To all those recent graduates… i.e. anyone who graduated in the last four weeks, this post is for you!
When I graduated from Bucknell last year, I walked across the stage in my cap and gown without a clue in the world where I was headed. I did not have a job offer and was not entirely sure what I wanted to do. I had a couple ideas of what industries I thought would be a good fit, but other than that I really did not have any answers. At that moment, I had an interview the next morning at 8am, which I was hopeful would put a stop to all those overwhelming questions that were swirling around my head. Unfortunately, I did not get that job. And as it turns out, the company ended up not hiring anyone and changed the position entirely. So that left me as an unemployed college graduate living at home without any true sense of direction.
It took me about 3 1/2 months to find my current job and in that time I definitely learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to the job search. Recently I volunteered with my company’s millennial group to provide resume and job search advice to current seniors in college. The event was great and I feel like I really helped the students I met with. And I realized that others aka you guys may be interested in my job search tips!
1. Keep track of EVERYTHING
If you take one piece of advice from this post it better be this…make an excel sheet. Sounds simple right, but I am telling you this is hands down the best thing I did while looking for a job. It is simple, but effective. Make an excel sheet to keep track of every single job you apply for. Include columns for the company, date applied, position title, date you heard back from HR, date you followed up, etc. This will keep you organized because if your search is anything like mine, you will end up applying to 150-200+ positions.
2. Indeed/Glassdoor/LinkedIn are your new best friend
I LOVE Indeed.com. It was hands down my favorite search engine while looking for a position. It started to recognize my search preferences and tailored the results and searches more specifically over time. Glassdoor is also great in understanding the industry/company you are looking to work for since it has tons of research and stats. I cannot tell you how many different people I looked up on LinkedIn over that summer of unemployment. It is a great way to compare your experience to people who have the job you want. It also made me realize that there are tons of jobs you have probably never even heard of that could be a perfect fit.
3. Understand the industry
Every industry is different and has varying terms for the hierarchy of positions. Ex: At my company an Associate is one step up from an assistant, while in my friend Toni’s recruiter company an Associate is one of the top roles. When you are applying for jobs it helps to know the title of the entry level positions which will make your searches much more effective.
4. Different resumes/cover letters
Going off the last tip, every industry is different and values different experiences/skills in their applicants. Create several resumes and cover letters that best reflect that industry/company. It takes more time, but is so incredibly important when applying for jobs.
5. Look at companies you love as a consumer
This is a slightly different tip but explains how I found my current job. I started to think about products that I, as a consumer, love to use. Instead of going through Indeed/LinkedIn/Glassdoor, I went directly to those companies career pages. You will quickly realize how many brands are under one company (ex: The Estee Lauder Companies includes Estee Lauder, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Tom Ford etc.) There are tons of different departments in larger brands from finance to marketing to pr. You may discover positions that are a perfect fit in a department you didn’t even think about a company having. Research brands you love and you will be surprised to see what opportunities they have available!
6. Be open to different departments/industries
When I was volunteering, one of the girls I met with was fixated on working in Digital Marketing (the field I currently work in). She was asking how I got into this role and I explained to her that my resume does not reflect Digital Marketing exactly. I interned at a PR firm, a fashion magazine, and participated in countless extracurriculars that covered writing and social media. Individually these activities do not = Digital Marketing, however many of the skills overlapped and are very useful in my current role. I reminded her not to get caught up in the title of a job, because honestly you won’t fully understand the role until you are actually in it. Be open to different opportunities and do not limit yourself by only looking for that one key phrase, because at the end of the day you are only hurting yourself.
7. Stay in touch with HR
I had a couple different interviews at a company I really liked as a consumer. The first interview I went in for was much more informational and a great way to understand the entry level positions that I was qualified for/matched my interests. However at the time they did not have anything available. Although I left without a job offer or a follow up interview, I stayed in touch with that recruiter and emailed with him continuously throughout the summer. Always send thank you emails and handwritten thank you notes (it sets you apart from the other candidates and shows that you are serious about the job!). Putting in this extra energy will keep you fresh in their minds and could result in a great position!
