Personal finance

How Do You Land Your First Job Out of College?

Source: Evy Poulis

Job hunting is always stressful but that has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies are just starting to hire again and that means the competition can be fierce. But there are a few ways you can make yourself stand out.

Whether you are sending off a resume, walking into an interview or starting your first internship, you want to make sure that you get noticed. Don't just complete the assignment – crush the assignment. Be the person that everyone says – I want her on my team!

"Stand out among your peers! Get out there and show employers what you are capable of," said Erin Berthon, a career advisor at Chapman University.

Here are some tips from the pros and recent grads to help you set yourself apart – and land the job.

Be a 'go-getter'

Don't just apply to jobs and sit back and wait to see if someone gives you one.

"Think about what you want and go get it – set up meet and greets, talk to as many people as you can," said Alexa Riccardi Cabal, author of the intern workbook, "Get More Than Coffee." "It may take you a while to get there but do not give up."

Once you send in your resume for a job, "actively reach out – find out who the hiring manager is and send a quick follow-up email. Ask if they've made any decisions on this position yet and if they need anything else from you," Berthon said.

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In the job interview, when they ask you what some of your best qualities are, be sure to label yourself as a go-getter. And back it up with examples of times you went above and beyond what was required of you.

And, when you are on the job, be the person that raises their hand, says "I'm on it!" and gets the job done. Managers love to hire go-getters because they know they don't need to micromanage them.

Nothing is easy when it comes to applying and searching for your lifelong career, but being a go-getter shows that you are determined and motivated to be the best that you can be when you volunteer for every opportunity and offer your help. You may not know everything, or you may even be the smartest, but you are showing some of the best characteristics in an employee: dedication, loyalty, and reliability.

Use your resources

Several students had this great piece of advice: Use your resources!

You may not think of yourself as having a lot of resources at this point in your career but you do – professors, college career centers, mentors from programs you've participated in, bosses at internships and your personal contacts. They can help you with job leads, your resume, interviews, networking and advice.

"I go to mentors and professors for advice," said Carissa Strauss a senior at the University of Central Florida. "These are people who I trust to be truthful in a kind way and who aren't afraid to tell me when I am wrong."

Carissa Strauss, a senior at the University of Central Florida
Source: Karen Strauss
Carissa Strauss, a senior at the University of Central Florida

Danielle Hall a senior at the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said she takes advantage of the university's co-op advisor program.

"The University of Cincinnati has provided us with great resources by giving us co-op advisors whose job it is to help us find jobs during our collegiate career and give us career guidance," Hall said. "I feel incredibly lucky to have had my co-op advisor, alongside me during this journey. I also have connections within my industry that I reach out to for advice."

Most colleges offer resources for the students, whether it be for mock interviews, fine-tuning your resume, or even getting you in touch with recruiters. So, make sure you take advantage of it!

"I always tell the students it is all about networking," Berthon said. "LinkedIn is the best place to do this, everyone is sitting at home and are online," Berthon said.

It's also a good idea to get in touch with alumni from your school  ̶  set up networking interviews or informal chats, and get advice from about how they handled their job search after graduation. Granted, they did not graduate in a pandemic, but they would be able to offer some very useful advice – and they might even help you with some job leads!

Familiarity can also be key. Karina Chapman, a junior at the University of Central Florida, says family is her main support system when it comes to big decisions about jobs.

Make your own experience

Start working towards your dream job early. Take a course or start creating something.

"So many people have an opportunity while being at home during this pandemic to sharpen their skills," Berthon said. "Take courses online, do something to better yourself."  

LinkedIn offers a lot of different workshops and certifications. Improve your skills for the job you want.

Danielle Hall, a senior at the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Source: Danielle Hall
Danielle Hall, a senior at the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences

And whatever it is you want to do – start doing it!

If you want to be a filmmaker, then start making films early, even if they are low-budget or not up-to-par with others. If you want to be a writer – start your own blog or submit articles to small publications and websites on a freelance basis. That's going to give you some skills and experience to list on your resume and it will start building a portfolio of work.

So, the next time you go to a job interview – you're the one who already comes in with experience. Experience that you created on your own. That also shows initiative!

Stay true to yourself

Search for companies, jobs and experience that align with who you are. 

Have reservations about accepting a position at a company where their values or beliefs differ completely from yours? Listen to that instinct. If a company doesn't share your same values, it is going to be difficult to be passionate about where you work. It is better to wait and find a job at a company where you are excited to work.

"Pay attention to what you really like, and what you really don't like. The more you know about yourself, the better," Cabal said.

Believe in yourself.

During times of great change (like launching your career and moving on your own), it's normal that your confidence wavers. Be aware of it but remind yourself of your skills and accomplishments and what you bring to the table for a future employer. Remember you're awesome.

"We are all where we are meant to be," Chapman said. "I know that everything that I have done through school has led up to me graduating and getting a job that I love doing. There may be a lot of competition, but I know that I have the skills and my background that set me apart from everyone else."

CNBC's "College Voices″ is a series written by CNBC interns from universities across the country about getting their college education, managing their own money and launching their careers during these extraordinary times. Evy Poulis is a graduating senior at Rosen College of Hospitality, majoring in entertainment management. She is currently a summer intern at CNBC in the human resources department. Her CNBC mentor is Katie Kramer. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.

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