As you finish your college degree and move into the global workforce, you’re faced with a lot of opportunities—but sometimes, that wide open landscape ahead can feel overwhelming to tackle. Landing your dream job won’t always happen right away, but there are ways you can prepare and work towards your end goal. For those who are just getting started or about to graduate, here are seven helpful tips to guide your search.
1. Update your resume and personal website or portfolio.
While this might seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how far having an up-to-date and relevant resume can get you. Depending on your focus industry, you may need to add a digital portfolio or personal website to accompany your resume and showcase your skills.
If you’re fresh out of college, it can be difficult to craft a full resume with limited experience. Don’t stress—it’s totally possible to create a compelling snapshot of your abilities, even without an extensive work history. Focus on building an insightful summary of what you have to offer, accompanying it with academic accomplishments, volunteer work, extracurricular activities or certifications.
2. Create an application game plan with SMART goals.
We’re not saying it’s totally impossible to land on your dream job without a plan, but it helps to put goals in place to keep you motivated. Set goals for yourself that keep you accountable and keep you searching, even if things aren’t going your way yet.
The SMART goal framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) can help set you up for success. Instead of saying, “My goal is to apply to a lot of advertising internships,” you should instead develop goals like, “I want to reach out to five ad agency recruiters each month with my full portfolio and follow up twice for additional conversation.” While these two sentences may appear to achieve the same outcomes, the second gives you a clear path to follow and benchmark yourself against.
3. Connect with recruiters via LinkedIn.
Even though LinkedIn may not be as fun as TikTok or Instagram, it does carry a lot of weight in the professional world. If you’re struggling to connect with recruiters on LinkedIn or aren’t ready to use their networking tools, here’s a quick hack: look for people who recently accepted a job offer in your industry! More often than not, they’ll thank the recruiter or team members who interviewed them in a post. Try to connect with those individuals and see if they are hiring any other positions that would fit your expertise.
4. Review your personal network for connections.
Whether it’s on LinkedIn or IRL, your personal network is always a good place to start. Consider speaking to your classmates or professors at school—do they have connections to the companies you want to work for? More often than not, the best hires at a company come from referrals, and some companies even offer bonuses to employees who refer people to work there! Scope out your own network and try to find individuals who may benefit from passing your name along. If you get hired, it’s a win-win for everyone!
5. Sign up for online and local networking events.
If your personal network isn’t cutting it, networking events are a great place to connect with potential colleagues and industry leaders. If going to a full conference room sounds intimidating, consider signing up for a virtual networking event. Finding the right event for you may take some work, but between event pages, Facebook and local postings, you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for.
6. Don’t be afraid to try out-of-the-box ideas.
If you’re trying to get hired at a company that often has hundreds, if not thousands of applicants, it’s important to stand out. Don’t forget the power of being different—and being yourself. If you’re interested in becoming a social media manager, why not try to go viral and get the company’s attention? If you’re hoping to become a writer, start posting and publishing your work through a well-known platform. Being yourself will always work to your advantage!
7. Build your mentor system.
As you move into the workforce, you’ll want to have good mentors by your side and it’s never too early to find them. While academic mentors can provide value, try to find individuals working in the industry you’re pursuing. Their perspective, advice, connections and support will be invaluable as you move forward in your career.
In a Harvard Business Review study, two groups of individuals were surveyed against each other over time. The first group had strong mentors in their career while the second did not. The report shared that, “the most telling difference between these two groups of executives, however, is in the evaluation of their own satisfaction. Half of the executives who have had a mentor report very high satisfaction with their career progress, whereas only 4 in 10 of those who have not had a mentor are as satisfied.”
Remember, finding a new job doesn’t have to be a process you do alone—set your goals and work with your network, friends, mentors and new connections to get there. Good luck out there!