How to Successfully Land a Job After College

I've thought about writing this highly requested post for a while, and I had not previously bitten the bullet and done it for many reasons: One, I didn't graduate with a job lined up. I took the summer off to travel and really think about what I wanted for myself. Two, I probably applied for over 100 jobs before getting hired somewhere. Three, I have quit blogging. Well, I guess if this is going to get published, I haven't quit blogging (an explanation for all of this might have to come in another post...) Four, I was making so many mistakes during the job application process–– now that I am on the other side of it and I help manage posting job descriptions and filter through resumes, I realize that. But now that the realization has come and I can see what I should have done, I can share that with you guys!

First, though, I am going to share what I went through when finding a job. I'm not going to sugar coat it because the process was rough. Not because I was underqualified, but because I didn't know what I was doing since I had never looked for a real job before. If you don't want to read my story, scroll down.

My Story

I began applying for jobs December of my senior year. I looked on mostly LinkedIn, filling out applications during free time and when I was bored in class, I would aggressively work on my resume/cover letters. I was applying to probably 20 jobs a week, even if it was something that did not completely interest me. I took my resume to my academic advisor who looked at it once, and despite my pretty good GPA of 3.5 and the A that I had in her class, told me that my best choice was going to Morocco and teach English because I didn't know what I wanted to do. She hated that I didn't have a set path, and she thought that would lead me to failure. I hated my advisor to begin with but that really sealed the deal. Her comment made me want to try even harder–– no teacher should tell a kid (no matter how good/bad their GPA) that they won't get hired anywhere just because they are lost.

As graduation rolled around, I had no clue where I wanted to move and I had no clue what I really wanted still. I did not want to settle for anything, so I held off and let it go. I took my three week trip to Africa in attempt to clear my head, and when I got home in June, I gave myself until August 1 before I had to find a job or move out of Savannah. I had a "for-fun" part-time job the entire summer, but around late July, the opportunity to move to NYC presented itself to me. I knew I had to take it and go even though I didn't have a job lined up–– I had heard it's much easier to move to New York and then find a job anyway!

I got settled in, and as soon as I changed my address on my resume, I got interviews. It turns out that people in NYC take you much more seriously if you're actually located in NYC. My first interview was with Business Insider, and it was over the phone. I thought it went really well, but I never heard back from them. I had an in-person interview with Louboutin as well and never heard back from them either. This sounds discouraging, but it is honestly common. Unfortunately, a ton of companies will not reach out to you to let you know that they aren't moving forward in pursuing you as a candidate, even if you email them to thank them for the interview and follow up. It's life. It sucks. You move on. You keep applying.

Eventually, one of my good friends Marlee sent me a job listing at a natural food company. I read up on the company, really studied it to make sure it aligned with what I was looking for and knew right away that I wanted the job. Badly. The company culture seemed amazing, and I loved that it had a start-up feel to it despite being pretty well established. After four interviews (a phone interview, an interview with my boss, an interview with the CEO, and a final breakfast interview), I got an offer and accepted it immediately.

After being at the company for seven months, I can honestly say I am so incredibly happy with my decision, and I am so grateful and happy for the opportunity. I have learned so much, and working in the food industry is amazing! We always have samples in the office, which means there is always deliciousness around. My job definitely is not easy, and more often than not, I find myself working on the weekends, but I am grateful for it all and I realize I am having to work extra hard because it's my first job.

How I Actually Got The Job/Tips For College Students

1. Make your resume as "you" as possible.
I was required to make a resume in high school–– our English teacher forced us to all draft one up junior year for college applications, and as I made one, I realized how little I stood out. I was shocked because I thought I was doing relatively well. I took a handful of AP classes and a bunch of advanced courses, and I was on the varsity tennis team all four years. If you think about it, legitimately 50% of students take advanced classes while being on a sports team, so it's honestly not special! I did not have my blog at the time to make myself stand out, and I was not really volunteering anywhere. If you're reading this in junior year of high school, make a resume and evaluate where you are at–– not to land a job 5 years into the future, but just to see your strengths and weaknesses on paper and where you need to improve. It helps to stand out and genuinely be interesting, I promise.

My resume obviously changed dramatically over the next 5 years–– I declared a Biology major, I started a blog that actually became relevant enough to be added to a resume, I transferred, I dropped the biology major, I added a Political Science major and Business minor, I worked on significant projects and volunteered at different places, etc. The one thing that never changed is that it was always "me." I never made shit up to look better. If I wanted to look better and stand out, I made an effort to be better to stand out. I worked with huge companies such as Anthropologie and Free People. I made sure it was known on my resume. If my GPA looked weak, I worked harder the next semester.

