College graduates in caps and gowns

I’m a Recent Grad…Now What? (Do’s and don’ts for your job search)


Congratulations, college graduates, on earning your degrees! If you’ve landed a job by this point, then a second round of congratulations are in order. But if you’re a recent graduate staring down the search page with fear and trepidation, you are not alone. You’re one of thousands of young professionals in the midst of their first big job search.

Read on for some DO’s and DON’Ts on how to approach this enormous task.

Make a Job Search Plan

recent grad making a plan

DON’T make an outrageously long to-do list. If you’re planning to apply to 10 jobs every day, you’re probably going to set yourself up for discouragement and a quick burnout. Creating manageable goals will give you a sense of accomplishment as you check things off your list, and invigorate you to keep going.

DO think seriously about what you’d like to do and have some ideas of your parameters (industry, city, etc.) so you don’t waste time applying to every posting on the first page of your search. You want to be productive and shorten the length of your search as much as possible!

DO consider some different ways you can use your degree. Do you want to teach? Research? Write? Are there ways you can incorporate those tasks into a more generalized position? Also, think about how to get your foot in the door. If there’s a company you’re interested in, they might not have any full-time openings – but see if they’re looking for interns. As a new graduate, you might not be delighted by an intern’s pay scale and hours, but if a higher position opens up later, your boss will already know your work ethic and how you fit in at the office.

Read our article on having a Job Search Plan.

Manage Your Online Presence

DO register for LinkedIn and set up your account, if you haven’t already. It’s a great way to connect with your fellow college graduates and alumni, especially if they work at a company or in an industry that interests you.

DON’T leave your Facebook on the “public” setting. It’s common practice for hiring managers to look you up on social media before they consider scheduling an interview with you. The last thing you want is an HR representative you’ve never met drawing some unsavory conclusions from your album of bar-hopping photos.

Read our article on Online Branding.

Network to Make Connections

networking event

DO consider different avenues for making connections. You might think you don’t have a wide networking web just yet, but you’d be surprised. Here are some ideas:

  • Previous mentors from volunteering jobs
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Friends of your parents
  • Parents of your friends
  • Advisors or career center connections from college
  • Professional groups and networking events in your industry

DON’T give 100% of your efforts to online applications. Although they can help, don’t get downhearted if you don’t get more than an automated response. For the jobs that really pique your interest, follow up with the company to help your application stand out.

Read our article on The Importance of Networking.

Writing Your Resume

DON’T let your resume go on for multiple pages. You’re a very recent graduate, so employers expect your work history to fit on one page.

DO highlight the work you’ve done at school (volunteering, club activities, internships), even if it wasn’t full-time paid work. Employers want to know what you’ve done and what you’re capable of.

DON’T pad your resume with outdated experience. That one volunteer experience from six years ago might take up some of the blank space, but it could draw attention for being so old. As you build up more of a work history, you can also phase out some of the things you did while in school.

Read our article on Writing Your Professional Summary.

Writing Your Cover Letter

writing resume & cover letter

DON’T repeat what’s already on your resume. Take advantage of the flexibility you have in the cover letter format, and respond to what the company is looking for. If they want someone who knows Photoshop, tell them how you used it every week at the campus newspaper. Don’t be shy about clearly explaining why you’re a great fit for the job.

DO offer a creative solution for a problem the company is having. You can Google for recent headlines about the company for inspiration, or respond to a direct request in the job posting. A news blog, for example, might ask applicants to make suggestions on how the company can stand out among sites with similar content.

DO show enthusiasm for the job and the company. If you’re a fan of their products, say so! If you’re excited at the thought of working for them, be upfront about it. Now that you’re a college graduate it’s important to act like a professional, but that doesn’t mean you need to leave your passion at the front door. Companies want to hire people who will go above and beyond what’s listed in the job description.

Prepare for Job Interviews

DO research the company ahead of time. You want to have a solid idea of what they do, what they expect for someone in your role, and how you can match your college graduate skills to their needs.

DO familiarize yourself with the company culture so you can dress appropriately for your interview. See if you can determine the company’s dress code through researching the company on social media. Many companies are business casual these days, especially if they have a predominantly younger staff, but it’s important to know for sure before you go in.

DON’T leave the interview without asking questions of your own. Interviewing goes both ways; while the interviewer is assessing you, you need to decide if the company can provide what you’re looking for. Some example questions you can pose:

  • What is your management style?
  • What are your company’s three main goals?
  • How would you describe the experience of working here?
  • What is the next step in the candidate selection process?

Read our article on Behavioral Interviewing and Soft Skills.

Time to Take Control

recent grad taking control

It’s tempting to compare your life to what’s going on with your friends and fellow graduates, especially watching the constant social media updates on their engagements and new jobs, but all you have is your own experience and your own talents. The good thing is that you do have some control over your future. It’s important to make a job search plan, be persistent, and move past rejection when it happens. Welcome, new graduates, to “the real world,” and good luck in your search for success!

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