Advice for Young Graduates – How to Land Your First Job
July 8, 2015

Most students have little idea of what working in the real world involves. They may have tons of questions and no one to ask. Or, they may know what they want to do, without knowing where to begin. An old proverb declares that the journey of a thousand miles commences with the first step. Similarly, the road to that dream job you’re keen on begins with the simple activity of understanding your skills and co-relating them to the job you have your eyes set on.

Understanding Your Strengths Is Key to Identifying Your Dream Job or Career

Contrary to what many people think, not everyone who graduates college has a clear understanding of what their dream job is going to be. Certainly, some gifted individuals possess immense clarity on their career choices. But these individuals are more the exception than the norm.

Sometimes, identifying your dream job or career can take years to ascertain. This is because not everyone experiences self-realization at the same point in their lives. Therefore, the best way to start understanding yourself lies in determining what your key strengths are.

Gary Vaynerchuk suggests the following method for figuring out your best job skills or strengths:

  • Based on your own achievements and failures, list your biggest strengths and weaknesses
  • Pick five people you share a deep relationship with and ask them to tell you what they think you’re best at and what you’re worst at
  • Similarly, pick five people with whom you’re not that close, but who know you well, and put the same questions to them
  • Note down their answers
  • Compare these with the answers you noted earlier and underline the similarities
  • If you have any mail, notes, or letters where people praised you or critiqued you, review these and jot down:
    • The skills that people consistently praised you for and,
    • The things that people constantly highlighted as your improvement areas

You could consider asking the same questions to people who follow you on social media networks too. Once you’ve completed this exercise, you should have enough details to determine your greatest strengths and shortcomings. These will form the building blocks in your quest of finding a job.

How to Create Your Resume

Creating a resume is not merely about listing all your personal details on a document. When searching for jobs, understanding the specific job role is imperative: You need to grasp what the job actually involves. Knowing these details will help you position your experience and skills to the requirements of the role. Employers are looking for individuals who will add value to the role.

It is worth noting that recent graduates might not have a lot of work experience. However, they can prepare a resume that documents their skills and the experience they do possess. For instance, some jobs require an individual to handle the social media activities of an organization. So, if you’ve done this before for your school or during a part-time job, make sure to indicate that in the resume.

What Skills Should You Consider Specifying on Your Resume?

Many students find themselves struggling to come up with skills that could help them attract prospective employers. These individuals should consider the tips that Rachel Gillett has outlined. They should typically include:

  1. Transferable skills that recruiters use generic search terms to find such as:
    • Software you’re proficient in
    • Project Management
    • Customer Service
    • Sales
    • Management and,
    • Recruitment
  2. Specialized skills that are a part of the job profile e.g. highlight specific examples of technology or equipment you use when applying for a job that demands technical knowledge
  3. Growth and flexibility skills that demonstrate occasions when you took the initiative to go beyond your regular work, as this denotes a value-add proposition for any prospective employer
  4. Passion-based skills you’ve acquired from your own projects and hobbies, as this presents you as a well-rounded, versatile and personable individual
  5. Quantifiable skills that can be measured, such as:
    • The number of projects you led
    • The number of people on your team
    • The number of people you trained
    • The volume of savings in time or money (if applicable)

Make sure to double-check (or triple-check) your cover letter and resume for any possible errors. At times, an additional space or a typo can ruin the impression of the resume. A resume and a cover letter are the only documents that prospective employers initially review when considering candidates for employment. As a result, if these documents contain errors, then you might miss an opportunity for creating a good first impression and possibly lose the job opportunity altogether.

Once your resume is ready to go, you’ll need to browse internet job sites, as well as traditional media like newspapers for jobs available. If you know people who work in the fields you’re interested in, speak to them about the places to apply. Make sure to reach out to your network of friends, whether you went to college together or not. In many cases, your college professors could help you securing that elusive interview call as well.

Creating an Impression at the Interview

Once you get the call for an interview, spare no efforts in ensuring that you put your best foot forward. Doing your homework (i.e. researching the company and role thoroughly) and presenting well are the keys for cracking an interview. These two steps will enable you to create a positive first impression.

Katie Douthwaite Wolf mentions that you can stand apart in any job interview if you:

  • Can convince the hiring managers that you’re the best person for the job, regardless of whether you possess the relevant skills or experience
  • Can utilize your career background for highlighting how your experience and background make you uniquely suited for the role
    • For instance, management roles require experience such as networking, handling multiple projects at a time, etc.
  • Can highlight or demonstrate the manner in which your transferable and additive skills can enhance the value you bring to the table
  • Can make your application stand out with an interactive resume or an infographic resume

As you start applying for jobs, a clean application and resume will get your foot in the door for an interview. The interview itself will give you a chance to highlight your personality and enthusiasm face-to-face. Oftentimes, hiring managers base their decisions on the 30 – 45 minutes they spend interviewing the candidate. If you can demonstrate your sincere interest in the role and show that you’ll add value to it, you may be receiving an offer soon thereafter.