When I finally took my resume to my college English teacher senior year, she showed me how many missing pieces I had left out and how many accomplishments I could add to my resume–– she changed the whole game. She taught me how to tailor my resume to add all of the stuff I didn't even know was important. I learned that through my charity collaboration "Camp YIP" project that I could say I have hired interns (I have) and that I have experience with project management. That's just one example of something I would have never thought to put on my resume, but it really helped me stand out.

2. In your cover letter, don't just tell what you've done in the past–– tell the company what you can do for them in the future.
I wrote at least 80 cover letters–– many people use a template and change things for each job, but I started from scratch each time, making sure to convey what I would be adding if I were to join the team. In the cover letter I wrote for the job I currently have, this is the structure I used to write my cover letter:

Opener: Who you are and why you would be a perfect fit for the company you're applying to–– How has this company positively impacted your life so far (if applicable). If not applicable, say something you'll hope to gain from the company in the future. Make it sound like you really care. By the way, you should really care. If you don't, your heart probably isn't in it.

First Paragraph: This is where you'll want to put relevant past job experiences and how what you've learned from them can contribute to the company's success in the future.

Second Paragraph: What can you do for the company? Don't just put that you're great with Microsoft Word and Powerpoint and you have great public speaking skills–– it's boring, and most college grads have all of that stuff under their belt too. Don't be afraid to throw ideas around–– if you're applying to be a graphic designer, propose a really cool design project that you think will make the hiring manager excited.

Closing: Thank the hiring manager for considering you, include your phone number and email, and say you can be contacted if they have any questions.

So, you got a first interview somewhere! Now what?

3. Prepare for interviews, whether they are over the phone or in person.
Before an interview, you'll want to be armed with an arsenal of information about the company–– when it started, why, its mission and values, etc... Even if it's a phone interview, you should be completely prepared and know the background of the company so you're not pausing to google things.

4. Come to every interview prepared to answer questions AND ask questions.
Asking questions during an interview is almost as important as answering them. It shows that you are extremely interested in the position, and it also will help you get clarity on what to potentially expect out of the position. Some questions I have asked in interviews before are:

"What is the company culture like here?"
"What exactly would be expected out of me on a day-to-day basis?"
"What are your three favorite things about working at this company, and why?"
"What are the most important things you have learned since starting your position here?"
"Is there room for advancement/growth in this job?"

5. Be aware of your own non-verbal communication.
Want to know the reason it took me four interviews to get hired instead of the three it normally takes for someone to get hired at our company? Bluntly, I was told I have a resting bitch face and I come off as intimidating. My boss was a little worried about hiring me because I seemed too professional during interviews and I needed to lighten up a little. It's funny because if I had loosened up a little and acted more like myself in the interviews instead of being a prepared robot, it would have helped me!

This will vary from company to company, but it has to do a lot with company culture. Walk into the interview and project confidence, but also feel for vibes on how people communicate in the workplace.

6. Dress for the part.
Do not be afraid to ask for a dress code before heading to an interview–– if you have a phone interview first, ask the company culture question then so you can get an idea of the vibes around the office. I was told during my phone interview that the environment was super casual, so I did not wear a blazer to my first in-person interview. I wore pixie pants, a cute white top, and mules. I felt way more comfortable in the interview than I would have been if I had worn a suit.

If you have doubts about what to wear, always go more professional though. You don't want to show up underdressed. It's the worst! Thankfully, it has never happened to me, but I have seen a few candidates walk through our door in light wash jeans and it makes me cringe.

So your interviews went extremely well, and you have been offered the position!! Now what?

7. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want.
Ah, salary negotiation. The thing I had no idea how to approach and I got super awkward about!! Do your research! Go on Glassdoor and look up the starting salary for your job position in your city. Use this as a base, but don't be afraid to add a little more to it. The worst that can happen is your company counteroffering it with a lower offer. Know your worth!

8. Make the most of your time off before you start your new job.
Unless you start immediately, you'll probably have a week or two to prepare for your new job. I had 2 weeks and used the time to go home and visit my family. After a stressful 2 months of job hunting, it is exactly what I needed. I actually ended up having terrible strep throat while I was home, and it was nice to have my mom to take care of me so I could go in on my first day feeling refreshed. 

Use this time to make sure you have the appropriate work wardrobe, and if you have been sent any reading materials in advance, this is a great opportunity to conquer them. 

9. Make friends on your first day.
Introduce yourself to everyone you possibly can, and make an effort to start conversations with co-workers. It is helpful if other people are starting the same day as you because you already have something in common with them! Stick with each other–– one of my work BFFs is a girl that started the same day as me! Network as much as possible, even if it seems a little overwhelming. People appreciate friendliness, and they will remember it.

10. Smile, and take time to realize what you have accomplished!
Landing your first job is a HUGE deal. Seriously, be proud of yourself and have a celebratory dinner and a drink with friends after your first day! You deserve to be celebrated, especially after months of stressfulness and hard work.

Happy job hunting!! 



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