You did it! Walked across the stage, accepted flowers and congrats from friends and families, took an untold number of selfies in the old cap and gown…so now what?
For many recent graduates, getting a solid foothold in their chosen field can be a source of anxiety and uncertainty. We’ve certainly all heard the horror stories of those who are unable to find work, and with more of us saddled by burgeoning costs associated with debt and underemployment, it’s become more critical than ever to hone the skills necessary for landing that first job.
I have never gone more than a month since my junior year of college without doing some kind of work in public relations and marketing. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant-by my own account, it’s been fortuitous mix of circumstance and my inability to sit on my butt doing nothing (seriously, idleness freaks me out). But, right place right time aside, there’s a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way that I’d love to share in the hopes that it might be of use to those of you who are dealing with the post-grad worries!
1. Know Your Value
I cannot stress this enough. Too often, we undersell ourselves, out of fear of appearing narcissistic/greedy, or because we are suffering from a bit of imposter syndrome and don’t fully realize our own potential. Before you start your job hunt, use a free tool like Payscale to research comparable salaries- and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Even if you aren’t offered the higher end of the sliding scale, you have the freedom and the right to negotiate for what you deserve. It’s hard not to feel intimidated, but I learned this the hard way- if you don’t or won’t stick up for yourself when accepting an offer, you will get taken advantage of, and could end up being paid way less than your peers in the same field, for the same work.
2. Learn What Social Media Is (And Isn’t) Good For
That “finstagram” you used to share risky photos from those nights you couldn’t quite remember- I bet it was funny at first, but it won’t be when you enter the professional world. Delete it. Even if it’s private, even if you don’t think it’s “that bad”, if your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook don’t represent a personal brand you’d necessarily want being floated around prospective employers, it’s time to make a sea change in how you conduct yourself online.
I don’t say this to be the annoying mom friend. I used to be the biggest culprit! Off-color memes, suggestive Instagram selfies, and questionable drunk tweets littered my social media footprint. Sure, I was a young person without a lot of guidance seeking some sort of external validation, and though I can relate in that way to a lot of other girls, I’m glad I pulled it together when I did. Additionally, having a legible, polished LinkedIn account helps so much in terms of networking. Mine is a work in progress as I work to update information about my current role, but I can say it’s helped me make more than a few valuable professional connections I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
3. Do Your Research
Much in the same way that it’s important to look into average salaries in order to better communicate your value, it’s also key to do some digging on a prospective employer before hitting send on your application. One part of it (specifically relating to the public relations and marketing field) is that unfortunately, there are a few shady characters that troll job sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn waiting to lure in naive graduates by misrepresenting job duties and interview details. If you look them up beforehand, you mitigate the risk of wasting your time on a bogus interview, or worse, getting sucked into a direct sales scheme (I cannot tell you the number of “offers” I’ve gotten that turned out this way).
On a more positive note, researching a legitimate employer enables you to discover hiring trends, salary history, company reviews, and background information that can help you ace an interview and impress the hiring team with your familiarity of the industry. If you can also prioritize what matters, you can compare that against any employer. Do they offer paid family leave? 401k matching? What’s the company culture like, and what are people saying about the CEO?
4. Personal Touches Matter
In today’s digital age, it’s so easy to rapid fire shoot off your resume to 20 different companies in the time it takes to heat up a Hot Pocket in the microwave (that’s about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, for those of you wondering, and don’t even think about asking why I’ve stored that factoid). The ease and convenience of the internet is great, but it doesn’t replace the positive impression given by a courteous email addressed directly to a hiring manager, or a physical thank-you note after an interview. Remember to leverage the internet judiciously when it comes to the job search, understanding that it may not be the best approach in every situation. Think of it like this: what can you do to stand out from the crowd in a positive way?
5. Don’t Expect Opportunities To Come To You
At least 60 percent of all jobs go unadvertised online. While it’s certainly true that some opportunities fall into place at the right time, as I’ve occasionally experienced, I’ve also found tremendous success from employers who aren’t publishing openings on the internet. Whether it’s an alumni referral, networking event, or simply just sending your resume to a company you admire, even if you don’t see an opening listed-you just never know what doors can be opened by showing a little initiative.
In short, recent graduates often make mistakes, based on anxiety and inexperience, that greatly obstruct their chances for success later on down the road. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot so early in your career- take a moment to center yourself, and remember that you are the one with the power when it comes to the job search, and not every employer deserves your talent!
Keep it real,