Dear Ms. Cheston,
I am graduating from college this May with a B.S. in Public Health from Syracuse University, but I’m no longer sure I want to go into this field. While I’ve taken some business courses as well, I don’t know what to look for in a job, and when I apply to jobs online, I never receive a call back. As I move closer to graduation, I am nervous that I don’t have a job lined up for after graduation. Please help! I’m getting desperate.
I am very sympathetic to the plight of the prospective college grad – and understand how overwhelming and emotional it is to be you right now! Here are a few ideas to get you started on the right track.
- Know that figuring out what you want to do for your career is a messy process and for many, it’s ongoing.
You are at the best possible moment in your life to experiment with different types of jobs before settling on something you want to commit to longer term. Your early 20’s are for exploration – before you have responsibilities outside of yourself. So don’t put too much pressure on this first career move – pick a few companies that look interesting, do a ton of research to see where you might fit and network your way to an interview.
- Trolling for jobs online is great for conducting research, but don’t spend a lot of time applying that way.
The applicant tracking systems job sites use are designed to screen out, so unless you have the exact experience and keywords required for that job, you are unlikely to hear back. Instead, use LinkedIn to see who you know who knows someone at the company and ask them to have a call and potentially shepherd your application through the system.
- Email a list of contacts and ask for help.
Friends, family, fellow students, professors –Ask your contacts if they know someone in a particular function at a short list of companies. You never know whom others in your sphere may know, and if you ask for something very specific you are more likely to get a good response.
- Make sure that your LinkedIn profile has a great photo, summary and recommendations.
While Facebook and Twitter have their uses there is nothing else like LinkedIn. I’d like to highlight the importance of writing an excellent summary that ties together your background and where you’re headed, in an approachable and engaging way. If you’re not the best writer, lean on a friend who’s good with a turn of phrase. Having a great profile can only help you and conversely, the lack of, or an unprofessional, profile may hurt you since that is the first place employers will look.
- Finally, while your fellow students may seem to have it all figured out, the reality is, many will be looking for a new job within the year.
There is a very high failure rate for first jobs because most new grads don’t have a lot of experience and therefore don’t really know what to expect. The new job that looks exciting in an interview may turn out to be a disaster at worst and a bit disappointing at best. Don’t succumb to social media envy!
I hope this is helpful. If you’d like advice specifically tailored to your particular situation, I’d be glad to help.
Photo Credit: “College Grad” by Beth Adamczyk 2009