Strategies To Land Your First Job
The following was originally published as a 2-part article for the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Student Newsletter in December, 2014:
Here is a scenario: You are 20-something and you have recently graduated after having been in school since… before you can remember. After graduation, you and some friends decide to take some time-off to explore the world for a few months, visiting exotic locations and meeting interesting people. When you arrive home, you ease into your first job at a Fortune 500 company with a six-figure income, a prime parking spot and all of the perks that you obviously deserve. Your life is better than you could have hoped for and, just before you buy your first Porsche, you hear your mom yelling at you to WAKE UP!
Yes, unfortunately this was a dream. The reality is that you must start another day knowing that you are well-educated, unemployed and hoping to land your first full-time job. This may seem like a formidable task, but you are in good company since all of us have to find our first job eventually and most of us survive this challenge (relatively) unscathed. There are proven strategies that can increase the odds of you becoming gainfully employed in a permanent position.
Here are the first four tips. Check out next week’s e-newsletter for the last three:
1) Creating and maintaining LinkedIn and social networking profiles
Human Resources professionals and hiring managers commonly use LinkedIn and other social networking sites to review the profiles of candidates that they are considering for positions. You may not have full-time work experience, but you likely have some part-time roles or relevant volunteering work that will make your profile look more desirable. Spend some time and ensure that your photo is clear and professional and that your profile is relevant for the roles for which you are applying. Having your professors provide online references relating to your excellent technical skills is also a valuable addition. Finally, if you know the field or company in which you want to work and you are new to LinkedIn, ask a friend or family member to do a search for that field or company through their LinkedIn account. You may already have a connection through a friend or family member that could facilitate an introduction for you to someone in the company or field you’re hoping to enter.
2) Target specific companies
Although you may be tempted to send your resume to every single employer from PEI to British Columbia, it is recommended to focus your energy on local employers. If you have friends or colleagues who are currently employed, ask them which local employers have hired recent graduates in the past couple of years or if their employers are hiring new grads. Recent grads who have worked for a year or two will likely be moving up within an organization, or they may be finding their next job soon and that will open up a position for you.
3) Internships / Co-op programs
Completing an internship or co-op work experience in your desired field while still in school will greatly increase your chance of beating out the competition. Employers will generally hire candidates who have performed some of the functions of the job they are looking to fill and this type of practical experience will separate you from lesser-qualified applicants.
4) University or college career centres
Most universities and colleges have on-campus career centres which assist new grads in landing a job. Check out the services your school offers as most employers who post jobs there are looking to hire recent grads.
Last week we awoke from our Porsche-purchasing dream to examine a few proven strategies to find your first job as a new graduate.
Here are my last three pieces of advice to start a career in your desired field:
5) Networking through professional associations
Most professional associations, or industry-specific groups, have online job boards and networking events to assist their members in finding suitable employment. Once you join as a member, you will likely have free access to these job boards and events.
When reviewing the job boards, perform keyword searches for relevant postings and look for the jobs that match your skill-level. The results that you receive from keyword searches for “new grad”, or “recent grad” or “entry-level” may prove fruitful.
At association networking events and career fairs, ensure that you arrive with enough resumes to hand out. Also, be prepared to talk to exhibitors about yourself in a clear, concise and confident manner. Remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression.
6) Create a resume that stands out from the competition
Think of your resume as your introduction to your potential employer. It must stand on its own and if it does not wow them, they will be quickly reviewing other applicants for your perfect job. Be creative, be original and ensure that it is less than 2 pages in length. It should be proofread so that there is no chance of grammatical or spelling errors and, although you can embellish, everything on your resume must be able to be validated. Finally, ensure that anything that is even remotely relevant to the position you are seeking is highlighted on this document.
After submitting your resume, try to follow-up with a phone call within a few days to ensure that your resume has been received and to re-express your interest in the position. If you can form a good first impression by connecting with the hiring manager on the phone, your chances of receiving an interview (and landing the job) will increase exponentially.
Remember, the earlier you get started on focusing on your job search, the quicker you will land that first job, so don’t put it off. Hopefully, the next time you find yourself speaking with a Porsche dealer you won’t be dreaming!
By Sean Kogan, MBA, Managing Partner of Recruiting in Motion