9 Tips for College Seniors Looking for That First Job

How to get an edge in a competitive job market.

Clean up your online dirt, and build your professional network on LinkedIn to stand out among other entry-level job seekers.

Sure, it's tough to get a job today, especially as a new college graduate. You invested a lot of money and incurred a bunch of debt to make yourself look employable.

Although the odds may seem stacked against you without any real work experience, you do have assets employers are seeking: a fresh perspective, willingness to learn and loads of energy. Your strong technology skills are also a plus. And because you presumably have fewer outside responsibilities and financial obligations, you demand a lower salary.

The challenge you face is breaking ino the workforce. Just know that your first job won't be your last, and the one thing you need is on-the-job experience.

You must be relentless in your quest for a new job. This means actively pursuing jobs by finding inside connections, following up after you apply and even networking. You need to do all three things for every job you are interested in.

Your odds of landing a job solely because you applied online are slim. In order to tip the scales in your favor, you'll need to diversify what you do to uncover opportunities. The following tips should help get you started in your job search. Use as many as you can to gain the competitive advantage.

1. Connect with your career center. It isn't too late. Many college career centers have a job board and services you can access while you are on campus and remotely after you move.

2. Use more than one job board. There are thousands of job boards out there, which means companies have to be strategic about where they choose to post opportunities. Indeed is a job board that's consistently scored well with employers as a source of hire, so be sure you use it.

If you have a specific occupation or job in mind, find a job board that focuses on those types of job postings. For example, if you are looking for a job in accounting, look for a job board focused on accounting jobs. Also keep in mind that companies almost always list job postings on their company career page. 

3. Don't dismiss employment agencies. Employers often need someone to fill in for short-term projects. When this happens, companies turn to staffing agencies to help find what they are looking for. Temp jobs are great for acquiring work experience and getting your foot in the door with a company. Some agencies even offer temp-to-hire jobs, which provide you the opportunity to test drive the employer.

4. Volunteer. Since you have some extra time on your hands, invest it by volunteering with an organization. Any volunteer experience can serve as a helpful source of networking contacts. Ideally, you'll want to volunteer in an organization related to your career aspirations. If you aren't sure what direction you want to head in, any organization can use your help.

5. Get out of your house! It's tempting to spend your time looking online for your next job. But people hire people, and one of the best ways to meet people is to attend events. Look for young professional meetups, attend meetings for groups that support causes that are important to you, or even join a local kickball team to interact with people.

6. Hit up your parents' friends. It sounds pretty desperate, but you've got nothing to lose. Maybe one of them needs an intern for the summer or just someone to do the grunt work. Asking them yourself is better than having your parents ask. It says something about your character and maturity.

7. Clean up your online dirt. Using social media can help convey your personality and style. That's not a bad thing as long as you're representing your best side.

Check your privacy settings on all your social media accounts, and make sure you aren't publicly broadcasting every update to the world. Also realize that nothing is ever private on the Internet, despite your privacy settings. If you haven't searched for the results of your name online, audit and monitor that as well.

8. Stay connected. Your college friends who are landing jobs may be able to help you secure one, too. Keep in touch with your classmates, and see where they're getting jobs. Many companies offer incentives for employees to refer people for job openings.

And, if you haven't started yet, now is the time to start building your professional network on LinkedIn. Join alumni groups, follow companies and (most importantly) connect with people you know. The people you choose to connect with on LinkedIn could be professors, classmates, your parents' friends and old bosses. Be sure to customize your request to connect, which must be done via the desktop version by clicking on the person's profile.

9. Keep in mind that any job is better than no job at all. Don't worry if you can't find the ideal professional job right away. It may take longer than you want. In the meantime, get a job - any job. There are many benefits to working besides the obvious financial gains. Going to work every day creates a sense of stability and routine that makes you feel better. You'll also be able to use some of your talent and maybe even develop some new skills along the way.

Perhaps the most important reason to work is that an interviewer would rather hear you are working rather than hanging out in your parents' house just looking for a job.

Don't get discouraged, and don't give up. You will secure that first job, but it may not be the one you imagined.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.


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