5 Secrets To Getting A Job After College

Rutgers University released a report recently indicating that college graduates were having a hard time finding a job post-graduation.

And those students who are indeed lucky enough to land a job after college are being paid significantly less to do work that doesn’t even come close to matching their skill set level.

Surprised?  Probably not…it seems that a lot of Americans these days are struggling to find employment.

Yet and still a lot of college graduates believe that rushing off to graduate school after undergrad is the key to landing a job, despite the downside of racking up more and more student loan debt.

But, is obtaining advanced degrees really the secret to obtaining a job after college?  Maybe for some students, but not necessarily…

In this post, I’ll discuss 5 secrets to getting a job after college:

  • Secret #1 – Select Your College Major Wisely

Recent studies conducted by Manpower found that 1/3 of employers are having a hard time finding qualified job candidates to fill their open positions.  How’s it possible for so many college graduates to be seeking employment, but employers still can’t find the talent they’re looking for?  Well I’ll tell you…It’s because students are not selecting their college majors wisely.

Students who choose to study education, business, engineering, or nursing are more likely to find jobs that align with their college degree, than those students who majored in communications or humanities for example.  According to Manpower, many employers believe that the education system fails to get kids interested in what the economy really needs.

ManpowerGroup President, Jonas Prising believes it’s not that college graduates don’t have skills; it’s just that they have the wrong ones.  He stated the following,

“Liberal arts skills are in over-supply, and that’s an education issue.  Being a college graduate doesn’t mean you’re work-ready”

So how can college grads become “work-ready”?  Well, you have to select your major wisely.  You have to be strategic about evaluating your interests AND the current needs of the economy if you want to get a job after graduation.

I’ve used this example before, but I’ll use it again here because I think it really gets the point across…if you love art (painting, sculptures, drawing, cartoons, etc.), then you should consider becoming an art teacher.  This is an excellent example of combining your interests with the needs of the economy.  Try applying this methodology to your own life.

  • Secret #2 – Take Your Classes Seriously

Competition for jobs these days is fierce, so you have to be able to compete with the best of the best.  One thing that will help you stand out is your GPA.  When employers are reviewing piles of resumes, one way to quickly differentiate candidates is by their GPA…so make sure yours is high.

How well you performed in the classroom is an indicator of many things, including your work ethic and your ability to quickly grasp concepts.  So the next time you think about skipping class or not studying for an exam, remember that your future is at stake!

  • Secret #3 – Build Your Resume

Given the excess supply of candidates in the current job market, employers can afford to be picky and look for candidates who have the complete package.  What does the “complete package” mean?  Essentially it means that you have a comprehensive resume that screams to employers: I am the best person for the job, hands down!

How can you get that kind of resume?  You should use your major as the baseline and then build around that.  Let’s use Accounting majors as an example.  If you are an Accounting major, here are some questions that you should be asking yourself:

  • What Accounting related clubs or organizations are on campus?
  • What business fraternities are on campus?
  • What business related volunteer activities exist on campus or in the community that could give me exposure to individuals in the field that I am pursuing?
  • Are there any business-related part-time jobs on campus that will give me some real world experience in the field prior to graduation?
  • Am I on track academically to get the proper certification (CPA certification) post graduation?

If you’re not an Accounting major, don’t sweat it!  Just take the questions above and tailor them to whatever profession you’re pursuing.

If you add all of the extracurricular and volunteer activities that you participated in during college, along with your related work experience, combined with a high GPA, you’ll have a good shot at keeping your resume near the top of the recruiting pile.

  • Secret #4 – Learn How To Network

It’s not always what you know, but who you know that will get you that job after college.  It’s a cliché saying, but it’s TRUE!  You should actively (this means you really have to put in effort) seek out contacts in your desired profession during college.

If you join a club or organization related to your desired profession, then that should make the networking process a little easier.  Typically clubs or organizations will host events that allow students to meet with prospective employers.

Also, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.  If your parents or someone else you know is friends with someone in the field you’re interested in, then don’t be afraid to ask for their contact information.  Any additional leg up that you can give yourself against the competition is a plus.

  • Secret #5 – Get An Internship

I saved the best for last…internships are the absolute best way to get a job after college.  All of the things we previously discussed will also help you get an internship – GPA, extracurricular involvement, and the contacts you made through networking.

How do you get an internship?  It varies.  There will likely be internship positions posted around campus or you can look on popular websites like CareerBuilder and Monster.  If this doesn’t work, try reaching out to your contacts: professors, other professionals in the field, friends, family members, etc.

