Ah, spring. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming. Yet, here you are preoccupied with the recent graduate/nearing-end-of-college rite of passage realization that someone is being paid to report the sun shines, another receiving health benefits for tending to those petunias and, Oh God, you really need a job soon.
It’s the magical time of year many of us are faced with confronting the unforgiving reality we are about to be thrust into the working world whether we are ready or not. If you were as lucky as me during college, you were forcefully required to participate in general education courses focused on important life skills such as identifying Mesopotamian pottery during the fall of the Persian Empire (no, really).
If by nothing short of a miracle you managed to memorize Alexander the Great’s classic ancient tupperware and now find yourself rocking back and forth uncharacteristically listening to Enya and wondering how to prepare for these seemingly daunting “”entry level jobs””, don’t be fooled, the rest of us have no idea how to adult either. Here’s some ways to make the most out of your time applying for your first job after college:
1. Establish an effective social media presence.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn, sign up, search for past employers and upload your resume. Upload pictures that represent your professional image (volunteering, Greek life, photos of you in action participating with any clubs or jobs you may have been involved with while in school, study abroad/travel photos, anything that shows why your college experience stood out besides academics).
2. Prepare a physical portfolio.
Buy a nice looking physical portfolio, order a sample of business cards that have your contact information and title (title can include your major, your anticipated career field, or even just list yourself as “student graduating x year”), have on hand a copy of your resume and any letters of recommendation, bring a small notepad and pen for note taking, a copy of any writing samples or essays you think represent your writing ability, publications, or projects that show your competency in your field. Bring a list of questions you have for the employer or the company such as, “What are the health and medical benefits? Is there a 401k offered and what is the contribution? Are there opportunities for growth/promotion?”
3. Participate in experiences that set you apart from other graduates.
Visit websites such as volunteermatch.com or speak with your career counselor at your school to find volunteer opportunities. They can range from a one-time 3-hour commitment to several hours every week and are usually low stress and priceless networking opportunities. These opportunities range from walking shelter dogs, to boxing groceries for the elderly in need, helping build houses for low-income at risk families, planting trees, and building play structures at parks. All these organizations need is an extra pair of hands, but employers will see you as a go-getter and involved with your community, so everyone wins. Similarly, look for unpaid internships through your school and externally with local businesses, attend seminars or job fairs in fields you have interest in (wedding fairs, advertising federations, beauty expos, etc) even if it is not the exact career you have interest in going in, these events are fun, informative, and can make you a more well rounded candidate.
Everyone seems to be pushing networking today but not giving definitive examples of what networking is. Email an old professor who you got a good grade in their course and ask for future career planning advice, email an old supervisor and ask if they need a babysitter or would like to get together for a working lunch to discuss a career field, go on LinkedIn and connect with a leader at a company you would like to someday work for and look at their past work experience and see what skills they used to get into their position.
5. Get a side hustle.
Get a part time/Per Diem job. Look into waitressing or banquet serving, or working front desk at a hotel, any job that for a few hours a week introduces you to lots of industry people or the general public. This way you can make a name with those you work with AND those you meet as guests at your place of work. Do commissioned work such as writing, babysitting, Lyft/Uber driving (if you have an approved vehicle, license, driving record), make crafts and sell at your local craft fairs or through Etsy, look into trying voice acting work… anything that can get you a few bucks or new contacts.
6. Have a go-to interview outfit ready.
Have a pre-picked out and dry cleaned outfit specifically for interviewing. You can buy affordable pieces and have them tailored for cheap, but try and keep one outfit in it’s best condition ready for interviews to remove added stress of choosing something to wear the morning of. Have a lint roller ready, and if possible try and remember to bring some mints in your purse to pop just before walking in the door.