“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.” – Babe Ruth
We’ve all heard that the stereotypical path to career success follows these steps: 1) go to college, 2) graduate, and 3) get a job. But the reality is that the job application process after college is not always so straightforward. In fact, obtaining employment is often difficult for various reasons that may be out of the applicants’ control.
For example, many employers these days demand more skills from their employees and are less invested in training those skills. This means that young adults are largely responsible for acquiring those skills on their own, and they are often not taught these skills in college as higher education struggles to meet the rapidly changing demands of the market. Cost-cutting has also resulted in Fortune 500 companies abandoning their “rotational training programs” that allowed new hires to learn about different departments and jobs within the company.
“We’re asking 23-year-old new graduates to act like 35-year-old experienced workers.” – Phil Gardner, Director of the Michigan State Employment Center.
In addition, approximately 60% of all jobs are now found through networking, or what is referred to as the “hidden job market.” Gone are the days our parents enjoyed when they could apply to a dozen newspaper job advertisements, land several interviews, and receive a few job offers. In the sea of thousands of online applicants and over-educated yet under-experienced college graduates, it is now possible to apply to a hundred jobs and receive exactly zero interview offers.
Job Search Statistics & Recommendations
While it’s not all gloom and doom, it helps to be aware of the current state of the employment market for job-seekers. Awareness can help you realize the best course of action in order to land that first job.
- 60% of jobs are found through networking: So we recommend growing your network as quickly and authentically as possible.
- 75% of resumes are rejected by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) before they even reach the hiring manager: Take the time to read through a job description and the terminology used, then put those words into your resume! Steer away from confusing resume formats or designs, although this may not apply if you are in the creative industries. Simpler is generally better in order to comply with ATS.
- 77% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile, and learn how to optimize and tailor it for recruiters.
- 54% of employers have rejected candidates based on their social media profiles: Keep it professional! It might be a good idea to Google yourself to see which information is out there for employers to see.
- Professionally written resumes can boost your earning potential by up to 7%: Consider reaching out to your school’s Career Center for help with writing a professional resume.
- Only about 2% of applicants actually get an interview: Don’t take it personally when you apply for a job and don’t get an interview. Only about 5 out of every 250 applicants actually get the interview, so keep applying, and remember to tailor your application!
How to Get Your First Job After Graduation
Graduating from college is an exciting time. By this point, you’ve gained an officially recognized education, started to build your network, and perhaps even gained some job experience in an entry-level position or internship. These experiences will certainly help you when transitioning into your first job within your career field. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a few tips to share!
We can’t stress this point enough: networking is vital! Remember the hidden job market that exists. Many jobs never make it online but are rather spread through networks. There are many methods to start networking, starting with creating a LinkedIn page. Here, you can add any previous classmates, mentors, volunteer contacts, internship supervisors, etc. Contact professionals in your chosen field that you look up to, and ask for advice or information. Alumni networks and events can also be a great opportunity to network, as can professional organizations and networking events. Get creative! But remember to be respectful and not overly pushy.
Polish Your Resume/CV and Cover Letter
Your resume and cover letter are the first impressions you get to make on a potential employer. There are countless blogs, websites, and guides on the internet dedicated to this topic alone! It can be overwhelming to sift through all the advice about resumes and cover letters, but we recommend doing some research to learn about the best resume tips. Your college’s Career Center is another great resource! Generally, if you tailor and target your resume to the job description, you will get the best results. And although it takes some time, avoid sending generic cover letters. Instead, take the time to write a cover letter targeted to the specific role you are applying for.
Consider an Internship
Remember that employers value experience and skills. Think about their perspective – if they receive hundreds of applications for one position, it is in their best interest to hire someone whose skills most closely match the job requirements. Education alone simply won’t cut it anymore. Although there are plenty of service-industry employers eager to hire students, and the soft skills gained from those roles are 100% valuable and transferable in any field, an internship is still the best opportunity to build the specific hard skills that most employers want. Talk to the Career Center at your school to see which internship opportunities are available to you, and consider a remote internship to expand your reach!
What Else Can I Do?
These are just a few suggestions out of dozens of potential tips to help you land that first professional job right out of college. If you’re still feeling lost and want the advice of experts, try reaching out to organisations such as Elite Career Direction (ECD).
The experienced career coaches of ECD have worked with hundreds of international students and clients to help them land their dream jobs. They understand the recruitment process inside and out and have extensive knowledge of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies.
Pagoda Projects also offers our very own course which is designed to help students and recent graduates develop skills directly related to their employability.
Find out more about our Employability Skills course here!