You’ve done your studies and you’re out there looking for a job. You might spend months trying to find one and the job offers just don’t seem to come. It’s common to start feeling the panic kick in. Why can’t you just find a job?

The employment rate for recent graduates has declined. According to the latest figures by the European Union, the region is still suffering from the financial crisis of 2008 and the young people are feeling the heat the worst. The situation isn’t much different elsewhere in the developed world.

But, surely, you can do something to find job? Here’s some expert advice on how to get your career started.

UNDERSTAND YOUR OPTIONS

Before you sink into the mindset that finding a job is the only option you have right now, you need to take a breather.

Your graduation doesn’t automatically need to result in employment and even if you go down that route, you still have different options in terms of the kind of employment you seek.

Therefore, you need to stay calm and understand what paths are available and which might be the best for you.

The four paths to follow after graduation

So, take a moment and think about your options before you jump on the job hunt bandwagon. You have four major routes to follow as a recent graduate. The first two are options that don’t involve getting a job. You could:

Pursue post-graduate studies.

Take a year off.

  • A degree doesn’t automatically mean your days in the world of education are over. In today’s job market, higher education can be a positive and you might want to consider seeking further education to get on the academic career ladder. You could opt for post-graduate studies and improve your chances of landing that perfect job with better qualifications – it depends on your desired career future.
  • You can also take a year off from studying and working while still doing something productive. It might seem odd but travelling the world and doing voluntary work could actually improve your chances of landing a job. You might not get a much better chance of seeing the world than right after your studies so do consider it. Your job hunt might benefit from the experiences and skills you can gain during this off year.

However, if you do want to start earning money after graduation, there are two options:

Get a graduate job. Become self-employed and start your own business.
  • There are plenty of graduate jobs out there, even though the competition is tough. If you are committed and you have a clear vision of what you want to do, then you should put your efforts into finding a graduate job. In this post, you will learn to understand why landing one might not be as easy as you think. But you’ll also get tips to ease your journey.
  • But you don’t just have to work for someone else as a graduate. There is no age limit to setting up a business and you could always consider becoming self-employed. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset and you’re willing to work hard, then don’t let anyone hold you back.

 

  • While you might think internships are just for students, you can actually apply for those even as a graduate. Furthermore, there are paid internships out there as well and an internship can be a good stepping-stone to a career.

The different routes to a job

Now, it’s important to also understand that applying for a job doesn’t have to follow a single formula. The truth is that your idea of the dream job might be too narrow and close-minded.

You can’t just pick a job in an industry and keep pursuing it like a crazy person. There might be other opportunities out there if you just look around.

Take a closer look at your desired industry and think how your dream job might fit other roles within this industry. Broaden your horizon further and consider what other industries could benefit from your expertise. Career suitability tests are great for this purpose – you might be presented with job titles you didn’t think before.

Finally, don’t just think you need to land a job in a big corporation or a company. Consider small businesses and even startups. Note that they might not use regular recruitment channels –check your local newspapers, be active on LinkedIn and your networks at school and elsewhere.

Startups might sound an option only for experienced professionals but they are often eager for fresh talent with plenty of ambition.

Furthermore, small businesses are a great opportunity to learn the robes and get your voice heard in the sector – competition might also be not as tough as for places in big, popular companies.

UPDATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

It’s also a good idea to take a reality check if you’re finding it hard to land a job. Sit down and answer the following questions:

  • Are your career expectations realistic? If you’re applying to jobs that you’re clearly not qualified for, you might be trying to reach too high at this point. You probably won’t become a CEO fresh out of university.
  • What does the industry look like for graduates and non-graduates? Finding a job can be hard in a tough economic climate and different industries often go through cycles of up- and downturn. You should consider the climate in the sector and whether the opportunities in the particular industry just aren’t very good now.
  • What kinds of roles are available in your field? What about outside of your field? Look around in terms of options, even in terms of positions you wouldn’t apply. Examine the jobs beyond your industry to see what kind of options the job market is currently presenting you with.

You need to get a sense of the job climate. It’s not just about your qualifications – sometimes finding your dream job just isn’t possible in that economic climate and you might have to update your expectations.

It’s important to stay realistic about your chances as a graduate. You are fighting a big battle and you might be up against people who have already gained job experience.

If you’re narrowing down your job hunt to your location and region, you might want to broaden your horizon. You might simply be looking for your dream job in the wrong location – if you want that specific job title, then you might have to prepare yourself to move. It’s important to understand this and prepare for it. Now, it can sound dramatic but it can be down to two options:

  • You stay put and you accept a career path that’s not your dream
  • You pursue your dream career even if it takes you to another country

The key to a successful reality check is to consider the above issues and questions. After that, you also need to take a good look at your resume. How does it stack up against the realities of the job market? You might need to take time to improve your resume to boost your job chances and you can read more about how in the later sections of this post.

