Job searching is hard. And as a recent graduate, landing your first job can be even more difficult. You may not be able to get work experience because you don’t have work experience.
Here are my top 10 job search tips for recent grads – and anyone who is actively job searching:
1. Don’t job search at home. One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my job search was thinking I would be able to focus at home. With roommates, my bed, or my guitar available at the slightest onset of procrastination, my initial efforts were less than productive. Acting as if job searching was my new full-time job helped me to get up early in the morning and get dressed up – just as if I were going to work. I went out to a place where I could focus, such as the library or a quiet coffee shop.
2. Take responsibility. No one will get your dream job (or any job) for you. Even if you put a call out to your network, they may not get back to you. Job searching is often a discouraging, disappointing prospect that will lead to many dead ends. Be prepared for that. But be sure and follow up with people. If they haven’t gotten back to you, try again. Everyone is very busy but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to help you. They may have seen your email or message but just forgot to follow up with you. So take that initiative.
3. This will probably take longer than you think. Though you can send out dozens of resumes a week, the final decision might be a long way off. So even if you’re the ideal candidate, they may not get back to you for a while. Thus, you need to be systematic and careful with your savings. Make and keep a budget in order to ensure you will be able to make it through this period.
4. Get help. Job searching is difficult enough. Don’t make it harder by going at it alone. There is most likely a state or city unemployment office nearby with helpful career mentors and coaches who offer workshops and encouragement. Seek them out early on and they will make your job hunt more efficient with the latest information on resumes, interviews, and networking. They can offer another set of eyes to review your resume and will be acquainted with other resources in your area that you probably hadn’t even thought of. Employment offices are hubs of activity where other job searchers can become your new “coworkers,” and where you encourage each other as you share in this common experience.
5. Be specific. Don’t just say, “I’m looking for a job.” If you don’t know what you want, it’s unlikely anyone else will. If you’re going to reach out to specific people, tell them what you’re looking for. Even if they don’t know anyone in your field, they may know someone who does. But vague requests don’t help anyone.
6. Get rid of distractions. Even if you get out of the house, if you’re working on the Internet or have your smartphone, distraction is going to be a constant temptation. Luckily you can take control of it. On my Mac I use an app called Self-Control. There are a number of similar ones out there. Find one that works for you and that can’t easily be overridden. Turn your smartphone to airplane mode. I also found it helpful to put it away in my bag so it wouldn’t be in sight. After a few minutes, I’d forget about it and be completely engaged with my task.
7. Stay on task. Getting started is often the most difficult part for me. But once I start, it’s easy for me to get into a state of flow where time passes very quickly. One time management hack I have found helpful is the Pomodoro Technique , but there are a number of apps and methods that keep track of the time for you. For me the Pomodoro Technique works because I can “Pomodoro” through a task, knowing a break is only a certain amount of time away. Everyone can work for 10, 15, or 20 minutes on a task. I always find that by the time my limit is reached, I’m in a state of flow and want to keep going until it’s done. Just be careful not to allow a 5 minute break to turn into 30 minutes.
8. Make it fun. For me, this meant sitting down with my favorite beverage and listening to my favorite music as I wrote and filled out applications. Reward yourself when you accomplish a task (like sending out a certain number of resumes or reaching out to a certain number of contacts). You need to continue to take care of yourself and recharge your batteries, so remember to keep doing the things you like after you do the things you need to.
9. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There were a number of times when I thought I was a shoe-in for a position. I knew the people hiring, they brought me in to interview, etc. But for one reason or another it didn’t work out. Nothing is certain, so don’t rest on your laurels. Have many different leads you’re following and don’t stop until you get the offer.
10. Be grateful. Every time someone helps you in your job search- whether it’s a hiring manager interviewing you, your local employment coach, or a close contact- make sure you demonstrate your gratitude. Sending thank you notes is a small but powerful method of showing your appreciation. This is a habit you should practice for your whole life.
Following these 10 job search tips for recent grads (whether or not you’re a recent grad) will not only help you focus, but will help you bounce back from let-downs.
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