re not making personal connections

“When college students hear the word ‘network’ they often don’t think about their larger social network, which includes relatives, friends, even their parents’ friends,” says Courtney Templin, president of JB Training Solutions, a Chicago-based career development firm. “These people are already invested in you and want to help you succeed.”

Take a targeted approach by creating a list of companies where you’d like to find your first job, and then share it with your sphere. “Speak to every single person in your network,” says Carbia. “You never know where your next job is going to come from.”

You’re losing it at the interview

Your resume and experiences only go so far to help you get the job. You have got to crush the in-person audition to get the offer.

You likely haven’t had much experience yet with this kind of business conversation, in which you need to play up your strengths, use anecdotal evidence and storytelling to highlight your skills, and not come off as cocky in the process. So it’s extremely important to do practice mock interviews.

Ask a college professor to help, recommends Joan Kuhl, founder and president of New York-based research and career consulting agency Why Millennials Matter. Ideally, your sounding board is still active in the field and tapped into what employers are looking for in entry-level hires.

The job interview is an opportunity to show you understand the organization’s brand, so brush up on company news and weave those topics into conversation. “Show you’ve done your homework,” says Carbia.

Your expectations are too high

You’ve got to accept the fact that your first job probably won’t be your favorite job. The reality is that it takes time—and typically some kind of dues-paying—to get to your career nirvana. Don’t settle, but also don’t rush to reject to an opportunity that just isn’t 100% perfect. You may be able to gain more of the experiences you crave once you’re in the door and impressing people.

More appropriately, think of your first job as a stepping-stone to your long-term career goals. And also, make sure your salary expectations are realistic; A survey by LendEdu found that students, on average, expect to earn $60,000 in their first job out of college, but in reality, the figure will be closer to $50,000.

Your cover letter reads like your resume

It’s tough to craft a compelling cover letter, especially during your first job search. A common misstep, though, says Templin: “People make the mistake of regurgitating what’s on their resume.” Instead, write about experiences that illustrate your strengths so you present yourself as a solution to the company’s problem.

“Talk about the value you bring to the organization,” says Carbia, who recommends condensing your cover letter to one page.

Your resume is one size fits all

Submitting a generic resume won’t get you called in for an interview, says Templin.

Granted, customizing your resume for every job that you apply for can be tedious and time-consuming (especially when you’re trying to enjoy your last few months of real-world freedom). Therefore, instead of applying to dozens of online job postings, find five or 10 that are great opportunities and take the time to tailor your resume. 

Could you use some help whipping your resume into job-search shape? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way to put some professional polish on your job application.

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