How to Find Your First Job

Lunch today was simple… but good.

Tuesday's Lunch

You know that’s how I roll.

My midday meal included a goat cheese and carrot sandwich (don’t knock it ’til you try it), served with cucumber slices and a cup of strawberry banana Chobani for some sweetness and protein.

Goaty and Good

Cukes

I used my lover, Chavrie goat cheese in the sandwich because it’s fantastically creamy and mild enough not to overtake the entire sandwich.

Chavrie

Before I run off and marry this goat cheese, perhaps we should move on?

Job talk!

How to Find Your First Job

I remember when I was about to graduate from college in 2007. I never doubted that I would find a job. My main worry was whether or not I would find the right job and whether or not it would pay well. Today it seems that the sentiment is a bit different.

College Graduation, 2007

With fewer jobs available, many students are concerned about finding a job at all, not just finding a job in their field of study or a job that pays well.

My sister will graduate in the spring of 2011. Last night I spoke with her a bit about her post-graduation plans. It brought a lot of feelings back. I remember feeling so frustrated that every job that interested me required 3 – 5 years of experience. How do I get three to five years of experience if no one wants to hire someone fresh out of college?

Over the past couple of months I’ve received several emails from readers asking me about finding a job right after graduation. (In case you didn’t know, I majored in public relations and advertising and worked as a PR and marketing assistant after graduation. I then worked as a marketing manager before beginning my current – and favorite – job as a writer and editor.)

Below I’ve compiled a list of tips that proved successful for me when I searched for my first job. These may be more applicable to those searching for a job in public relations, marketing or general communication, but hopefully they will also prove useful to those in other fields:

  • Utilize Your Professors: I had a fairly close relationship with some of my college professors. I met with them to discuss my career interests and goals to make them aware of the direction I was hoping to head post-graduation. Our professors were often approached by companies who were interested in educated and impressionable employees. Since my professors knew who I was and what my goals were, they were able to refer me to some of these organizations. I actually got my first paid internship in college working for one of my professor’s husbands!
  • Apply, Apply, Apply: I must have applied for 50 positions before I had someone express interest in me. I sent out a billion cover letters and resumes and heard back from such a small percentage. But all you need is one! Don’t apply for one job that’s your “dream job” and wait around to see if they contact you. Most companies will not follow up with people they are not interested in, and you’ll be left waiting for a long time.
  • Use the Websites of Professional Organizations: Yes, Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com have a ton of job postings, but it can be hard to sort through the junk and find a decent job on these sites. I constantly scanned the websites of professional organizations in my field for jobs. The Public Relations Society of America has an entire section of their website dedicated to jobs. I found my first job as the Public Relations and Marketing Assistant for the Orlando Museum of Art on the Florida Public Relations Association’s website.
  • Let People Know You’re Looking: I cannot tell you how many people I know who found their current job through a friend, a relative or an acquaintance. By letting people know you’re in the market for a job in a certain field, they can let you know of an open position they may know of, or a job that will open up soon. Ryan is constantly contacted by friends and random acquaintances from college who know he works for a large company. Most of the time there aren’t any openings, but occasionally someone reaches out to him at the perfect time and he can help them get a foot in the door.
  • Have Another Person Look Over Your Resume: Having someone look over your resume will not only help you identify any spelling or grammatical errors, but they can alert you to sentences that may need further explanation or descriptions of jobs that don’t make sense to an outsider. This person can also tell you what they find most impressive, so you may better highlight these statements.

Good luck in the job search, kids! It’s a crazy world out there! :D

Questions of the Afternoon

  • If you’re already in the working world, how did you find your first “big kid” job?
  • If you’re still in school, what field of work do you hope to end up in after graduation?

Comments

  1. says

    i finished undergrad in may 2007 & interned with campus crusade for christ for 2 years. then i began a 3 year grad program and will finish in may 2012. sooo i don’t have much to contribute, but great tips.

    i know though that my husband would say to take what you can get and apply for promotions internally. he started off in a low-level position in his company, applied for a higher position 10 months later, and then was encouraged to apply for another position 10 months later. now he’s doing some writing, editing, etc. that he went to school for…so don’t be afraid to get a job that you think is “below you.” if you do that well others will notice and opportunities can arise to do what you love!

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  2. says

    Such great tips. I used to think that Id have no problem finding a job when I graduate in May but now Im starting to think that I may be searching for a while since my profession is so specific!

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  3. says

    I actually teach a class on resume writing and career building skills. THe most important thing I tell students today is to be persistent! So many young people think that jobs are just handed to them (because everything else in life most likely was). It takes hard work and determination to end up with a job you love and often, it takes a few not so glamour positions to work your way up.

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  4. says

    I’m hoping to get a dietitian position in clinical or an alternative site (maybe publishing/food magazines). We had someone come in to our school from Eating Well magazine to talk to us about getting experience, and she actually mentioned that she looks at people’s blogs for experience. It’s pretty cool! Thanks for the great advice!