You should also consider looking for roles that might not be your first choice but which offer you plenty of opportunities to gain transferable skills. You might find it easier to get a job as a waitress and use that career as a step towards your ideal management role, for example. Focus on not just your dream job but the transferable skills that can help you get it.

It’s important to be flexible as a job hunter, especially as a graduate. You might have to pick roles that you don’t like as much but which can help you gain access to roles you do want. If you’re not getting a job, the reason might be that you’re too fussy in what jobs you want to perform.

It doesn’t mean you should pick any role that comes your way but you need to understand the value of holding a job – transferable skills can improve your resume and having a job tells future employers that you can do it.

FOCUS ON NETWORKING

It’s important to understand that having a good resume is not enough to land you a job. As a graduate, you are already lacking in work experience so it can help to improve your chances by getting your foot in the door via connections. Networking is an important part of the career process and it can be helpful in terms of landing your first job.

Networking is essentially about creating connections. While you won’t be hired just because you know someone, this personal connection can boost your chances. It can also help you learn about opportunities before others and apply for roles you might not have heard about if it wasn’t for the connection.

Besides, networking could come handy at any point of your career – ten years from now you might find a connection you made today extremely useful.

Tips to make networking more effective

So, what can you as a recent graduate do? Your networking efforts should definitely focus on your alumni. Be active in alumni events, join specific social media groups for your alumni and be in touch with people in your peer group even after the graduation.

When you see a job posting, do a little research on LinkedIn to see if someone from your alumni works in the company. Note how you can search on LinkedIn incognito to ensure people don’t know you’re looking at their profiles – unless you want to!

Don’t be afraid of asking friends and acquaintances to make referrals when you find these connections or you just want the HR department to look at your resume. This happens all the time across industries and there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you’re polite and friendly about it.

You should also connect on social media with anyone you might have worked with in the past. This can include summer jobs or any internship you might have done. Comment on their social media posts and drop them an e-mail to say you’re looking for a job. Alison Green, writer of the popular Ask A Manager blog, has a great post on US Money detailing how to do this.

Furthermore, you should also start attending different graduate fairs, seminars and workshops in your industry. These are not only helpful in terms of improving your skills but they can also help you make meaningful connections with people in the industry.

To make your networking efforts the most efficient, you need a business card. It might seem odd to have a business card as a graduate but it’s a great tool for ensuring those connections last.

There are some who say the mighty business card are out-dated but many of those who understand its continued value. Shaun Caldwell, digital entrepreneur and owner of Charlotte Print, explains the value of business card by writing in his blog:

“Business cards never have downtime. They’re always accessible, and never have dead zones or Internet outages. Your business card can be viewed no matter where you are located, and even times when cell phones and other devices must be turned off, such as on an airplane ride or in a hospital. Your business card is always working for you.”

LEARN TO JOB SEARCH

Job searching is not rocket science but this also doesn’t making it something you can just wing it. If you can’t find a job, then the problem might be in how you look for those roles. The cruel truth might be that you’re sabotaging your job hunt by being ineffective.

Many candidates end up spending a lot of their time sending applications to everywhere, all the time. But it’s not about the quantity of applications that lands you a job; it’s the quality of each application. The employers will look at each application separately – they aren’t going to invite you to a job interview because they know how many applications you’ve already sent that day.

If you are wondering why you aren’t getting a response, you need to take a hard look at your current job search strategies. By optimizing those strategies, you can ensure you at least get a chance to attend job interviews to make your case.

Four steps to effective job search

Start by figuring out what you are looking to achieve and how you can achieve it. You must narrow your job search to the roles you want to have to ensure you’re not wasting time and energy on roles you don’t even want. Of course, as discussed earlier, you also need to ensure those roles are realistic.

You don’t want to spend time sending applications to roles you aren’t even closely qualified. As you define your ideal career, you’ll learn to know how to get there. You’ll identify the companies and the different roles moving you towards your ultimate career goal.

Then it’s time to figure out where those jobs are and learn the secrets to the perfect job application. The platforms that are great for graduates include:

When you find the right job postings, you need to refine your application methods. It’s important to put your focus on the following things:

Decipher the job posting
  • Identify the keywords: the strengths, qualifications, skills and traits the employer is looking for.
Research the company
  • Understand what kind of company culture is present at the company and the kind of employee that would fit this. Examine the company’s vision and it’s competition to separate yourself from other candidates.
Customise your resume and cover letter
  • Focus on the two previous points to ensure you tailor the resume to match those qualifications, skills and values. Use keywords and list only relevant information.
Remember the follow-up
  • Don’t just send the application and forget about it. Write a follow-up e-mail to the hiring manager and make sure they take time to read your application.

The third step involves nailing the job interview process. It’s important to spend time practicing the interview process because your great resume won’t help much if you can’t perform on the job interview. Learn the most common questions and practice answering them with your friends.

