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How to find a job after college

Follow these five key steps to break into the workforce.

How to find a job after college

If you’re like many new college graduates, you feel a pit in your stomach just thinking about embarking on your very first job search. Well, cheer up, grads. Here’s how to get a good job out of college.

First thing you must know: There’s no substitute for elbow grease. “You get out what you put in,” says Robin Reshwan, founder of Collegial Services, a consulting and staffing firm based in Danville, California.

Follow these steps to launch your first job search and kick-start your career.

Tailor your resume for every application

Many employers today use applicant tracking systems to scan resumes for keywords. Meaning, if your resume doesn’t contain the right keywords, your application could get tossed out automatically.

To prevent that from happening, make tweaks to your resume to mirror the language that appears in the job posting, says Barbara Hewitt, associate director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania. (The same goes for the cover letter.)

If the job requirements include hard skills (e.g., JavaScript or Python for programmer positions), “make sure those terms are on your resume,” says Kelly Kennedy, a career counselor at the University of Virginia.

Cover your bases by checking out Monster’s resume critique checklist

Check new jobs postings frequently

The best time to apply to a job is within the first 48 hours after it’s posted, so you’ll want to check for new job postings often. To get into a good routine, start off your day by searching for new job openings each morning. Monster’s job board enables you to search by job title, city, company, and skills; and to streamline the process, you can sign up to receive email alerts for new job postings.

Another way to get a line on job openings is to monitor prospective employers’ social media feeds to see if they plan on adding any positions in the near future.

Leverage your alumni network

To learn more about your industry or about a particular company, tap your college’s alumni network. Most colleges maintain an online alumni database that grads can use to get contact information, Hewitt says. In fact, some schools have already set up relationships with alumni, who are eager to offer job advice to new grads.

However, you need to be strategic about how you approach alumni. “Don’t hit up someone for a job right away,” Hewitt says. Instead, simply ask people to meet for coffee or chat on the phone, so you can learn more about what they do. (If the conversation goes well, the person may be willing to help you get a foot in the door.) If you’re making a cold introduction by email, try this template:

“Hi, my name is ­­­­_____, and I graduated with a degree in _____ from _____ university. I found your contact information through our alumni office. I’d love just 20 minutes of your time to hear more about what you do at ______ on a daily basis, your career path, and what it’s like to work in the field. I’ve attached a copy of my resume just so you have a frame of reference of my education and experience.”

Keep up with industry news

Even though you don’t have a job yet, you need to stay on top of what’s going on in your field. There are three basic things you should be doing to keep up with industry news:

1. Read trade publications and industry journals
2. Join professional social media groups
3. Follow social media feeds of companies and industry influencers

The news can clue you in to trends in hiring, companies on the rise, and companies going through rough patches.

You can also use informational interviews to expand your industry knowledge, says Steve Dalton, author of The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster. “Ask people who are in the field, ‘What’s the most important 10 minutes of research you do each week to stay current with industry news?’” Dalton says.

Prepare for an interview even before you get the call

To actually snag a job offer, you obviously need to ace the interview itself. You’ll get a boost in confidence by preparing answers to common interview questions, such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Check out Monster’s list of 100 top job interview questions, and spend time developing your answers.

Then, you want to go into detective mode and learn more about hot topics in your industry as well as the company that’s interviewing you. “Make sure you thoroughly research the company, so you can answer basic questions,” Dalton says. “Most employers are going to ask things like, ‘What’s your favorite product that our firm sells?’ or ‘Who do you think is our biggest competitor?’ to see that you’ve done your homework.”

To gather information on potential employers, read the company’s website (specifically, the “press” section), follow them on social media, set up relevant Google alerts, and “look at their corporate reports if it’s a public company,” Hewitt says.

You can also get the inside scoop by checking out company profiles and employee reviews through Kununu to get a sense of culture, pay, and benefits.

Lastly, don’t discount the importance of a professional appearance. Appropriate interview attire, a mature voicemail greeting, and social media profiles that don’t throw up red flags are all must-haves. Leaving this stuff to the last minute is such a freshman move.


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