Job Search Advice for Graduates

Begin the process early- the job search process doesn’t start the day you graduate but in the months, even the year, leading up to it. Start doing internships to explore interests and learn more about career options for your major. Build a network of contacts in college that you can utilize in your job search.

Treat the job search as a full-time job. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

Realize that you may not get your “ideal job” to start. Use your current employer as a way to build your skillset that will help land your next position. Always have an eye for the future.

Don’t overlook small companies or nonprofits as places to start your career. These places will allow you to do more things and learn skills that wouldn’t be afforded you in a larger company where you would likely specialize. In the long run, smaller companies may serve you better.

Don’t forget that career development is a lifelong process of self-assessment, exploring options, gaining experience and skills, making decisions and implementing them, and then reflecting.

  1. Start early; don’t put the job search off until after you have graduated.
  2. Learn about yourself and know who you are in terms of strengths and skills (what you can offer an employer) and what you are looking for.
  3. Have a clear goal in mind and develop a strategy.
  4. Set daily and weekly objectives, evaluate your progress, and refocus if necessary.
  5. Schedule time each week to target organizations, research industries, network, and make contacts, and follow up as needed.
  6. Make sure you have prepared a well-written resume and cover letter that is short and succinct, highlighting your skills.
  7. Sharpen your interviewing skills by conducting a mock interview.
  8. Create a job portfolio with samples of your work that will help you distinguish yourself from others.
  9. Develop a short 30-second elevator pitch about yourself and what you can offer an employer. Your elevator pitch can be used at job interviews, career fairs, or any other place you might find yourself networking.
  10. Become very familiar with LinkedIn and develop a strong profile. Use LinkedIn not only as a mechanism for networking but also searching for job opportunities.
  11. Set yourself apart from the crowd by making business cards that contain your contact information, major, career focus, and important skills/accomplishments.
  12. Take a moment to research yourself on the internet and social media. What are they saying about you to a potential employer? Remember you want to portray a positive first impression.
  13. Develop a personal brand that will attract employers to you.
  14. Don’t get discouraged. Expect to hear “No” or be rejected. It is part of the process. Don’t take it personally. Better yet, reflect and try and learn from it to help you in the process.
  15. Remember to follow up with employers after networking. In addition, it is always a good idea to send thank you notes after every interview.
  16. Don’t forget that temporary or part-time work not only helps you build skills but may also lead to permanent full-time employment.
  17. There’s no place like home. Don’t forget to speak with faculty, career services office, or alumni association. They all may be good leads in identifying job opportunities.
  18. You may not get your dream job to start, or be making six figures to start. Consider these aspects: growth opportunities, tuition assistance or reimbursement, benefits, and having access to a mentor.

Successful Networking

Networking is the process of establishing, building, and maintaining relationships (contacts) as a source of gathering information. Networking is not merely handing out resumes or business cards, asking for jobs or leads, being pushy or overbearing. In contrast, to be effective at networking, an individual must:

  • Show a genuine interest in the other individual.
  • Build a strong rapport by being friendly and enthusiastic.
  • Recognize the importance of the two-way nature of networking and thus mutually sharing information and advice with the other individual to assist them in achieving their goals.
  • Networking is a great way to explore career fields by talking to those who work in those fields. 
  • It is a great way to identify leads in your job search. Someone is going to know someone who is hiring.
  • You can build and manage your career over time by surrounding yourself with those who have more experience and can give you some good advice.
  • The better your network is the better your chances are of landing a job offer. They might have even sought you out (i.e. less competition).
  • Greater satisfaction in a job as you may have influenced job description or roles.
  • Avoided the advertised market where positions are normally non-existent or close to being filled.

Networking for some can be an intimidating or daunting process. The following are some tips on how to network.

  • Create a personal pitch. This may include information on your education, skills, or developed areas of expertise, along with characteristics of the job or workplace in which you would like to work.
  • Identify potential mentors or contacts. Ask friends and family to connect you with people who work in the field you are interested in.
  • Find the contact’s phone number. When you call, explain the nature of your call. Ask to meet with them, preferably at their office, for an interview lasting 20 minutes. If you were referred by another person, it is a good idea to mention this fact as it helps to establish a frame of reference for the individual.
  • When meeting with the contact, establish rapport with the individual. When you establish a relationship with a contact, he/she will be more willing to refer you to others or pass your resume along.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for names of other professionals whom you might want to interview that could help you in your job search. These contacts may either be inside or outside of the organization. Also, ask for advice about breaking into the profession.
  • If you were given another individual’s name as a potential contact, follow up with them in a timely fashion. Make sure to check back with your original contact from time to time to advise them of your status or progress. Be professional and send a thank you note to express your appreciation for their help.

