Looking for your first job after graduation requires dedication and time in any job market. Careful preparation, organizational skills, and a positive attitude are important. Ask for help. The Oxley Career Education Program, faculty and advisors in your field, mentors, and work supervisors are excellent sources for information and advice. Be open to all ideas and be willing to try everything.
Know What You Want
No effective job search begins with the statement “I’ll take anything!” You must use a targeted approach and know how to position yourself as the best candidate. You do not need to plan your entire career, but you should know where you would like to begin.
Consider your strengths, skills, and experiences. Think about what you enjoy doing and how you can best utilize your talents. View the websites listed on the Job Search and Career Resources page, including “What Can I Do with a Major In,” the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's Occupational Outlook Handbook, and O*Net OnLine, for ideas about potential career paths. Talk to advisors and the Director of The Oxley Career Education Program, who can provide you with assessment tools, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory to help you focus on your strengths and possible work applications.
When to Start Looking?
You should be networking, planning, and considering options throughout your college career. Start looking for positions in the spring semester of your senior year - the prime time for employers seeking entry-level candidates. Many students feel they are too busy during their last semester and wait until after graduation or worse, the fall after graduation. By then, many of the positions have been filled. Additionally, you might appear to lack ambition if you wait too long.
Not Enough Experience?
There is still time. While you are still in school, consider doing volunteer work or internships in your field. You will accumulate experience, test the field, and possibly meet some people who can give you advice and references.
Where to Look for Open Positions?
Many students make the mistake of posting their resume on one or two websites and sitting back to wait for responses. A better strategy is to be proactive. Start by finding websites specific to your field. Visit the websites of professional associations and use Google to locate “niche” sites by searching “Jobs in Human Resources,” for instance. Find out what sites have positions for entry-level candidates. Also check local papers and ask faculty members and the Director of The Oxley Career Education Program for additional suggestions. Contact employment agencies in your field, but do not agree to pay a fee.
Networking is about building relationships. You do it on social networking sites and you do it whenever you speak to someone about your future plans. Tell everyone you meet that you are looking for a job, go to networking events, talk to friends and relatives to make connections. Have an “Elevator Pitch” ready. This is a short statement about yourself, what type of jobs you are interested in, and the skills and training you have to offer. It is frequently said that 80 percent of positions are filled through networking because employers rely on the recommendations of employees and people they know to help them identify qualified candidates.
Have a Good Online Presence
Join LinkedIn to search the “Companies” section and identify organizations that you are interested in. Check their websites for job openings. Read tips on how to create a professional profile. Use LinkedIn to develop contacts, join groups, search for jobs, and follow companies. Join the College of Mount Saint Vincent Alumnae/i group to stay in touch with fellow alumnae/i and to see job listings posted by The Oxley Career Education Program.
Many employers will check Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other online avenues to learn more about you. Google yourself and see what comes up. Clean up your Facebook page. Build your Professional Brand and be in control of your online presence.
Have Your Documents Ready
Update your resume and learn how to write a good cover letter. A well-formatted resume targeted to your field is essential in your job search. A poorly done resume or one with typos and spelling mistakes can immediately destroy your candidacy. Check with The Oxley Career Education Program for samples and individual assistance. View resume and cover letter samples online.
Prepare Well for the Interview
Carefully research the company and the position in advance of the interview. This will help you understand the company culture and how you can fit in and contribute. Interviewers may ask why you want to work for their company and what you know about them. Think about what qualities you have that will make you the best candidate.
Know the questions you will be asked and practice your responses. There are some standard questions that are asked during interviews in all fields. Be prepared with questions for the interviewer as well to show your interest in the company. Make an appointment with The Oxley Career Education Program to do a mock interview, a simulated interview, which will provide you with feedback about your verbal and non-verbal communication and responses to questions. View Tips for Successful Interviewing.
Send a Thank You Note
Get the names and titles of people who interviewed you and send them a note thanking them for the interview. You can highlight one or two points you discussed to which they responded well and you can even include something you forgot to mention. Do this as soon as possible after the interview. E-mail thank you notes are fine, as long as they are formatted professionally. If you choose to send a handwritten note, make sure the stationery is formal (without pictures) and that your handwriting is legible.
Never ask about salary or benefits on the interview. You want to demonstrate interest in the position, not just what you will be paid. But be prepared if the interviewer asks what you expect to earn. Research the common salary level for the position and provide a range that you would expect. This gives you room to negotiate later. The Job Seekers Calculator provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is an excellent source of information.
For more information, visit Job Choices and Nacelink, which feature numerous articles and job search resources.