You’ve completed your walk across the stage, received your diploma, and posed for the obligatory photos. Now what? Good grades may have gotten you this far, but for the first time in 14+ years, what you do next with your life isn’t dependent on what mark you got in your last final. Instead, you’ll be faced with the daunting task of finding work in your field, or at least, for now, a job to pay the bills.
Once upon a time, having a degree under your belt was enough to help you get your foot in the door. Nowadays, it can take much more than writing a good cover letter and attaching a flawless resume to land you that first interview for your dream job. So what’s a girl to do?
- Doing research on the internet shouldn’t end when your schooling does.
Before writing a cover letter or reaching out to a company, do some research and find out what is happening at that specific company, as well as what’s generally happening in that industry. Making a point of referring to how your skillset or education background can help the company address any specific recent developments sets you apart from every other job applicant, if only because it demonstrates that you’ve gone beyond simply reading the job description and clicking on the “Apply Now” button.
Even if there isn’t a job posting that’s listed, if you really want to get in to a company, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for any opportunities they might have for an internship. Attach your résumé to a short email or letter, and make sure you address it to the hiring manager or office manager, not “To Whom It May Concern,” which is the death knell if you’re hoping for a serious chance at an interview. Not sure how to find out who to address that email/letter to? Let’s move on to our second tip…
- LinkedIn isn’t just another social media app.
If you only ever look at LinkedIn to apply for jobs or creep on people you know to see where they’ve ended up, you’re missing out on the biggest tool that LinkedIn has for you in its toolbox: it’s literally meant to link you (surprise!) to people you may otherwise not have had access to or known about.
Interested in getting into a specific company? Follow them so that when they post any available roles, it’ll show up on your feed right away, and look up who you should be addressing any application emails/letters to.
Think a job as an account manager is for you? Look up “Account Management in Jobs” and reach out to the people who have the jobs you want by sending them a message. Introduce yourself, let them know why you’re reaching out to them, and ask them if they would have time to meet with you for a coffee or have a Skype call so that you can ask them about how they ended up in their roles, and any advice they might have for you.
Not sure exactly what you want to do in your next role? Look through your contacts’ contact lists, and see if anyone’s role sounds interesting. Reach out to the person you know to ask them for an introduction, or just go for it and reach out directly!
- Never be afraid to start in a role that’s more junior than where you want to be
Fun fact: 1 out of every 4 people who have an undergraduate degree end up working in roles that they’re “overqualified” for. That being said, starting in those more “junior” roles could actually put you in the perfect place for when your dream job (or the next step to your dream job) becomes available at the company. As an employer, it’s a much safer investment to fill available roles with employees who have already worked at the company—they understand the culture and business, have a performance record that can be easily reviewed, and have a much shorter learning curve—so why would they go for the unknown?
Apply for the junior role, make heads turn by going above and beyond once you get it, and trust us: you’ll be that much closer to landing that dream job higher up the corporate ladder the next time it becomes available.
- Who you know will often get you farther than what you know
Take every opportunity to get out there and meet other people. When roles come up at a company, it’s often the people we know or have met that first come to mind, so get your name out there.
Not sure where to start? Most universities have alumni chapters in bigger cities, so if the thought of reaching out to a stranger through LinkedIN is daunting, try reaching out to members of your local alumni group as a first step instead. There’s nothing like having shared experiences to help break the ice, and the experience will set you up to feel more comfortable reaching out and connecting with others later.
Use tools like Eventbrite to find local events as well. A simple “networking events” search can give you dozens of events to choose from, and you can choose from the list based on the type of event, the location, and even the price (although they’re often free!). Don’t forget to come armed with business cards – classic cardstock or digital – so that when you make those connections, the person will have your information to contact you about that next great role.
Taking the next step after university is exactly about that: taking the next step. No matter how small those steps may seem, or even when it seems like you’re walking in place, the important thing is that you’re taking action, whether it’s reaching out to connect with people who might be able to help you get into your field for simple coffee date, or working to develop skills that will make your application shine when you apply for that dream job. Don’t get stuck worrying about if something you’re doing is the “right” way to get to where you want to be. In the eternal words of Oprah, “On my own I will just create, and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, I’ll create something else. I don’t have any limitations on what I think I could do or be.”