smiling graduate in black gown and cap in front of college building

Are you entering a maze dense with fears and uncertainties sneaking in the bushes, or is it just your mind drawing a picture of landing a job as a recent grad? Even if you know it’s only your imagination, it doesn’t make you feel better. You’re most likely experiencing societal pressure to shift from college to work life faster by jumping straight into the workforce.

But as you gaze into the labyrinth of the unknown, each turn carries the weight of doubt and trepidation. Many questions echo in your mind. Where should I go? How can I begin a career without work experience? What if I fail to get a job?

Fret not. This guide is your navigator and will lead you through the intricacies of the job market after college graduation. We’ve reached out to industry experts and business professionals to learn from their hands-on experiences and strategies. Let their tips and personal stories instill confidence and help you start your career after graduation without second thoughts and apprehension.

How to Kickstart Your Career as a Recent Graduate

Learn how to apply your post-graduation potential and propel your career with a strategic push forward.

Self-reflect and Self-assess

Don’t hastily settle for a random, first available job after graduation just to have that feeling of accomplishment and be able to say: Yay, I’ve got a job! According to Brooke Webber, Head of Marketing at Ninja Patches, “Employers value self-aware candidates who demonstrate a deep understanding of their career goals, strengths, and weaknesses. That is why it’s necessary to define your motivations and expectations, evaluate your skills, and spot the weakest areas in your skill set (try to fix them before applying for a job as a fresh graduate). No rush; thoroughly analyze everything and make improvements whenever needed.”

You should take each application seriously and answer self-reflective questions to find a position that fits you like a glove and feeds your passions. Does your preferred role align with your values and life pursuits? What career development goals do you see in front of you? Where will you be in five or ten years if you choose this career path?

Brooke Webber suggests a list of tools to map out your optimal career direction based on your personality, skills, and interests:

  • CareerFitter
  • CareerOneStop
  • MyPlan
  • CareerExplorer
  • JobTest

Remember: It’s ok if your first job is unrelated to your degree or major. In fact, roughly a third of college grads work in a different field without using their degrees.

Take Advantage of Career Services at Your College or University

If doubts of your career path torment you, consult your college or university career center and see what it has in store for recent graduates looking for a job. On average, 25% of students leverage the advantages of career centers at their educational establishments.

What are those benefits? There you recieve career planning assistance and an assortment of resources for graduates such as career fairs, job listings, internship opportunities, workshops, webinars, and more. Some universities offer a personal manager or mentor ready to help new graduates begin a career.

For example, the Career Development hub at Yale University includes the following categories:

  • Talent Profile
  • Career Coaching and Mentoring
  • Career Assessment Tools
  • Individual Development Planning
  • Experiential Learning Opportunities
  • Job Preparation
  • Suggested Reading

Let’s look at another example. Rasmussen University partners with Hiration to guide students and fresh grads through resume and cover letter writing, digital portfolio building, and virtual interview preparation.

Look at Entry-level Jobs First

“When weighing your career options as a recent graduate, don’t hold back from entry-level positions. First, an entry-level job provides a foundation of skills and basic work experience. Second, it ensures economic stability after graduation. It can assist with covering your bills, student loan repayment, or other financial obligations,” explains Sergey Taver, Marketing Manager at Precision Watches. Examples of entry-level jobs include:

  • Sales manager
  • Customer support representative
  • Junior law assistant
  • Research assistant
  • Junior accountant/bookkeeper
  • Recruiting assistant

There are many other assistant-type jobs you can consider. Suppose you study nursing. You may break into the medical or healthcare industry and begin your career as a nursing assistant.

Actively Network and Prioritize LinkedIn

Network at College

Networking in college isn’t about seeking career advice or discussing job opportunities with everyone you meet. It’s all about establishing meaningful relationships that can later help you land a job after graduation.

Ian Sells, CEO of Million Dollar Sellers, gives an algorithm of actions to do that. “You just need to stay connected with your college/university community online and offline. Visit campus events to interact with other students, alums, business gurus, and entrepreneurs. Join clubs like sororities or fraternities and maintain strong relationships even after graduation that can lead to word-of-mouth recommendations.”

