3 Steps to Landing Your First Job: Advice for Recent Grads | Lindsey Pollak's Blog

3 Steps to Landing Your First Job: Advice for Recent Grads

3 Steps to Landing Your First Job Advice for 2016 GradsAs we head into graduation season, most grads-to-be are feeling a mixture of anticipation and anxiety as they prepare to launch into the real world. But there’s a percentage who likely have another emotion blended in: panic.

If you are graduating this spring and still job hunting, it can seem as though everyone else has their future lined up, and it’s hard not to panic and be jealous of those who have already snagged a position. But while many companies do their hiring in advance, rest assured there are plenty of companies that wait to do just-in-time recruiting, reaching out only when they need to fill a position.

Here’s a three-step action plan for being first in line for one of those coveted openings.

1. Cast a wide net.

Some job seekers have such a narrow focus that they limit their options. Maybe your dream job is on the client side of advertising, but the agencies you’ve hit up don’t have any entry-level openings in that department. Rather than waiting for the ideal position, think of similar job functions where you could utilize your skills and build your resume. For example, you might want to consider roles in public relations, media sales or marketing.

To expand your search, make a list of five to 10 jobs that you can consider. A great place to start is LinkedIn, which will send you daily or weekly emails full of “Jobs You May Be Interested In” that match your profile in some way. Reading through these emails will give you a sense of other job titles that might be suited to your skills, and you can use those as keywords for a more extensive pool of potential positions. It’s also a good idea to search for LinkedIn profiles of people who have the kind of job you ultimately want and see what other positions they held in their past. Those earlier roles might be a good starting point for you as well.

2. Tap your network. (It’s bigger than you think.)

The second list you should write is 25 to 50 people who may be able to help you with your job search. Start close to home, including friends, family, former teachers and professors, neighbors, people you’ve worked with in internships or part-time jobs, fellow club, fraternity or sorority members who graduated ahead of you – essentially anyone you’ve ever met who is a working professional.

Once you have your list, commit to writing one customized networking email each day to let someone in your circle know what kind of job you’re looking for and ask if they might offer some advice or an introduction to someone else they know who might be hiring. Be as specific as you can; for example, ask for specific feedback on your resume or ask if they are attending any upcoming networking events to which they might be willing to bring you along.

In addition to the personal list, which will lead you to opportunities you might not otherwise know about, continue to fish where the fish are. Visit your university’s career center (even after you’ve graduated) to find out about internship postings, job fairs and on-campus recruiting events. Subscribe to niche industry job boards, such as those on the websites of professional associations. Join your college’s alumni club if one exists in the city where you live. To build momentum, commit to calling, emailing or meeting with a new person every day.

3. Don’t be afraid to start small.

Some people are tempted to hold out for their dream job, but a better strategy is often to take a position that’s not 100 percent ideal just to get your foot in the door. In most cases, any job is better than no job as long as it’s in the general field you’re looking for. It’s often easier to get a job when you have a job because you are constantly exposed to new people and opportunities while you’re honing your skills. Yes, this might mean temporarily working part-time, temping in an admin position, accepting a commission-only sales position or working a retail job, but I deeply believe that demonstrating excellence in any capacity can be a stepping stone to a more desirable role.

What do these three steps have in common? They are tied to continuous forward momentum. The best way to land a job is to constantly work on your job search by building your network and building your skills. The cumulative action of these daily advances will make a big difference, and it won’t be long until you’re the one hearing, “You’re hired!”

Students, recent grads, and veterans of the professional world: I’d love to hear all of your stories! What tips can you share from the job hunt? What have you learned about landing your first job out of college? Please share in the comments!

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.


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  1. Celeste says:

    Hi Lindsey

    These are very practical tips for graduates to use, thank you! I’d like to offer some thoughts from my side.

    Graduates need to start building their network from their first year on campus. Even if they don’t know yet what their ideal job is just yet, start networking and building contacts on campus and in the broader industry. In South Africa, some companies use a referral system where they reward existing staff for introducing new talent to the business. This is a great way for graduates to job hunt!

    Maybe also a tip for graduates who are placed in their first job … go back and help a fellow graduate who is job hunting. Use your lessons learnt to help another graduate. Pay it forward.

  2. Antoinette says:

    Agree 100% with Celeste. Networking should start WAY before you need a job.
    Don’t forget info interviews! Sitting down with people for coffee and asking them to tell you about their line of work shows great initiation, offers valuable insight and let’s face it, everyone loves to talk about themselves so it also gets grads noticed.
    Past and present grads, share the wealth and YES, pay your job lessons and contacts forward.

    • @Antoinette – Thanks so much for the comment. I love the strategy of informational interviews, too! – Lindsey

  3. Celeste says:

    @Lindsey – pleasure!
    @Antoinette – agree! Graduates need to be curious. In fact, people need to be curious. One never knows what can come from a conversation where you engage someone about their job. I always say to graduates – not knowing can sometimes be your best advantage 🙂

  4. Great advice Lindsey, thanks!

  5. Donna Stairs says:

    I absolutely agree. Graduates need to keep their options open and know that it takes some time to find the right fit. Networking gives you an advantage. It is easy to do online but don’t limit your efforts to just online. Graduates need to get out and meet people in their industries. Find associations to join or business events whatever is relevant to your career.

    Remember, you never know what connections other people have so just because the person in front of you may not have a job to offer they may know someone who does. Always be upbeat and personable.

  6. Alex says:

    Lindsey, this is great advice for all students looking for a position. Soany students that they need to find their dream job right out of college but in reality, they can start smaller with the goal in sight. As a career counselor and graduate student in the job search, I’m continuing to utilize my network and have had to be prepared for any successes or unexpected setbacks. It’s a game out there to sell yourself, and it’s best to play hard to showcase your skills.

    • @Alex – Thank you for the comment I’m glad this post resonated with you! – Lindsey

  7. Hi Lindsey, this is a great article and I really enjoyed reading your post. If you let me, I want to add my opinion about networking, too.

    The more you network, the more likely you are to find someone who knows of a company currently hiring. It’s important to join professional organizations, attend community events, and stay in constant communication with your former campus’s career center. When networking, be sure that you have your pitch ready to go. You don’t want to overdo it, but be ready to tell people what you want to do, why you want to do it, and even share some of your accomplishments.