You’ve done it: You’ve completed your degree! Of course, this calls for celebration and a big pat on the back, but it also means it’s time to get serious about job hunting.
Just when you thought you were finally free from all the hard work you put into your studies, the prospect of finding a job arises—and you might not know where to start on your search.
But don’t worry—this isn’t another article about the uphill battle members of Gen Z face in today’s job market. This is a guide to the dos and don’ts of your first job search, including all the tips you’ll need to help you land a truly great opportunity.
Do: Create a winning résumé
First thing’s first: your résumé. Perhaps you’ve already created a working résumé for jobs you’ve applied to in college, which can definitely be used as a starting point. If you’re staring at a blank Word document, however, you may want to check out Grammarly’s essential résumé template and use other features that will help increase your chances of writing a stellar résumé from the get-go. With so many other graduates seeking jobs, you want to stand out from the competition and make sure your résumé is clear, concise, and doesn’t contain any errors that would tarnish how a recruiter sees you.
Do: Set up a professional LinkedIn profile
Once you have your winning résumé on hand, it’s time to spruce up your LinkedIn profile. Virtual networking can be a vital component to finding a job, so it’s important to establish a baseline of connections in your intended field.
Make sure your profile picture is a professional-looking headshot—save the selfies and vacation photos for Instagram! Keep in mind that your LinkedIn will help make the first impression. You can easily take your own professional headshot; set up a timer on your phone’s camera or ask a friend to take your photo, throw on a blazer and/or collared shirt, and locate a spot with good lighting and a simple backdrop.
When it comes to landing a first job, every component of your LinkedIn profile—from your headline to your summary—needs to communicate professionalism. In other words, calling yourself a “social media genius” or “conveyor of marketing excellence” will likely result in a recruiter clicking to the next candidate.
Do: Write a creative cover letter
If it’s appropriate for your field, you’ll also want to prepare an attention-grabbing cover letter. Cover letters are essentially a personalized introduction to your résumé. They should tell the recruiter exactly why you’re applying, why you want to work for their company, and what you bring to the table. You can learn more about what to include in a cover letter right here on our blog, plus tips on how to write a great cover letter step by step.
Do: Find the best job search sites for your field and set up job alerts
With the above basic job search items on deck, you’re ready to start the process of applying. There are a number of job search sites, like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed, that can streamline your efforts. Depending on your field, there are also job sites targeted to distinct sectors or career types, like AppJobs for those with a technology-based skillset, or Creative Circle for those interested in design, writing, media, and other more creative careers. If you’re seeking a job that makes a positive impact on our world, the job site 80,000 Hours is certainly worth a look.
Many of these sites make it easy to set up job alerts, which you can limit to certain geographic areas or direct to the career or field you’re most interested in—such as “web designer” or “social media manager.” Lastly, you’ll want to make a daily schedule for your job hunting and applying that is manageable and efficient; you don’t need to be checking the job boards every hour.
Don’t: Send out mass, impersonal emails
Once you’ve identified a few jobs you’d like to apply for, it’s time to revisit your résumé and cover letter. You might be thinking: But didn’t I just perfect both of those things!? Yes, you did, and it’s time to make them even better. You want to tailor every single one of your materials to the company in question—including your résumé, cover letter, and application email.
Sending out the same generalized email to five or six different job openings is a big no-no! The recruiter will be able to see through this time-saving tactic of yours immediately and will be more likely to pass on your application.
Of course, if the job position calls for a form-based application, you won’t need to worry about crafting an email. The key takeaway here is that all items in your initial communication with the company, no matter the style, should be personalized—meaning it speaks to one specific person about one particular role at one specific company.
Don’t: Get cute with your initial communications
When trying to be creative and stand out from the crowd, it’s normal to want to show your personality in your job application. However, there is a time and place for letting your personality shine, and it’s definitely not in your initial communications with the recruiter. Save the quirkiness for your first brainstorming session when you’ve landed the job.
Casual communication styles are an almost instant turn-off for recruiters. Being overly informal is never how you want to present yourself in an initial email or application. You want to be taken seriously! Use professional language and appropriate titles, and keep things brief.
Do: Consider an internship if you’re lacking experience
While it may seem ridiculous to you to target an internship after you’ve earned a college degree, some internships can actually pave the way for a better opportunity post-facto. Even if you’ve already done several internships in college, you may still be lacking the experience that’s needed to land a competitive job.
For example, if you come across what appears to be the ideal job for you and it’s a manager’s position, it might make sense to reach out to the company and inquire about an internship instead. Who knows—they may even see your initiative as a good sign and consider you. The important thing is to go after something if you really want it, and internships are a great avenue to getting your foot in the door.
Don’t: Waste time searching for jobs way beyond your skill level
A final tip for your first job search is to focus on open positions that align with your current skill level. Fabricating your application and misrepresenting your level of experience is a surefire way to have a really awkward interview.
Rather than wasting your (and the recruiter’s time), look only for jobs that fit within your skill level. You should feel good about your skill level! Being a new graduate means you have a lot of value to bring to the table—from fresh perspectives to technological know-how. There’s nothing wrong with an entry-level position; in fact, you’ll probably learn more in an entry-level position than you’d ever thought possible, and it’ll lay the groundwork for an exciting career.
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