Every college graduate (or soon-to-be graduate) dreams of making a big splash in the workforce.
It doesn’t always work out that way. It’s likelier than not that you won’t love your first job, nor that you’ll remain in said job for the rest of your career.
Still, when graduates set realistic expectations and define their “ideal” first job appropriately, they’re apt to begin their careers off on the right foot. This is more common than ever these days, thanks to a tight labor market that favors job-seekers.
What should you do to get your own career off on the right foot? These tactics have worked well for past grads.
- Get Serious About Interview Prep
Prep for your interviews like you’ve never prepped before. Review this list of tips to prepare for your first round of job interviews and practice working them into your routine. This is your moment to shine.
- Never Stop Networking
A job posting is often just a formality. The employer has a list of finalists ready to go well before the position appears online, usually due to aggressive networking by job-seekers.
“The best jobs come through the grapevine,” says Centre for Arts & Technology instructor Deborah Lampitt-McConnachie. “You need to get yourself in a position where you are hearing about the jobs before they are even advertised.”
- Don’t Bother Interviewing With Companies That Aren’t a Good Culture Fit
Before you apply for a job, ask yourself: Can I see myself working at this company for the next five years?
If the company’s culture prevents you from seeing yourself in a role there, don’t bother applying. You shouldn’t risk landing a job you don’t really want.
- Pursue Your Passion (But Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for What You’re Worth)
Don’t apply for jobs that don’t trigger your passion, either, even if they don’t pay as much as the alternatives. If you know the exact words to use when negotiating a higher salary, you shouldn’t have trouble maximizing your earning potential.
- Be Persistent
Eventually, you may have to take “no” for an answer. But don’t let potential employers off easily. Follow up by phone and email until you get a definitive response, one way or another.
- Be Willing to Work Your Way Up
Let’s face it. There’s a good chance your first job out of college won’t be your dream job. On the bright side, it’s also unlikely to be the only job you ever hold. Make clear during interviews (and on the job, if you get it) that you’re willing to work harder than the next person.
Your Big Break Could Come Sooner Than You Think
Who said you had to wait until mid-career (or later) for your professional breakthrough? These days, your big break is just as likely to come in your first or second job.
Of course, this raises the stakes for recent college graduates looking to begin their careers on the right track. But it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world if and when you fail to land your dream job right out of college. While you might not have all the time in the world — no one does — you may not be as far as you think from achieving the professional success you’ve always known was possible.