My peers and I are currently (anxiously, and obsessively) trying to figure out what is going to happen to us in May after we graduate. Most of the people I talk to have already started applying for post-grad jobs — some have even already gotten offers, and secured positions to begin as soon as they graduate.
I, myself, am applying for jobs halfheartedly, trying to figure out what I want to do next, and hoping to somehow mix that desire with what I need to do (financially speaking) next. It is a blur of TFD + ???? right now, so stay tuned — but I thought it might be helpful to get a little advice from the people I work with in the classroom every day, and will soon be stepping into the professional world with. I asked a bunch of soon-to-be graduates on their best career, job application, and interview advice. Here is what they had to say.
1. “A weird one for me is that I half expected to get responses immediately after applying, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back for a good amount of time — maybe even months. HR people often receive all of the applications, and really thoroughly comb through and compare them with the job description of the position applied for before selecting the group of candidates from the application pool to move on to the next part of the process. This can take weeks or months sometimes — I got job interviews (and subsequent job offers) a few months after applying. I also received a rejection letter from a job I applied for six months earlier. That’s just how it works sometimes, even though it is frustrating.” – Sydney
2. “At your interview: make eye contact, be nice, don’t be a schmuck.” – Maggie
3. “Don’t just apply for any job at first. Like, yeah, you do need a job. But when you’re starting fresh, especially if you’ve accomplished something hard like finishing a college degree, don’t sell yourself short and apply for jobs that are only below your education level and experience just because you want a guaranteed job. This is important for two reasons: a) you worked so hard for that degree, so you should use it, and whether you feel like it or not, you are qualified to begin training at these types of ‘grown-up’ jobs, and b) if you do play it safe and apply to be a barista or sales associate at the mall or something you know you can definitely get, you’re going to feel really shitty about yourself if you don’t end up actually getting that job. And you might not. A lot of people with more experience or a higher level of education are passed over for those jobs because they think the more experienced/educated will ask for more money.” – Adam
4. “I say, apply for everything. Even if you’re not sure it is your ‘thing’, because it is hard these days to get a job straight out of college, and you might as well just see what kind of interviews you can get, research all of the companies in your area/field that are hiring, put an application in on every position you are even slightly qualified for, and just see what happens. Do anything to up your chances of getting even one offer.” – Megan
5. “Most important for me was to truly understand the core values of each company where I was interviewing. I went on a few interviews cold without researching anything. I though hey, I’m outgoing and friendly and have a pretty good résumé, it’ll be fine. But then they asked questions that were very company-specific, and very specific to the role I was applying for, and it was clear I was just unprepared. There is a time and a place for relying on your personality in an interview. When I interviewed at Dunkin’ Donuts in high school, I had to be friendly and personable and prove to them that I was self-motivated willing to learn how to use all of the beverage machines. When you go into a job with a little bit more responsibility, you have to prove that you understand the core values and missions that drive the company.” – Sasha
6. “This is said a lot, but definitely apply to job that you are not entirely qualified for, and justify why you feel qualified in your cover letter. You can say something ‘I don’t have the degree in ____ that you’re looking for, but I do have experience doing ____, so I know I can do this job.’ Maybe be a little more eloquent than that. But if you see a job posting that really speaks to you and your experience, and you feel capable of the job even though you don’t have x-years of experience in whatever the hell they’re looking for, but you do have some relevant experience and you’re sure you can do it, definitely go for it.
That being said, don’t apply to like, every job you’re not qualified for. Especially because if you are someday qualified for it and you apply again, the hiring manager may remember and be like ‘this idiot applied for this job when he had literally no education or relevant experience and sent a stupid cover letter’. Or, you know, you might just get rejected because some jobs simply need you to be highly qualified for them. I’m definitely not applying for like, nursing jobs, because you need specific training and certificates. So, that’s my best advice.” – Katherine
7. “The biggest hurdle for me in my interviewing process has been cover letters. Applying to jobs is fairly easy when you just attach your résumé, and fill out your work experience. But cover letters trip me up. I would say it is best to have a template for the very basic part of your cover letter that briefly explains who you are and what your professional experience is, but you should definitely not be sending a ‘cookie-cutter’ letter to each company. It should be highly specified to the position you are applying to, and the position and company should be researched so they can see you put some effort in relating your relevant experience to their values and company culture.
Also important: pay attention to requests for cover letters. If the job description says ‘send your résumé to this email to apply’, then seriously just send the résumé. If it says ‘we will not be accepting applications that don’t have cover letters’ then obviously make sure you send one. They’re not always necessary – unless they are required in the job posting.” – Addie
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