I'm, Like, Graduating: Approaching the Entry-Level Job

How a New Grad Can Find That First Entry-Level Job
by Sydney Sundell
November 22, 2016
Precociousness is impressive...until it's not. Looking for jobs after graduating may be a hard reality check. 
Growing up, I was always complimented on my maturity. People told me that I seemed older than I was, and I loved it. My first internship was the summer after my freshman year of college, at a big consulting firm with a regimented internship program consisting mostly of rising seniors. I found that I fit in pretty well with the others, always enjoying the impressed looks I would get when they found out I was two years younger than they. Then came sophomore year.
At this point, my peers were getting their acts together, too. I was no longer the only one on my dorm floor with a suit for the career fair, and I was certainly not the only one vying for an internship. I knew I needed a way to stand out from my 60,000 classmates, so I gave my resume a major makeover and signed up for LinkedIn. A few weeks later, my second internship was locked down. With frequent updates, these two assets and a strong interview were enough to land me my final internship a year later as well.

The older we get, the less we can rely on precociousness to get ahead in the workforce. And while past experience and technical skills are a plus, it takes much more than those to get a recruiter to see you as a viable candidate for an entry-level position. If you just graduated with what you thought was a more than impressive academic background but can't seem to land a job, read on.

What Might Be Going Wrong in your entry-level job search 

Check yourself against a few of the problems that plague recent graduates.

The Obvious

  • You’re inexperienced. Summer internships are great, but for many companies requiring one to two years of previous experience in the field for an entry-level position, these will likely not apply.
  • You’re one of many. Going to school in a big city where 10% of the graduating class goes to work for ___ Fortune 500 company? Much more than 10% of the graduating class is applying.
  • In more technical/STEM fields, you will mostly be competing against your male peers. Unfortunately, women are still a minority in these areas.

The Not-So-Obvious

  • You look younger than you are. Ever go to a career fair and get directed to internships when you wanted to discuss full-time opportunities?
  • You don’t have connections. In nearly every field, having an “in” with a current employee can make all of the difference.
  • You aren’t taking yourself seriously enough. This can apply to dress, composure, or language.

What You Can Do Immediately to Help Land an entry-level job 

So, what can you do as a young woman trying to land her dream (okay, dream entry-level) job? While you can’t (and probably don’t want to) magically add five years to your appearance or three past positions to your resume, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re seen as a serious candidate.
  • When meeting a recruiter or potential “in” with a company for the first time, be sure to mention that you are graduating or have recently graduated. This will cue them that you want to discuss full-time opportunities.
  • Don’t be afraid of overdressing, especially if you have a younger-looking face. A tailored work wardrobe not only signals that you are taking this whole job-hunting thing seriously, it also allows companies to envision you sitting at a desk in their office, not a lecture hall.
  • Learn how to frame your experience in the most professional way possible. Have a leadership position in a student organization on campus? Don’t be afraid to bring that up in an interview! Use words like “managed” to showcase how much time and leadership these roles required. Have a short elevator pitch ready about each of your jobs or internships, and bring up coursework when appropriate.
  • Focus on your skills. Even if you don’t have any professional experience in the field you’re trying to enter, you may have learned necessary skills in your courses. Maybe you’ve never coded your own website, but you did take a few programming classes as electives. Don’t be afraid to list things like this on your resume.
  • Have a professional headshot for your LinkedIn. That picture of you at a party may be cute, but it will not impress a hiring manager.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile and resume clean and updated.
Finally, remember that as a recent graduate, you have tons of new insight and energy to bring to the workforce. While you are obviously looking for the company that will help you jumpstart your career and teach you the most, remember that you are an asset to them as well. Be humble and approachable, and make sure they know you are willing and ready to learn.

And, just for good measure, make sure you’re not saying “like” after every five words.
What was the key to landing your first job out of college? Let us know in the comments!