The biggest and perhaps best-kept secret to finding a job after college is to begin before you ever graduate. Find opportunities to intern and volunteer in companies or organizations that will give you great real-world experience before graduation. Those endeavors are perhaps two of the most effective things one can do to land not just any job but a great job post-graduation.
Now, I realize that this bit of advice is great for those students who haven’t yet graduated. But what do you do if you just received your diploma and you are still without a job offer? Then the next biggest and perhaps the best-kept secret to finding a job is to network your way into the job that you want. Attend any and all functions or events where people who are in a position to introduce you to someone who is a decision-maker are in attendance. Let no event go unattended, but also make sure you show up looking like the professional you are—or are about to become. The days of dressing casually and showing up looking less than your best are over except for weekends and vacations. When you are in job search mode, I suggest you don’t go anywhere—including the grocery store—not looking good wherever you go. How you go out in public is part of your personal brand.
Why should you go nowhere not looking your best? Because you never know who you might bump into while you are out. I learned this lesson the hard way through a personal experience. Years ago, I ran into the local drug store to pick up something on a relatively lazy Sunday morning. I was wearing no makeup, and I might have even been wearing sweat pants now that I think about it. It was a Sunday morning after all.
Imagine my embarrassment, then, when I turned a corner and ran right smack into the Human Resources Director of my school division. He was dressed like he was on his way to or from church—or work—and his wife was coiffed and dressed to the nines as well. There I was…bare faced and utterly mortified. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and I moved on as quickly as possible. That was 35 years ago. To this day, however, I never leave my house without considering that I might run into someone who is important enough that I need to look my best. I don’t go anywhere without having given some thought to my appearance…and neither should you.
The stakes are high for you if you just graduated from college. You need a good job to start paying off your college loans. I remember right after I graduated that I desperately wanted my own apartment, and I could never have moved out of my parents’ home if I hadn’t had a decent job with a roommate to help out with the expenses. Even then it was tight. You need to consider that you have spent the last four years of your life preparing for this time when you are about to start your professional career. So, don’t blow it by not handing this job search phase properly.
Finally, and perhaps this is the biggest secret of all, have confidence in yourself and your ability to bring value to your employer, whoever that might be. I cannot stress enough how important having a positive, upbeat attitude can be, and how much being someone who is confident in his own or her own competence is going to help you get your first and next great job.
Networking, dressing for success, and having a great attitude may sound like three old, hokey clichés, I know. Recognize, however, that clichés are clichés because there is always some truth to them. Want to be successful in finding your first job after college? Work your network, volunteer in some capacity that is related to your job aspiration, dress for the part, and maintain a positive, upbeat attitude. Do those things and it won’t be long before you will have your first great job and you will be on your way professionally. Good luck!
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT is a former educator turned Career Transition and Job Strategy Coach specializing in working with teachers who are experiencing the painful symptoms of job burnout. She also works with mid-career professionals from all walks of life who find themselves at a career crossroads either by chance or by choice. Learn more about Kitty at TeachersinTransition.com or at Boitnott Coaching.com.
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