Be prepared for the interview by sorting out your job interview look. Preparation even before you actually have a spot to an interview will help you stay relaxed and focused once you are invited.

Finally, it’s important to keep refining your job search and to learn from the feedback you receive from hiring managers and recruitment professionals. If you’re not getting responses, you must ask yourself:

  • Am I sending too few applications?
  • Am I targeting roles that are suitable for my experience?
  • Am I customizing my job application to match the job posting and the company?

If hiring managers or recruitment professionals give you tips, listen to the feedback! You need to be able to admit and understand any flaws you might have so you can become a stronger candidate.

KEEP UPDATING YOUR SKILLS

As mentioned above, you need to keep updating your resume if job hunting becomes difficult. You can’t think that because you have a degree in the pocket, you are going to get a job. Your resume is not done as soon as you add a degree to it and just having one doesn’t mean you will automatically be offered a job.

The good news is you can update and improve your resume in simple ways. You just need to continue improving your skills and increase your chances of being hired in the process.

After you’ve graduated, you shouldn’t put all your energy in finding a job. It’s important to dedicate enough time from your week to training your skillset.

How to update and develop your skills

There are four simply strategies to boost your chances of landing a job. You should start to:

Volunteer in your community. Work is work even if you aren’t paid. Volunteer work always adds depth to your resume – it provides you with a tonne of transferable skills the employer will enjoy seeing. It shows commitment, passion, dedication and the willingness to work hard.

It doesn’t matter whether you volunteer for a role that’s close to something you want to do or not – any type of volunteer work will strengthen your transferable skills and boost your resume.

Accept a part-time job. You should also consider working part-time while job hunting. Again, it will provide you with work experience and transferable skills.

It can even help improve your financial situation and take some of the stress out of your job search. Your part-time role will, of course, be the most beneficial if it’s in the same industry or field of work.

But you shouldn’t shy away from any role – employers understand that graduates also need to work to pay the bills. You just need to demonstrate the skills you’ve gained in your resume as beneficial to your dream job.

You might also have the option to do freelance work while job hunting. Platforms such as Upwork offer everyone an opportunity to offer their skills in a wide-variety of things from web development to transcribing. Who knows you might even get so busy and popular you can go full-time and launch your own business!

Start a blog or get active in your chosen sector in another way. Depending on your industry, you might also find starting a blog a good idea. It gives you a chance to learn more about the industry through researching a post, as well as a platform to voice your ideas and opinions.

Keeping a blog is a great way to show a potential employer how passionate you are about the industry and how much knowledge you have. A blog is not the only way to be active; you can simply be active on social media and industry forums.

Take online courses and attend workshops and seminars. You also shouldn’t stop studying just because you have a degree. There is always something more you can learn and you don’t have to gain qualifications just by attending an institution.

You can take online courses to deepen your knowledge or attend industry seminars to learn what’s happening. Not only will you become more skilled but you’ll also end up with a resume that shows you’re passionate about the industry.

All of the above also help you with creating more networking opportunities. So you are gaining skills while creating connections that can help you in your career.

TRUST YOUR STRENGTHS AND BE FEARLESS

Overall, you need to calm down and relax a bit. Finding your first job won’t happen overnight.

The process is hard and times are tough – a negative attitude during it all will certainly not help your chances. It’s important to stay positive and to trust your own skills.

You need to learn to trust your strengths and use these strengths to sell yourself on the job market. If you can’t make a case for why the employer should hire you, they simply won’t hire you. It’s your first job to learn to market yourself to the jobs you want. Before you feel like giving up know that there is a company and a position out there for you. Not having found it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

What you need to do is learn to give the elevator pitch. This is a short ‘speech’ you give to potential employers about your skills and qualifications. It’s your sales pitch – by the end of it, you’ll have the employer excited and ready to hire you. We’ve previously published a great post on how to construct the perfect elevator pitch here and it’s worth reading.

While you need to be realistic with your job-hunting, you also need to be fearless. Don’t be too critical of applying to jobs and stop thinking there are “too good to be true jobs”. Every once in a while it’s worth sending an application to these and to see what happens.

It’s not worth it to constantly apply to jobs that might require more experience but you shouldn’t talk yourself out of applying to everything. Remember the power of transferable skills! Just because you haven’t done the job for five years, it doesn’t mean you might not have the skills required in the role.

If you find your job hunt is still not moving anywhere, you need to pause and change strategy. Don’t keep hitting your head in the wall just because you feel afraid to try something new.

If the applications aren’t working, try connecting with employers directly! If the jobs are not there, consider working as a freelancer or taking time off. It’s important to know that you can change course at any point. Take time off or go back to school – figure out a completely different industry to target.

You don’t have to pick a graduate route and then stick with it to the bitter end. Don’t be afraid to try different strategies and figuring out something else to do – the job will eventually come if you keep looking.

“Why can't I find a job?

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