Sometimes you’ll find out about these internship opportunities by chance just by being at the right place at the right time or just by knowing the right people.  But there’s one thing for sure, the more you expose yourself and your career goals, the higher your chances will be at landing an internship.

Why are internships the best way to get a job after college?  Because, if you perform well, there’s a good chance they’ll offer you a full-time entry-level position for after graduation.  How cool is that!  You’ll have a job already lined up before you even walk across the stage!

Final Thoughts…

The key to this whole process is that you cannot wait until after you graduate to start thinking about where you’ll work after graduation.  With the process I laid out for you above, you’ll be taking the necessary steps during college to give yourself the best chance for success after college.

Good luck, I know you can do it!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

8 Responses to “5 Secrets To Getting A Job After College”

  • This is a wonderful list for new freshmen. I wonder what a list would look like for juniors or even seniors? Is it already too late if they hadn’t or couldn’t followed these steps?

    • TheCollegeHelper

      Ideally, students should start working on this list freshman year, however I don’t think it’s too late for juniors or even seniors to start following the steps listed in this article. All of these tips can be applied no matter where you are in your academic career. Thanks for your comment!

  • Havana Nguyen on August 1, 2011

    Augh, I’m sorry but students who choose certain degrees that don’t excite them are boring and UNHAPPY. I used to be a marketing major and I couldn’t stand being around so many people who were in the business building just because they thought “it would make them money.” They’re devoid of enthusiasm and color, they’re not very innovative, and most of the time, their grades suffer because the subject doesn’t thrill them.

    I’m an International Affairs major– I have no intention of working in diplomacy or politics but I was genuinely fascinated by the subject. It kept me INTERESTED and excited about school. So many folks in the business building would drop out or skip classes. I would attend my classes even if I was sick!

    The problem with education in preparing us for the “real world” is that it DOESN’T teach us valuable skills like networking and all that. I had to find the initiative to venture forth and explore. I was not business-minded when I first started college but upon reading blogs, memoirs from entrepreneurs, artists who made it big, etc., I found the courage to try developing a freelance design business. And for two years, I juggled my courseload with this successful business. It taught me lots of skills FAST. Sales, marketing, design, web design, networking, social media marketing, promotion, partnering with other creatives and businesses, managing people, consulting clients– I think schools should always encourage students to EXPLORE during those years and grow the balls to try out new things, whether it’s freelancing or extracirriculars, etc. You CAN teach networking. You CAN teach sales. You CAN go into a major that you love AND learn the skills to climb up in the real world. I had to learn on my own how to be relentless resourceful. If schools only did that, I think students would be better equipped to succeed.

    • TheCollegeHelper

      Hi Havana,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I think students can really benefit and become motivated to explore other non-traditional opportunities based on the information you provided. I welcome your feedback on other posts as well!

  • Angela on April 3, 2012

    I agree with Havana. I will be graduating soon with a degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology. I did not choose this path because it was “what the economy needs,” I chose it because it was something I had a passion for. I knew that I might never make six figures, but being hungry for money and possessions is what is wrong with society anyways. I have a firmer grasp of reality and know the truth of what is actually important in life.
    As far as getting that job out of college goes well, I applied to jobs all over the country and would search multiple job search engines daily. I must have applied to over 150 jobs, but having taken a statistics class, I knew that the odds were in my favor. It turns out that the hiring manager at one of the jobs I applied to knew one of my professors that I used as a reference. I was in from the first conversation we had, and before I knew it, they booked my flight to come to the city, meet the fellow employees, and look at houses for when I finish school in a few weeks.
    Ok, so it might not be my dream job, but it will be a great stepping stone in my career so that I can build my resume. Who knows, I might absolutely love it and never want another job. But my advice is to keep an open mind, be flexible, and be persistent when applying to jobs.

    • TheCollegeHelper

      TheCollegeHelper on April 4, 2012

      Hi Angela – Congrats on your success thus far and good luck with your new position! I welcome your feedback on other posts as well.

  • Although nowadays, internships don’t generally lead to jobs at the same company, it does help to add experience to the top of your resume, which will help you differentiate with employers that scan resumes.

    • TheCollegeHelper

      TheCollegeHelper on April 30, 2013

      Really? I still know of companies who offer full-time positions to interns who perform well. However my perception might be a bit skewed since my background is in accounting. Thanks for the comment!

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