8. Network, Network, Network
Okay so I know we all hate the word networking, oh wait…maybe that is just me? But don’t think of it as networking, but instead bending the ear of an industry professional. One of the best things I did last summer was speak to friends of my parents/extended family who worked in the industries I was interested in. I spoke to a VP at a beauty company, CEO of a PR agency, a Director who worked at several successful PR firms, a Director of Communications at a luxury company, and a SVP of an incredible non profit. Although they did not work in HR or know of any available job opportunities they provided TONS of helpful advice. Also, you won’t believe how small this world is, the SVP of the non profit actually comes to my current office building several times a week because a member of her board works at Estee Lauder! Most people remember when they were a post graduate looking for a job and are more than happy to talk about their experiences and lend some advice. You never know where it could lead, so take the time to reach out!
9. Don’t forget about recent alumni
While I was job searching, I saw an open position at a fashion brand where I knew an older sorority sister from Bucknell was currently working. I immediately emailed her and asked about the job and told her I was applying. She was ecstatic and passed along my resume. As it turns out they ended up not needing that position filled until a month or two after I started working at Estee Lauder. Regardless, I was so appreciative of her help and realized that even though she was only two years ahead of me, she had tons of connections and helpful advice. Do not forget about your friends from college who are only a few years out, they can end up being just as/if not more helpful than higher ups at companies. Now I have friends who are still in college or recent graduates asking me for job advice…everything comes full circle!
10. Take a break
I am not going to lie to you, last summer I was going a bit stir-crazy living at home and applying for tons of jobs every day. It was incredibly frustrating and overwhelming. As a result, I realized that I needed to take a break sometimes. So take a break!!! No seriously, it is okay to apply for a few jobs one morning than go outside to read a book or head to the beach. It is seriously the only way to stay sane in that state of limbo/unknown. If your parents wonder why you are going out instead of doing job applications show them your excel sheet of all those positions you applied for (see it comes in handy in more ways than one!). Remember to cut yourself some slack every now and again and take some time to relax, because honestly once you start working you won’t have nearly this much free time.
11. Go with your gut
Company culture is incredibly important when looking for a job. When you go in for an interview take a look around. Do the other employees seem friendly and happy to be at work? Do you hear conversations about work but also ones about their past weekend or upcoming baby shower? It may seem insignificant, but trust me it is not. I interviewed at a company and throughout the interview I just felt like something was off. I still cannot explain it to this day, but I felt this underlying tension amongst the employees and got the impression that they worked absolutely crazy hours with little pay off. I also felt like I was more prepared for the interview than the interviewer was…not good! When I got home I researched the company and discovered that many former employees had written on message boards about the insane hours and little pay they received and how it was definitely not worth it to work there. My gut was right. You have to trust yourself and be willing to walk away from an opportunity that will not serve you well.
12. Don’t automatically accept your first offer
I received a job offer in June to work for a company in Columbus, Ohio. I had only been out of college for about four weeks and was already going a little nuts being at home so I was afraid to say no to this opportunity. I didn’t think it was something I wanted to do in the long term and it was not going to help me reach the career I wanted, but I was scared nothing better would come along. Thankfully my Dad (whose opinion means more to me than he will probably ever know) told me to turn it down. He knew that this position was not going to advance my career, it was in a city that I did not desire to live in (even though I have cousins there), and he had faith in me that I was qualified enough to find something better for me. Although I cried during that phone call, scared that I would not ever find a job that fit me, I knew deep down that he was right. And I was incredibly thankful that my parents were patient with me. They somehow knew that I would find something better, and allowed me to keep searching and living at home instead of just pushing me out of their house.
I hope these tips help those of you out there who are still looking for the right position. Finding a job takes a lot of time and patience. It is certainly not an easy task, but in the end always has a funny way of working out!