For example, while pursuing a degree in Real Estate Finance at San Diego State University, Sells engaged in university activities and societies. One of them was Sigma Pi, a fraternity with over 110,000 student members and alums. If you’re also involved in one, frame your Greek membership to celebrate this valuable college network.

Network on LinkedIn

A whopping 85% of students and recent grads are on LinkedIn to grow and maintain their professional networks. Are you among them?

Pro tip: Write a catchy LinkedIn headline to “sell” your profile to recruiters who browse the platform for new candidates (95% do it regularly!).

Fine-Tune Your Resume

Of course, a resume still “beats” the LinkedIn profile in terms of its significance to hiring managers. Once you’re fresh out of college or university, you must write an outstanding resume. It will help you get noticed and, eventually, hired. If you have already crafted one, kudos to you! Your next task is to polish it to perfection. Here’s how:

  • Select an attention-grabbing layout (resume templates are accessible on Canva, ResumeBuilder, Enhancv, or
  • Apply a chronological format (list your achievements and work experiences backwards from the most recent) 
  • Include additional sections like college projects, extracurricular activities, hobbies, certifications, language skills, etc.
  • Proofread for grammar, spelling, and punctuation

Phil Strazzulla, Founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, also stressed the importance of optimizing your resume for applicant tracking systems (ATS). “Since most recruiters utilize ATSs, you must ATS-proof your resume with keywords related to your chosen job and make sure there are no headers, footers, tables, or other heavy, graphical elements. They may confuse the ATS, which may result in a rejection.”

A whopping 75% of resumes never appear in front of recruiters’ eyes simply because they get rejected by ATSs. You’d definitely want to make your resume ATS-friendly after discovering this. For example, assume you’re seeking a job in the veterinary industry. You should tailor your resume to the veterinarian role with keywords such as veterinary medicine, animal care, veterinary medical procedures, surgery, diagnosis, etc.

Pro tip: Try ATS-friendly ChatGPT prompts for resumes.

Start off with Internships

Landing a good job after graduation, especially with zero experience, may feel like climbing a steep mountain without equipment or preparation. It seems daunting and unachievable.

Internships can prepare you to enter the workforce by equipping you with industry-specific knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience. Not to mention that internships are often pipelines to permanent employment. If you perform well, the company may offer you a job upon graduation. And the chances are high: 66.4% of interns get full-time job offers from employers after internships and typically have a $15,000 higher salary than their peers without interning experiences.

Sturgeon Christie, CEO at Second Skin Audio, states, “Internships and apprenticeships are invaluable hubs with supportive learning environments for recent graduates. During an internship or apprenticeship, you can receive mentorship and feedback from experienced professionals in your field. They can also steer you in the right direction of your career development.”

Explore Alternative Opportunities: Self-employment and Entrepreneurship

Although self-employment can pose a number of risks, it comes with a greater work-life balance and autonomy without tying you to a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. You can easily start your career after graduation as a self-employed freelancer doing one of the following:

  • Graphic designer
  • Tutor
  • Photographer
  • IT contractor
  • Social media manager
  • Event planner
  • Landscaper
  • Copywriter

For example, let’s say you’re a graduate student at Kepler College or are taking a course in Astrology. If that’s the case, you may run a personal freelance website as an astrologer and create birth charts or daily horoscopes, individual for every client.

Alternatively, if you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you can become an entrepreneur and start a business right after graduating from college or university. However, you don’t necessarily have to do it all alone. Morgan Taylor, Co-Founder of Jolly SEO, whose high-school friend and now business partner, Greg Heilers, roped him into entrepreneurship, dwells on the importance of collaboration with others. “It’s always better to have a reliable partner by your side and work shoulder to shoulder, especially when you’re a young professional starting your career as an entrepreneur. Working in tandem, you may bring a greater variety of ideas to the table, solve problems more efficiently, expand your business, and innovate faster.”

Freelancers-turned-entrepreneurs Morgan Taylor and Greg Heilers moved from the content mill to the content agency and then to the SEO agency.

Ok, Let’s Wrap!

With these strategies, you will see a clear path in the vast sea of jobs and launch your career confidently and smoothly after graduation.

And don’t forget to “wrap,” that is, frame your diploma after graduation. Select an exceptional diploma frame and let it catch the eye every time you return home from your dream job or enter your new office space. Good luck and happy job hunting!

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