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  5. D says

    I think the most important thing is to not get overwhelmed and just keep on applying. I applied for a ton of things throughout my last year of college and over spring break found out that I got an internship for the following summer. It made my last few months WAY less stressful having something in place, and it meant that I also got to somewhat avoid a total post-college depression situation, because I had something to immediately focus my energy on.

    I got lucky with my internship (it was at an institution associated with a university) and they offered to set up a GA ship for me through the university, meaning that I work for them part-time and they fund my grad school education. Starting in January and can’t wait!

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  6. Jessica says

    Right before I graduated, my husband and I were driving around the city where he lived, and where I would live once I graduated and found a job. I noted all of the different companies in the area and went to their individual websites when we got home. A lot of times the companies have jobs listed on their website that isn’t on monster.com or other job sites. Worked for me because I got a job at the one place we passed by. I applied for one position which ended up being filled already but they called me about another position. Definitely NOT the type of job I wanted but I just recently switched positions from that inital one to a job that I love. The key is to just get your foot in the door whether it’s an internship or a job you don’t necessarily love. BUT if you’re taking a job you don’t want/love at a company-make sure there’s room to grow and move up and that you won’t be stuck at that job if you take it. And network! Ask around-friends family, etc…referrals can’t hurt! Good luck to your sister and anyone else looking!

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  7. Lesley says

    Thank you so much for this post! I am graduating law school this May (2011) and feel stressed out job prospects. It’s a tough market for young lawyers, and it seems no one is willing to hire people straight from law school, even with good internships. Thanks for all the great tips, it’s nice to know I’m not alone :)

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  8. says

    I went on a lot of interviews, but the job I picked found me. I posted my resume all over the place, my employer found it, called me up and scheduled an interview.
    Everyone kept telling me that I would never find a job because I had no work experience at all. If you want to be a programmer, no one cares if you’ve worked in retail. Everyone was impressed by my GPA.

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  9. says

    These are great tips, and it makes me feel a lot better to hear that other new grads are experiencing or have experienced what I’m going through. Sometimes I feel like it’s just me. The search continues!

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  10. says

    I graduated 10 years ago from grad school *sob* but my first REAL job was at FSU. I did an internship there while in school (which also paid for my tuition – score!) and it turned into a full time job. I was there for 3 years before leaving for greener pastures. The wasn’t awesome, but the “prestige” was and I don’t regret it for a minute. The most important thing I learned is that sometimes you have to take a job you aren’t crazy about to find your niche. Good luck to your sister!

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  11. says

    I’m one of those people stressing about finding a job. Fortunately I have another year before graduation, but it’s still a pretty constant thought. I would like to find a job in journalism: TV/paper, writing/editing… I don’t really care (at first).

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  12. says

    I eventually had to give up looking for a job in what I went to school for. No one in any office was willing to hire me for a job a monkey could do unless I had a 4-year degree and/or equivalent experience. Just to answer phones! Seriously? I now work very part-time (6 hours a week) in my church’s childcare.

    I definitely recommend your tips though! It can really work for some people!!

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  13. Kristin says

    I’m a senior adv/pr major at MSU. I agree with all your tips!
    Did you intern a lot through college? If so, did it help you out after graduation?

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    • says

      yes! i had a couple of internships and found them instrumental after college. you are at a great advantage if you have experience in your field and working for a company… not just typical “college student” jobs. i HIGHLY recommend applicable internships!

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  14. says

    Great post! I just graduated from college last week and the job market the way it is has left me feeling quite worrisome about my future. How did you find and obtain your current job? I want to be an editor and writer as well but I have yet to really get any experience. :/ Nonetheless, great post! Definitely going to keep these tips in mind! :D

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  15. says

    I recently went through the job search process (graduated with a finance degree in May 2009), and one of the things I found to be most helpful was to make sure I came prepared to interviews.

    Before you go to an interview, it helps to research the company and come up with questions that you can ask your interviewer, whether they are intelligent questions about the company’s future direction, specific about the position itself, or about your interviewer’s experience. Almost always, the interviewer will give you the opportunity to ask questions at the end, and it helps to have some prepared.

    I have also found it helpful to think of different stories or situations that I could use to answer behavioral-type questions (e.g., “tell me about a time when you did __”). There are some great guides on the internet that provide common questions and will help to get you thinking. After spending some time thinking about how I could answer different questions, I found it much easier to answer questions easily and genuinely.

    Finally, practice! It’s great to sit down with a friend or family member and have them ask you practice questions. There’s nothing like actually doing an interview to give you some experience :) Many school career centers offer mock interviews to students if you seek them out.

    Hope this is helpful!

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  16. says

    Lots of great job hunting tips! We have a lot in common Julie, I just graduated from PR last spring and am still active in the food and fitness world. I am still looking for a job in my field, (maybe PR for fitness???), but I am continuing to put resumes out there, network and stay positive!

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