You have spent many years working towards your qualifications, and now it is time to put all your hard work to the test. No more eating breakfast at lunchtime. No more burning the midnight oil cramming for exams. It is time to step out into the big wide world to make your mark.
But what do you actually do when the world is in turmoil? The unemployment rates are through the roof. Experienced professionals are laid off, and well-paid jobs for recent graduates are scarce.
First — take a deep breath to calm down. Then browse some “emergency” advice for recent graduates that we lined up based on the current state of affairs.
1. Break Down Your Degree into Market-Ready Skills
Formal education leaves you full of valuable knowledge. But oftentimes, new grads struggle to articulate their coursework in terms of market-ready skills. Especially, as they work on writing the first resume.
Compare these two entries for a sample combination resume for college grads in Business Management:
|Standard Resume Summary||Market-Ready Resume Summary|
|Recent graduate with a BA in Business Management from Worcestershire College. Major in Business Administration. Minor in marketing. GPA: 3.5. Part-time TA and Debate Club captain.||Motivated entry-level market analyst, well-versed in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, business process optimization, and with a high level of digital literacy. An analytic thinker with good problem-solving and presentation skills.|
Sounds like two different people, right?
But it’s just another way of “packaging” your expertise for a prospective employer. Rather than reciting the educational background, highlight specific skills and competencies a potential employer thinks.
If you are struggling to identify such, browse job descriptions in your industry. Pay attention to the “keywords” managers use to describe requirements for candidates. Then, read up on the days-to-days of working in such a role. Finally, analyze your hard and soft skills, and place the most relevant ones atop of your resume.
Read more about writing a compelling resume summary for your resume.
2. Gauge the Current Market Demand
Industries evolve at a breakneck speed at the moment, especially when it comes to digitalization. University coursework doesn’t always “catch up” with such changes. This is not to say that your knowledge is “dated”. It’s not! Though, you may have certain gaps in more niche skills.
So take a look at the current list of in-demand skills among employers. Noticing some overlaps? Great! Feel that you are missing experience with certain software or another type of hard skill? Do some catch-up!
Do a quick online course on one of the popular e-learning platforms. Complete an industry-recognized certification or attend a virtual workshop. Then add a mention to your resume. There’s plenty of free (or super affordable) options!
For example, as a recent marketing grad, to increase your appeal to employers you can:
- Complete one (or several) marketing certifications with HubSpot
- Tune in for a Coursera course in content marketing
- Increase your analytics acumen by completing a Google Academy course
3. Research Different Employers
If you are targeting a specific company that you want to work for, it really does help to do your homework.
The more background research you do on the company before you apply for a job with them the better! This way you can get a feel for the company, how they operate, the company culture, their favorite buzzwords, and the language they use.
- Read up reviews and interview tips shared by current and former employees on Glassdoor
- Follow the company on LinkedIn and see if you have a “shared connection” there to reach out to.
- Read on the company’s recent news, thought leadership, and announcements. High chances are they’d be also sharing available jobs for recent college grads.
- Consider reaching out to someone in the department you’d like to join on LinkedIn to ask for some mentoring (or just a few quick words about their experience with the employer).
Having such “insider” knowledge will make your job application feel much more natural because you will be in-tune with their company ethos and the way they communicate.
4. Chart Your Career Path
When you are fresh out of school, it may seem that the world’s your oyster. There are so many things you’d like to try doing! (And people actually ready to pay you for that!). But don’t lose sight of the big picture — the ultimate job you’d like to hold one day.
Some of the roles may add-up to it. Others might delay (or derail) your route towards that coveted job. So take the time to map out your desired career path. This timeline of sorts should include an overview of your aspirations, skills, experiences, interest, and values, plus a preliminary roadmap of how you can hone them in different roles.
Also, it’s perfectly okay if you aren’t sure “who you want to be when you grow up”. As Emilie Wapnick says in her TED talk on why some of us don’t have one true calling:
You can do and be many things and still thrive professionally…It’s OK to be a complex, multifaceted person who doesn’t fit neatly in one box. In fact, it’s actually a lot of fun.
5. Craft a Flexible Cover Letter
The popular advice for graduates tells that a generic cover letter won’t get you far in your job search.
We must disagree. Since you’d probably have to file quite a few cover letters (think a dozen or more) to score a job, it’s nice to have a template you can always refer to.
A basic cover letter for recent graduates should include:
- A pre-written introductory paragraph, personalized for each job.
- Body (2 paragraphs long) with pre-written sections about your core competencies and market skills.
- Closing with a call-to-action.
Check the following resources for more cover letter writing tips:
- How to write a killer cover letter
- The top 12 cover letter examples for different industries
- The only cover letter example you’ll need to land an internship
Final tip: Your cover letter is a chance to let your personality shine through. Yes, you must tailor the content of your letter to suit the requirements of the job description, but you can inject a little of your own personal brand into your letter so the reader will see the person behind the paper.
6. Sell Yourself, Not Just Your Qualification
You may think your degree is your most important qualification, but not all recruiters will agree. Apart from core competencies, most employers are assessing if the candidate would be a good fit for the company environment.
Let your recruiters see some of your personality by highlighting your soft skills — those traits and personal attributes that make you stand out among others. Mention skills such as your ability to meet deadlines, your great presentation skills, your ability to work as part of a team to deliver results and cooperate with others to solve problems.
Need more ideas? Browse these posts for examples:
- Interpersonal skills to list on your resume
- Leadership skills to highlight on your resume
- Resume-worthy analytical skills
7. Gain Some Experience, One Way Or Another
Sometimes the best jobs for recent college graduates are also the underpaid, lowest level ones. That might seem discouraging at times like now. Especially, if you took out significant loans to pay for your education. But there’s the silver lining too.
First of all, many companies offer paid internships and graduate work experience opportunities. Yes, these may be more competitive. But is a well-written recent graduate resume and a compelling cover letter, you have what it takes to score one! Also, apart from auto-applying for all relevant jobs published online, try the backdoor. Network with the company recruiting office (or department heads) on LinkedIn, attend some of their virtual events, get on their hiring radar!
Then, consider freelancing. As most businesses switched to remote operations, a lot are willing to hire freelancers for project-based, part-time, or even full-time jobs. The best part? You don’t need to present a full job application each time, but rather describe your abilities to complete the job at hand. By having a side-hustle, you can acquire a ton of first-hand experience, get a glimpse into companies’ inner works, build up your portfolio and make some industry contacts that can result in full-time employment.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong with working an unrelated part-time job while also doubling as an unpaid intern. There’s a number of well-paid part-time jobs that can help you fund your lifestyle while you job hunt. Also, such gigs can help you obtain some well-valued transferable skills.
Make A Start
Doing something constructive with your time is better than doing nothing, especially if you are not sure exactly what you want to do with your degree. Don’t worry that everyone around you seems to have it all sorted out – they don’t! Chances are that they are feeling just as overwhelmed as you are right now!
The best place to start is with a solid foundation to build your efforts upon. This means putting together an outstanding resume that perfectly highlights all of your achievements, soft and hard skills. Building your resume will also act to remind you just how amazing you are and how lucky your future employer will be to have you!