Landing a job as a recent college grad is no easy feat. The openings are hard to come by, the competition is fierce, and the requirements are often difficult to meet.
Liz Wessel, CEO and cofounder of WayUp, a site used by 200,000 college students to find jobs at places like Microsoft, Uber, The New York Times, Disney, and Google — where Wessel previously worked — says there are things you can do to up your chances.
She shared her four top tips for landing a job offer after college. They are:
1. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that require one to three years of work experience.
“You can easily say that the two summer internships and three part-time jobs you’ve had throughout college equate to well over one year of work experience,” she says. “Often, when we speak with businesses we find that ‘one to three years of work experience’ still means that the role is entry-level, which means it’s fine for new grads to apply.”
2. Don’t rely on job fairs.
“If students depend on attending career fairs in order to find a job, then they likely won’t have much success. Most students don’t realise that it typically costs a business many thousands of dollars to attend a single career fair (between travel costs, booth costs, employee hours, etc.), and most businesses just can’t afford to pay those costs,” Wessel explains.
“If you’re limiting yourself to career fairs, you’re only seeing a tiny, tiny segment of the wider possibilities.”
3. Be creative in finding a way to meet someone who works in an industry that you’re targeting.
Many people are familiar with the phrase, “It’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know.” “Well, that shouldn’t be the case for college students — especially after they just spent upwards of $US200,000 learning the ‘what,'” Wessel says.
“So, in order to ‘level the playing field,’ one trick that works especially well for college students is to find someone whose career you find interesting — ideally someone who lives nearby — and then get their email address (there are many tools online that can help you with this, like Connectifier, Emailbreaker, and Rapportive), and message the person cold.”
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone in common, she says. “If you start off your email with, ‘I’m a college student at/recent grad from x school, and I just want to pick your brain about your profession and industry,’ you should have some luck.”
Offer to buy the person a cup of coffee if they’re nearby, or ask if you can get on a call with them for 15 minutes. “Don’t make the email too long,” Wessel advises. “Then, when you’re with the person, ask questions about their job to make sure it really is something that interests you. If it is, find out how they got their first job in the industry, and see if they have tips for how you can do the same.”
They may connect you with a colleague, or take you under their wing, or even offer to introduce you directly to HR at their company. “I’ve been giving this ‘cold emailing’ advice to college students for years, and it seems to have a 90% hit-rate.”
4. Be flexible.
“If you try doing all of the above methods and still cannot get a job, it may mean that you need to shift plans a bit,” Wessel explains.
“Think about the job you’re trying to get; is there another job that’s similar that might be easier to get?” she says. “Here’s an example: If your dream is to be an investigative journalist, but you can’t get hired anywhere, then think outside the box. You can apply for a job as a paralegal (where you get a lot of experience doing research and writing reports), and can supplement the creative writing aspect by starting a blog about a topic you like. Another option is to work in ad sales at a news publication, where you can get exposure to the industry first-hand, even if you’re not the one writing the news (yet!).”
Most people don’t have perfectly linear careers. There’s a lot of zigging and zagging to get to where you want to be.
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