When you’re looking for your first “real” job out of college, sometimes the hardest part is simply knowing where to look. You can have a perfect work history, a beautiful resume, and killer interview skills… but, none of those will help you if you don’t know the most effective places to find a job. Here, we’re going to run down some of the best ways to find job openings.
It’s worth noting that every industry and career path is different, and depending on your skills, your experience, and your personality, different methods will work better or worse for different people. What may be the best place for an engineer to look for a job might not be very useful at all for an interior designer.
So look at our suggestions, and then go to your professors, go to your career services office, talk to family friends and alumni in the working world to find out where they found their jobs, and where they recommend you start looking. And that, actually, is the best place to start anyway:
Job Search Tip #1: Talk To People You Know
Yes, you’ve heard it before, you’ve read it here: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Connections are the best way to land jobs, plain and simple. The easiest way for hiring managers to weed through countless applications is to go by the advice or recommendation of friends or coworkers.
So if your uncle is golfing buddies with a manager of a company you’re dying to work for, see if you can hit the links with them this weekend. If your old lab partner is working in the field you’re entering, give him a call. When asking friends or acquaintances for recommendations or leads, be polite, and don’t expect them to bend over backward to help you—and above all else, don’t pester them. But many people landed their jobs via personal connections, and they’re often happy to help someone else do the same.
Job Search Tip #2: Trade Magazines
Often, companies will want to advertise open positions to a qualified pool of candidates rather than the general public, so they’ll post openings in top industry trade magazines. Trade magazines are specialized publications focusing on a single industry or, often, a specific sub-discipline of an industry.
If you don’t know the trade magazines for your field, this is a good chance to become acquainted with them. Beyond looking for jobs, they’re useful tools for keeping up-to-date on the latest trends and news in your industry. Many trade magazines are available for free, and nearly all of them are published online as well as in print. Take a few minutes to search for them, talk to people you know in the industry, or use social media sites to find out the most widely-read publications in your field.
Job Search Tip #3: Join Professional Organizations & Attend Conventions
While this route won’t be for every profession, for many trades, professional organizations and conventions are great ways to network and meet the movers and shakers in your field. When I say “professional conventions,” by the way, I don’t mean “job fair.” I mean the conventions that take place a few times a year where people get together to showcase their company and their products or service, to attend workshops on industry-specific issues, and to go out at night wining and dining with the other people in the field. There aren’t many places where you can network with more people in a single day or night than at these conventions.
Likewise, joining a professional organization not only opens some of these conventions and other meetings up to you (some are open to the public, though some are restricted to, or give preference to, members), but they also look good on your resume, and show you’re committed to your specialty and qualified enough to join the group. As with everything else, if you don’t know the organizations that represent your field, you absolutely should, so take the time to ask around or poke around the internet to find out.
Job Search Tip #4: Utilize Your College Or Alumni Network
Your school has a vested interest in helping you find a job. The more graduating students go into careers, the better they look to prospective students and to investors and donors. So let them help you.
Most schools will hold on-campus job fairs, where recruiters for companies with ties to the school spend a day meeting with and interviewing students. This is a golden opportunity to get your name out there, and put your face in front of people who make hiring decisions. Make sure your resume is up to snuff — it’s a good idea to take advantage of your school’s career services office before the job fair, let them review your resume and help you improve it.
Likewise, many schools maintain networks of alumni who have formally stated that they’d be willing to talk to students or recent graduates about their industry or about their job. Often, when contacting these alumni, you’re told not to ask for jobs — the alumni are there to help you with your career, not act as recruiters. And if that’s the case, do not violate that rule: it makes you look desperate and unprofessional. But develop a friendly rapport with an alumnus, make it clear you’re interested in their field or their area of expertise, and make sure they have your contact information. If a job opens up somewhere, there’s a good chance they’ll think of you.
Job Search Tip #5: Check Internet Job Boards
This is last on our list because it’s such a mixed bag. You can absolutely find great job openings through the major Internet job sites. In fact, if you spend a half hour or so browsing and searching through the postings, you’ll probably find a dozen job openings that sound great to you.
Here’s the problem: you’re not the only one who found them. The competition for positions listed on job boards can be pretty intense. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply to jobs on these sites. You absolutely should — just try not to rely on them. There are a few little tricks to make yourself stand out, however:
- If the listing doesn’t specify the hiring manager or HR representative, Google the company, check out their LinkedIn profile — try to find the person who handles the hiring, and address your correspondences to them, rather than an anonymous greeting like “To Whom it May Concern.”
- If there is a specific email or phone number listed in the job application, follow up a week or so after you submit your application. The squeaky wheel gets the oil — don’t feel embarrassed to call or contact. It shows you’re interested in the job and committed to doing everything you can to get it.
- With that said, don’t be a pain. If they tell you the decision hasn’t been made yet, don’t call back an hour later and ask if they’ve made a hire yet. Follow up, get your name out there, put a voice to the resume (and if the company is close, stop by the office — putting a face to your name is even better)… just don’t make them associate your name with “that jerk who keeps calling every fifteen minutes.”
Again, these are just general suggestions — for some industries, and some jobs, some of these won’t work as well, or won’t even apply. Talk to as many people as you can, find out what worked for others, and follow their lead. Above all else, just keep on plugging away. It can get discouraging for anybody trying to find a job, particularly in a slow economy.
Persistence is the name of the game. Keep your head up, keep your resume handy, and you’ll find something before you know it.