Maximizing Your Job Search After College

Vaco - job search tips for college grads

According to a number of labor market experts, the Class of 2022 is entering one of the best job markets in recent memory—one where they have more leverage and more options than they’ve had in decades. Employers are clamoring to hire talented recent grads, often at significantly higher salaries than they were offering before the COVID-19 pandemic and the onset of the Great Resignation. Additionally, the rise of remote work has created a wealth of open positions that enable new hires to work entirely or partially from home.  

Even with the pendulum of the job market swinging in their favor, many college grads are approaching their first post-graduation job hunt with trepidation. Lack of experience can wreak havoc with a recent grad’s confidence and ability to find roles that are suited to their skills and strengths.

While there’s no magic wand you can wave to give yourself ten years of experience and perfect confidence in the interview room, there are some essential tips for making the most of your post-graduation job search. 

Perfect your post-college resume

Let’s start by pointing out the obvious: the majority of new graduates have limited professional experience in their chosen field. If you’re feeling stressed because you don’t have many (or any) field-adjacent positions to list on your CV, you can exhale; you’re in the same boat as nearly every other new graduate in the market. 

With that being said, you can still craft a resume that stands out and distinguishes you from other applicants.

If you’re navigating the creation of your first post-college resume, there are a few ways to highlight your unique qualifications:

  • Emphasize your education: List your university, graduation date, college degree, major and minor at the top of the page. If you graduated with a competitive GPA (3.0 or higher), include it in this section. You can also include a section labeled “Relevant Coursework”; here, you’ll list any completed courses that further illustrate your expertise in your field.
  • Include relevant honors or awards: It isn’t necessary to include every award you earned in school, but it can be beneficial to include those that showcase certain aptitudes. For example, a recent grad applying to software engineering jobs should include awards related to their coding or software prowess. Include fellowships, grants and distinguished scholarships that help show how exceptional you were in your field of study.
  • Showcase relevant internships, research projects or work-study experiences: Work experience isn’t limited to paid positions. Field-related internships and other hands-on learning experiences can help recruiters and potential employers get a quick handle on your qualifications.
  • Include related extracurriculars: Student organizations and clubs can be highly relevant to your resume, especially if you served in a leadership role or contributed to notable projects or initiatives. 
  • List specialized training or certifications: Bootcamps, online classes, training courses, and certifications can further emphasize your qualifications.

Once you’ve laid out your educational information, make sure to check your resume for spacing, grammar, and formatting. If you’re worried you’ve missed something, ask a friend or peer to review it for you—fresh eyes can spot easily overlooked errors. 

Don’t forget to include your contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) at the very top of the resume, before your education and experience sections. Make sure the email address you provide is professional (preferably not the hilarious one you set up for yourself in middle school). Provide a link to your LinkedIn page so potential employers can explore your background even further. 

Finally, try to limit your resume to a single page; doing so will help you stay concise and focused as you list your qualifications. 

Read more: Need more information on crafting an amazing post-college resume? Check out more resume tips or download a resume template to get started. 

Dive into networking

Seek out networking opportunities through friends, family, college alumni groups, professional and student organizations, career centers, and your local chambers of commerce. Leveraging your existing contacts and relationships should be a key part of your professional journey, no matter the stage you’re in. 

After you have a few solid contacts in place, dip your toe into networking events or meet-ups! Don’t limit yourself to large gatherings or parties; a quick coffee outing with a contact who works in your chosen field can yield tons of great info and advice. 

Here are some other networking tips to keep in mind:

  • Have your elevator pitch ready! Prepare a 30-second speech about your professional interests and strengths, as well as your qualifications and relevant experiences. 
  • Formulate an online networking strategy and be consistent with your daily and weekly activity on social media. LinkedIn boasts over 800 million users and can be a powerful platform to connect and network based on your fields of interest and target industries. Make sure your LinkedIn profile includes a professional headshot and a headline that captures the attention of any visitors to your page. Finally, ask for advice on formatting your LinkedIn profile; professors, friends in the field, colleagues and mentors can help you craft a LinkedIn presence that highlights your best qualities and qualifications. 
  • Know your short-term and long-term career goals. Sharing this info with a networking contact can help you narrow down the roles you’re interested in or even allow you to discover entirely new career paths.

Read more: Vaco’s top tips for successfully networking on LinkedIn

Prepare for the job interview experience

For recent college graduates, the interview process can be nerve-wracking. After all, confidence in the interview room often comes with time—and experience. 

Even if you’re on the first leg of your professional journey, careful preparation can make interviewing easier and less stressful, empowering you to make the best possible impression. 

Here are some essential tips for nailing your job interviews:

  • Research the hiring company: Head into your interview knowing a few key things about your potential employer: company history, mission statement, products/services, industry info, recent activity (acquisitions and mergers, for example), and company values. Peruse their recent job postings; this will give you an idea of the qualities the company looks for in employees. 
  • Prepare a list of questions for the interviewer(s): Remember: an interview isn’t a one-way street. It’s also an opportunity for candidates to find out if the role and company are the right fit for them. Most hiring companies set aside a few minutes during an interview for the candidate to ask questions, so have your list prepared and ready to go before you sit down. 
  • Bring tools to take notes: Interviews can be high-stress situations, making it difficult to retain important information. Bring a notebook and pen so you can take notes; pay careful attention to specifics like when to expect follow-up correspondence, timelines for next steps, salary information, or deadlines for completing assessments. 
  • Show your qualifications: Bring specific examples of projects or initiatives you’ve worked on. Include data points about your successes and achievements, i.e. a coding project that earned specific recognition or awards. 
  • Practice your interview skills: Whether your interview is virtual or in person, practicing beforehand can help you iron out the kinks and give you a boost of confidence. Work with a colleague or mentor on perfecting your interview etiquette. Ask for feedback on your attire, body language, and the projection of your voice when speaking. Practice your responses to common interview questions, especially those that ask about your unique skills and abilities. 
  • Send a thank you note: Always send an email or note thanking the interview team as soon as possible. Even if you don’t receive an offer, you’ll leave the hiring company with a positive impression. 
  • Don’t be afraid to follow up: It’s perfectly acceptable to ask when you should expect to hear back from a hiring company after an interview. If you don’t hear anything within that timeframe, don’t be afraid to follow up with the hiring manager or HR specialist. 

Understand your options, from temporary roles, contract-to-hire and direct hire opportunities

As a new college graduate, you have more opportunities available to you in the workforce than you may realize. You don’t have to dive directly into a long-term role; temporary and contract work can provide unique opportunities to build your resume, explore new skills, and gain valuable work experience. 

Contact-to-hire opportunities are gaining in popularity, as they provide both employers and employees the opportunity to truly evaluate “fit” before committing to anything long-term. For recent college grads, contract-to-hire roles combine the flexibility of a temporary position with the possibility of long-term employment.

Many job seekers overlook contract-to-hire opportunities because they assume a contract role won’t offer benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. But that isn’t necessarily true.

For instance, Vaco offers health, dental, vision, and 401K benefit options to our consultants.

Taking the first step in your career journey  

By working with the right talent solutions firm, you can do much more than find your ideal contract, contract-to-hire or long-term employment opportunity after graduation.

The award-winning talent specialists at Vaco can help you evaluate the pros and cons of of every type of role so you can find the career path that works for you. Our recruiters function as your career advisors, providing professional guidance and market intelligence throughout your career journey, while also helping you find your next dream job whenever it’s time for you to make a move. 

Are you a new college graduate ready to dive into the job market? Check out our job seekers page for insights and advice or to submit your resume. 

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