“WELCOME to the real world”! A place that reveals for some college graduates the harsh reality that our degrees are not magic wands that we can wave and expect a job to appear. It is a little more involved than that. Fortunately, I believe that there is a solution to all this and all it takes is a little effort and a whole lot of patience.
Here are a few tips that I wish I had known right out of college. Hopefully they will be useful to you.
DO NOT PANIC!
It may have been three or four months, maybe even a year since your college graduation, and you have been unsuccessful at securing employment. Whether or not you had the best grades or that killer internship from last summer that you were expecting to help you stand out as a job candidate, you must be patient. Although the job market has been picking up lately, companies are still very careful when hiring someone, especially in entry-level positions. You also have to take into consideration the number of other applicants for any given job who are probably all boasting the same skills as you.
CONTINUE TO LEARN
Just because you are waiting for that call or interview, it does not mean you must sit there and do nothing in the meantime. Find ways in which you can better yourself in order to beef up that resumé. I am sure you have been going through loads of job descriptions and finding at least one or two qualities that you do not possess. Make a list of the desirables that you do not have and start to knock them off while you wait. You may also occupy your time by learning a new language like I did. Many jobs call for candidates with prior experience, so try volunteering or finding an unpaid internship in the field you want to enter. You won’t be making money sitting at home so you might as well gain some more experience while you are at it. Books are also your best friends. Do not just expect what you did in college to suffice; read up on and keep in touch with developments in your area of study. If you are a math or engineering major for example, do at least 10 problems a day as practice. When the call comes through for the job you wanted, you want to be ready to go and be just as sharp as you were in your college days.
At first, you might feel like the best way to get many job offers is to send out as many applications as you can without even reading some of the job descriptions – especially when sites like Monster.com make it as easy as just clicking the application button. I am culpable of this, and probably sent out about 75 applications in a matter of two weeks. I did not hear from any of those companies. Find and pick two companies a week that you are going to focus on. During the week find out everything you can about those two companies before you do anything. Find out exactly what they do, especially in the area specific to the job you are applying for. Know enough about the company that if someone were to ask you about it you would sound like an employee there. Only then will you become really interested in working at that company. This makes writing cover letters, applications and of course the important interviews, so much easier to get through.
BE FIRM AND SURE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO
After a while it may seem like time and money are running out, and that you have to take any job you are offered. This may not always work in your favour. For instance, an employer asked, “Do you want to work in a structured environment or unstructured?” I answered by saying that I will do anything the company needs me to. While I thought this showed determination and flexibility on my part, it also showed indecisiveness. However, do not give off the impression that you are too picky either; find a balance between knowing what you want and knowing what the employer wants. They may even be testing your ability to assess a situation and make a decision, which may be a day-to-day requirement for the job.
Opportunities are not always going to float your way, so pick up a phonebook or look online and call companies directly. If a company has not called you back it is not necessarily a reflection on you. It is very likely that employers may be busy and have forgotten. I became diligent in keeping track of my submittals and set calendar reminders every two weeks. An employer will appreciate a gentle reminder to get a conversation started again. Tap into your alumni network and seek assistance from your school’s Career Centre. I messaged almost every engineer from my alumni network on LinkedIn and was in close communication with my Career Centre. It is important to remember though, that you should not expect them to get you a job but rather seek their advice and direction.
STAY FOC– USED AND SET GOALS
Although I have left this one last, it is certainly most important. Set goals and have one year, five year and ten year plans. What companies do you want to work for? What type of salary do you want to earn? What type of position do you want to acquire? What qualifications and experience do you want to have? Without clear and specific goals, it becomes easy to lose motivation and sight of why you are going through the stressful process of applying for a job. There is also a tendency to think that you are inadequate. Having focus and an end goal, not only helps you deal with the hurdles along the way, but they also make the career celebrations more fruitful.