Your initial networking list can come from a variety of sources:

  • Personal Contacts: family, friends, neighbors, classmates, acquaintances, organizations, church groups
  • Work contacts: co-workers, supervisors, colleagues
  • Educational contacts: teachers & professors, academic advisors, athletic coaches, alumni networks
  • Professional Group Contacts: Chamber of Commerce, professional trade association, career centers
  • Professional contacts: Doctor, dentist, optometrist, lawyer, accountant, banker, insurance agents, realtor

 Brainstorm as many potential contacts as possible. It is also important not to overlook or underestimate the magnitude of “chance encounters,” i.e., waiting in line at the supermarket, sitting next to someone on the bus, or the individual standing alone at a cocktail party.

There are also ways in which you can naturally build or increase your network of contacts. Some of the best ways are through volunteering, job shadowing, joining a club, organization, professional association, and informational interviewing.

The preferred method to network is face-to-face on the individuals’ own turf. The contact will be more apt to be relaxed in a familiar environment and generate better ideas for you. Also, when you are at their office, the contact may have business sources readily available, not to mention giving you the possibility of meeting other key individuals.

  1. Share Your Passion, Authenticity, And Story
    People really connect with your real side, and everyone has a story. It’s the new “elevator pitch.”
  2. Target Your Audience
    Learn about the community where you are meeting. Research and find out about them on websites, blogs, and through others that may know about them or are members of the group.
  3. Know The Guest List
    If you know some specific people attending an event who you will want to meet, do your homework, and find out about them; their company, awards, community activities, or accomplishments. This singles you out as someone who is genuinely interested in them and what they do.
  4. Work The Room
    Mix and mingle, and try to have several warm interactions. Don’t monopolize or be monopolized. Instead, engage and encourage mutual conversation and include others in it.
  5. Pair Up With A Mentor
    Find someone who knows the crowd and group and rely on them to introduce you around. Coming with someone others know and respect says something about you. “You are judged by the company you keep.”
  6. Set Goals
    Have goals for what you want to accomplish and come out of the experience with five warm connections, new friends, someone you can refer business to.
  7. Be Inclusive
    Be inclusive and see how making connections for others make sense both at the event and after.
  8. Ask HCIHY (How Can I Help You?)
    This is the new benchmark for networking. Not what can I sell you, but how can I serve you. “Serving is the new Selling.” When people know you are in it for the right reasons and motives, the relationship naturally grows. Building trust by freely sharing knowledge and being who you say you are takes time. Invest and commit to it with people you feel good potential with and demonstrate a mutuality with you.
  9. Follow Up
    Follow up promptly and with purpose with those warm connections you made. Lunch, coffee, guest blog, mentor, referral, Skype, phone call, collaboration, link swap are only a few reasons to reach out and continue.
    Relationships take time, effort, and commitment. Some grow, some go, but you won’t know which until you take the action.

Crafting Your Elevator Pitch

If you’ve ever been on an elevator and between floors and someone asked you the question, “What do you do?” even if your response was “I’m a student,” you delivered an elevator speech. The elevator speech is critical to a job search and should be developed, practiced, and perfected. It should come out naturally to the point of being second nature. Conversational yet concise is best but, most importantly, short. Less than 30 seconds is all it takes. Not rushed, just short.

Think of it as a door opener or advertisement that draws in the listener by getting their attention and wanting to hear more. Communicate the value you could provide in a sentence or two, and then try to open up the conversation. In the simplest sense, it may be just to communicate your availability and tell your story. However, you may need several variations depending on the situation, such as for networking, interviewing, career fairs, or even casual social encounters.

Here are 5 Tips on Developing Your Elevator Pitch

  1. Set the stage by introducing yourself. What is your career interest? Be a little creative and think about it from the listener’s perspective. What might the audience want to hear about? Employers most likely want to hear about motivated people with relevant talents that can help them.
  2. What is your key message? What special strength do you offer? How are you different? Tell your unique story in a few words to set yourself apart and communicate your value. Give quantifiable information if possible, such as, “achieved a double major and graduated cum laude in three years.” Facts make an impact.
  3. Use emotion and make it energetic or even passionate. What makes you excited about your career? Action words can be helpful but use jargon or terminology sparingly if at all. Smiling when you speak can work wonders at helping to continue the conversation. Practice makes perfect.
  4. Talk about how you could benefit an employer. For example, if you are in marketing, you may benefit an employer by helping to develop and sell innovative services. Culinary arts? Deliver delicious dishes that keep customers coming back. Teaching? How about you positively impact students and prepare them for academic success. The benefit statement is persuasive and influential when well crafted.
  5. Use a hook to make it memorable and extend the relationship. Good advice is to “Stroke the corporate ego” or in some way complement the employer or interviewer. Genuine compliments are always well received as long as they are factual and not pandering. Handing out a business card or resume works wonders too. Try to exchange email addresses, phone numbers, links or offer up your social media profile if appropriate. Keep the door open. Be prepared to explain, support, or defend any part of your elevator speech. Think through questions or challenges that could arise and try to keep it open.

Additional Research Resources

College Grad 

Visit and make use of the library of podcasts about job search after graduation. These podcasts will help dispel rumors and set your mind at ease about entering this process.

Interesting Career Articles

What Employers Wish Job Candidates Understood