When I graduated from college, I thought I was all set. I had a great freelance project manager position from a local LSP, I worked from home and set my own hours, and life couldn’t have been better. However, the company restructured less than a month later, and after several months of confusion my job was eliminated and I found myself holding a diploma with “nothing” to show for it. The stress and worry of what to do next was overwhelming, as it is for many college grads. Everything worked out in the end, and I learned some valuable lessons. I love the advice below from Liz Wessel, cofounder and CEO of WayUp:
- Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that require one to three years of work. (I was, and I shouldn’t have been!) Wessel says that many businesses they talk with say that this type of job posting is really an entry-level job. Often businesses will accept internships and part-time experiences while still in college as acceptable prior experience.
- Don’t rely just on job fairs. “It typically costs a business many thousands of dollars to attend a single career fair,” Wessel explains. Job fairs represent a very small sampling of the companies out there that might be hiring. If you limit yourself to career fairs, you’ll miss a lot of potentially great opportunities.
- Be creative in finding a way to meet someone who works in an industry that you’re targeting. College students are often frustrated that they’ve spent years becoming experts in their field, only to find that the jobs go to the people with connections and not necessarily experience. Wessel recommends “cold” emailing people whose careers seem interesting and related to your field. Tell them you’re a recent graduate and ask if you can ask them some questions about their career and profession. This can lead to them introducing you to more colleagues and maybe even the HR representative at their company—which ultimately opens up more doors for future employment. People are generally happy to share tips and advice with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for it!
- Be flexible. Sometimes things simply don’t work out. If you’re doing all you can and you still aren’t finding employment, consider other options. Maybe there’s a slightly different path you can take that will still ultimately lead to the job you want to have. Wessel shares the example of a prospective investigative journalist taking a job as a paralegal in order to get research and writing experience, while also starting a blog to practice the creative writing aspect of investigative journalism. “Most people don’t have perfectly linear careers. There’s a lot of zigging and zagging to get to where you want to be.”