Getting a degree is only the first of many steps toward building a lifelong career. As thousands of college graduates have recently learned, there isn’t a surplus of great jobs for the college educated, and competition for employment is fierce.
Some steps can help you make your job search more effective in a crowded market:
Apply for More Jobs
Fill out as many job applications as you can. Keep applying and interviewing even while you wait for an answer from a particular employer. Better to have multiple offers and be forced to turn down an offer than to sit by the phone waiting to hear back about that last interview.
Use Every Tool Available to You
Online tools like LinkedIn are essential these days; every job recruiter uses that site, so you should too. Network aggressively in your work, personal and educational circles. Let people know you’re on the hunt for a job; you never know what interesting job ideas will come your way. Take advantage of career services on your college campus. Don’t just rely on one source of job opportunities—exploit every option.
Follow Up with Employers
If you don’t hear back from a job interview, give them a call. Try to get a second interview. Don’t be shy and assume no news is bad news. Don’t just drop off a resume or fill out an application on a web site; follow up and ask when you can come in and talk to someone in person. Some employers will assume you aren’t interested if you don’t follow up, and will only interview more persistent candidates.
Don’t Fixate on Your Degree or Dream Job
A lot of people end up getting jobs outside their major area of study. Don’t fret if you can’t find something in your chosen field. For now, focus on getting a job and building up a work history. That work experience can help you land the right job when it comes along. If you’re just out of school, then you’ve got years of work ahead of you, and the typical worker changes jobs several times, so don’t assume this first job will be where you end up at retirement age.
Get Something out of Rejections
Even if you get a no answer, or you have an interview that doesn’t go superbly, you can still gain something. Ask the employer if there are any other jobs in the industry that you might not be aware of. Ask if there are particular skills you can develop to make you a better candidate. There may be entire lines of work that you’ve never been exposed to that a potential employer could steer you toward.
Don’t Give Up
Everyone is facing a tough job market; it’s not just you. These days, the job hunt can take a long time and there are no guarantees. Degrees don’t count for as much as they used to. The pay and benefits will likely be less. Employers are more scared than ever to take a chance on unproven talent. You need to treat applying for a job as a full-time position in itself, and you should focus on getting better at it until it pays off for you. Too many recent grads are giving up after running into initial adversity.
For many people, this part of the process will be the hardest; harder even than completing their degree. Be open to possibilities, be persistent, and stick with it! If your job search seems to be taking forever and you’re worried about being able to pay those student loans when the time comes, call for counseling from a bona fide nonprofit counseling organization. You can learn about repayment options, deferments, or other potential ways to avoid defaulting on your student loans while you try to land that first job.