Whether you are coming out of college with a resume that rivals someone with years in the workforce or one that is light on the experience, finding your first job can be daunting. After all, if you possess sought after skills you’ll likely be juggling multiple offers. And if your liberal arts degree isn’t opening up many if any doors your anxiety will probably be on overdrive.
But there’s good news for recent college graduates: regardless of what category you fall into finding your first job doesn’t have to be so hard. From not taking the first job offer that comes your way to making your resume stand out from the pack, here’s how to ensure you first job search as a professional is a successful one.
1. Mull the offer before accepting
For recent college graduates and even people who have been out of work for a while, it’s understandable to want to accept the first job offer that comes your way. But experts say if you are in the envious position of having multiple job offers the best move is to weigh everything before making a decision.
“You want to interview as broadly as possible and not jump at the first job,” says Jason Berkowitz, VP of Client Services for Seven Step RPO, a recruitment process outsourcing company. “Absent a hard deadline most companies will allow you some time to consider the offer.” That doesn’t mean you can wait a month to say yes or no, but Berkowitz says companies are willing to give you about a week to make your decision. Liberal arts majors may not have employers banging down the door to hire you but that doesn’t mean you should take the first job you get if it won’t serve you in the future. Experts say to evaluate the job offer to make sure even if its outside your degree there are opportunities to move up and build your experience. “If the job is completely irrelevant to what you are looking for take a step back and reevaluate it,” says David Gilcher, lead resource manager at staffing company Kavaliro.
2. Use social networking to your benefit
Social media may conjure up visions of Facebook photos of beer pong or rowdy nights at the frat house, but for recent college graduates it can be a great way to land your first professional job. The key, however, is using it actively rather than being a passive participant. That means having a LinkedIn page even if you just got out of college, joining networking groups in your field and getting involved in the discussion. If you are interested in programming than be part of the discussion on popular programing networking sites. If a writing job is what you are after then make sure you are blogging on a regular basis about things that matter to people in that industry. “When you are looking for work you can’t be passive,” says Gilcher. “You need to be very active in your approach to set yourself apart.”
3. Use your resume to showcase your experience
When it comes to crafting a professional resume, recent college graduates may not have a lot of work experience other than internships and summer jobs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t showcase how you lead, managed the books or otherwise applied real world business sense to your extracurricular activities. “To stand out in your resume highlight those things employers look for” even if it wasn’t in a conventional job, says Gilcher.
4. Don’t search for the dream job
Ask anyone who has been in their career for years and chances are they won’t say their first job was their only job. Everyone has to start out somewhere and if that means your first job out of college isn’t your dream job that’s fine. After all you may start out in accounting but find out later on you have a knack for advertising and may switch careers entirely. “The first job out of college is not ultimately what your career is going to be,” says Berkowitz. “Not everybody is absolutely in love with every job they have. It’s a step on the path to your career.”
5. Don’t stay in a dead end job
Out of college and out of work is not an unusual situation for recent graduates but that doesn’t mean you should take a service industry job and give up on your job search forever. Even if you are making a good income, staying in a job with no career growth or development will come back to bite you down the road. “If you take a service industry job and wait for the perfect professional career it’s easy to stay there,” says Berkowitz. “In a couple years you are competing with the other new grads coming out of school.”