As you begin your Senior year of college, you are now in the home stretch of what has likely been 16+ years of continuous schooling. Plenty of college Seniors use this as a year to get caught up on extracurriculars, partying and, in general, just taking life easy in the final year victory lap.
But Senior year is the key bridge year between your schooling and what comes next in life. This is the year that will determine how you start life after college. This is the time when you can literally make or break your future career. Lay back and wait for something to happen and it probably won’t. You need to go out and find it. Your college diploma does not come with a job offer attached.
There are 9 things you will need to do to find an entry level job after graduation:
1. Get focused
If you haven’t already, it's time to finally answer that question: "What do you plan to do for work after graduation?" For some, the answer will be simple. They have completed multiple internships and targeted their focus on what type of work (and where) they will pursue after graduation. If you are still trying to find yourself in the world of work, it's time to visit Career Services. Take the testing (aptitude, personality, interests and values) to align with potential careers and get counseling to help you understand the results. Then research further to make sure you have the necessary skills and requirements for entry level jobs in your field. You should be able to narrow your objective by job type, industry and/or geography to be targeted and focused.
2. Write your resume
Now that you have your objective defined, your resume will be much easier to write. If you are looking for a top-notch (and free) format to use, check out our Quickstart Resume Generator and Templates, with resumes for more than 30 different majors from Accounting to Zoology. Simply drop in your objective, then drop in your content for education and experience. And it's not too late to gain more work experience during your final year to further enhance your resume or fill in any potential gaps.
3. Get registered
Find out how the campus events, job fairs and campus interviews are managed on your campus, then get registered. It may be through the Career Services office or through your major. You typically will need to have your completed resume in hand, which you should have already accomplished in the prior step. Make sure you are registered to receive all of the notifications for upcoming campus events and interviews.
4. Mock interview
Before you attend any campus events or interviews, get prepped for the interview. Take time to review standard interview questions to be prepped for the questions that you will be facing. But it's not enough to do this as a mental-only exercise. You need to actually practice interviewing, ideally with a video of your performance for later review. You may be able to find this option on campus through the Career Services office or through your major or through the student chapter of a professional association.
5. Attend campus events
Employers will be coming for exploratory events at the beginning of the year in preparation for on-campus interviews later. These can include employer talks as well as forums and presentations on a variety of topics, usually related to your major. There will also be job fairs for you to attend throughout the year. Attend as many of these campus events as possible. And remember that each encounter with an employer representative is an interview, no matter how long or how short. They are assessing you. You are making an impression, good or bad. So prep in advance for each employer to make sure you are well versed on the employer and can ask appropriate questions.
6. Expand your horizons
Go above and beyond your school to tap the full job market, not just those employers who are coming to campus. Review entry level job postings at CollegeGrad.com to find jobs which match your needs, but whose employers may not visit your campus. Take a look at our Top Entry Level Employers listing to find the largest employers of entry level talent. Be willing to open up geography to include more potential employers. And network, network, network. Tap into your professional and personal network. Why? Because employee referrals are typically the #1 source of hiring at most employers. If you are connected to someone at a target employer, they can refer you internally, which provides you with a better introduction than the typical cursory resume review.
This includes both on-campus interviews and company-site interviews. Some employers will make their decisions based solely on the on-campus interview, while others require a second (or third, etc.) interview at the company site. If you have made direct contact with an employer which is not coming to your campus, your first interview will be company-site. Make sure you understand how to behaviorally interview, presenting your answers in S-T-A-R format. Use examples giving the Situation or Task, the Action you took and the Results achieved. Make sure you know how to bridge from standard interview questions to highlight key areas of your education and work experience.
If you are doing well in your interviewing, you will have multiple employers vying to hire you. You need to fully understand the employer benefits being offered (yes, after they show interest, now is the time to explore benefits) and all the components of a potential offer. When the "What salary are you seeking?" question comes up, you should always respond: "I am interested and ready to consider your best offer." They may push you to get you to provide a range, in which case you need to know the starting salary range for your major. Do your research and talk to your academic and career advisors for guidance. If you're not sure, you can turn the question around with: "What is the standard range you offer new graduates?"
9. Accept the offer
I know what you're thinking, this step seems easy, right? Actually, if you have multiple offers, it can be one of the most difficult steps. And even if you only have one offer, you are accepting against the potential opportunity of other offers which may not have been made yet (and may or may not be made in the future). So now it sounds a little bit more like a game of chance, right? It doesn't have to be. Make a simple T chart, listing all of the positives on the left and the negatives on the right for each potential offer, if you have multiples. Do independent research to find out how current employees view the employer. Don't just take the recruiter's sales pitch as fact. Do your homework. And if you have only one offer, now is the time to call in all other pending opportunities. Try to get them to make a decision one way or another before your first offer expires. If that's not possible, it's always permissible to ask for an extension on the time to respond to the offer. And, in the end, make your commitment and stick with it. P.S. Yes, now you can party…
If you follow through on all of the 9 steps above, you will be well on your way toward starting your new life after college. For help with any of the steps above, please review the career and job search information available to you for free at CollegeGrad.com. Happy hunting!