Career Advice for College Grads

During our college years, we are often too focused on class projects and final exams to even consider what lies ahead after graduation. And while it’s true that college and university grads get hired more often than non-graduates, the job market is still highly competitive and it’s important to remember that, when you’re standing in your graduation gown with a diploma in your hand, there are many young people around the country in your same situation. A ton of these graduates will have similar experience and education to you and will be vying for the same jobs.

Getting a job right after graduation is not easy. In fact, if you haven’t already began preparing for this day since the last semester, you will soon realize that you have your work cut out for you.

Breaking into the work force after college can be really tough and you may worry that employers won’t be interested in you because you have a lack of work experience in your new field. However, you do have a lot going for you! You are well-educated, enthusiastic and you have demonstrated your ability to learn by successfully graduating college.

Change your mindset

Career coach Deb Goldstein says that before you start looking for a job, you’ve got to change your mindset. “You are no longer a student, you are a professional. Your identity, mindset and language now have to transition. This means that on your resume, you list your education last.”

The writing in it should be directive and straight-forward, moving from “I am becoming” to “I am.” On your summary in LinkedIn, it’s not that you’re pursuing a particular title – you are that title. A prospective employer is only interested in who you are and how your experience can solve their pain points. So you need to show them your strength in that conviction by “being” a professional.

Upgrade yourself from personal to professional

Career coach Paul Ratcliffe says that now that you are moving from college into the working world, you have to make a few changes to your online presence and upgrade yourself from personal to professional.

  • Get a professional email address – Sorry to burst the bubble, but it is time to let go of the infamous email address you have. Your future employer will not be as impressed with your address like your college friends are. Get a new email address and use your first and last name wherever possible.
  • Clean your online presence – Employers are using social media to find out what type of person you are. So, think from their point of view about the photos you have posted from last summer. If your potential employer saw them, would they be put off?
  • Google yourself – If you have not done this, you will be amazed how much information is out there. Photos, postings, dating sites, Facebook, Twitter; they are all there for access. Again, just make sure there is nothing out there that could jeopardize your chances before you even get to the interview stage.
  • Get a professional online presence by using LinkedIn – There are tons of great articles about how to build your profile with all the tips and tricks you can think of. The staff at are also extremely helpful and want you to do well.

Don’t look for the perfect job

Career coach Kathleen Murray says that, while you may be temped to hold out until you find a position that has everything, when you are looking for your first position after college, don’t look for the perfect job – look for the right job for right now.

“I can hear you protesting that you want to love your job and yes, in an ideal world, we all want a job we love. However, think of it this way: You have enthusiasm and passion, but no experience,” she explains. “For an employer you are a good bet in that you don’t cost as much as more experienced applicants, but you are still a risk.”

Look for job in an area that interests you and in the industry you went to school for (or something similar), but don’t hold out for the “perfect” job.

Get your foot in door as early as possible

We understand that you want to start making money as soon as you graduate, which is why having a few internships under your belt is a great starting place. These will offer you great hands-on experience and if you do a great job, you’ll have the upper hand if a position becomes available within the company.

Internships are also a great way to build up your professional contact list and boost your networking skills, especially if you haven’t done the proper networking while in college. Make sure to make a great impression and be eager and hardworking.

Use social media to your advantage

Social media platforms are not only great for connecting with family and friends – they are useful when you are looking for a new job. LinkedIn is the leading professional social network and Gen Y expert and author Dan Schawbel predicts it will remain for that way for the foreseeable future, so if you haven’t already, create a LinkedIn profile.

“Even if you don’t have any work experience, list where you attend college, what you perceive your skills to be, a summary of your career interests and any extracurricular activities, including accolades or awards,” Jim Raychrudhury explains. “Include any jobs that you’ve had, even if they are not related to your field of interest, including babysitting or summer camp, as these show your entrepreneurial spirit and show that you can shoulder responsibility.”

You also want to ensure that you clean up your other social media accounts, as employers are likely to Google potential candidate’s names during the screening process.

Be a grown up and communicate like one

“Before you can get a job you have to nail down the interview,” Kathleen Murray explains. “To get an interview you need to look like a serious contender. Use the phone and talk to people; don’t text, even if the employer texts you.”

She says that, if you get an email offering an interview, respond promptly and politely. Also, keep in mind that your email should look like a letter not a note dashed off to a friend. Use formal greetings and sign-offs (best regards, thank you), use your manners and refrain from using smiley faces and other emojis. How you communicate is as important when it’s written as when you are speaking.

You may get a screening call to see if they want to invite you to a face-to-face, so be careful how you answer the phone—with your name and a polite hello. It also might be time to change your voicemail greeting to something professional if you haven’t already. Wear job-suitable clothing to your interview, whatever the post. You want to show that despite being a recent graduate, you don’t lack the maturity needed to do a great job.

Update and perfect your resume

Once you have decided your career path and have made a list of the jobs you want to apply for, you need to make sure your resume is up-to-date. Your resume should have more than the degree you’ve earned, your summer jobs, internships and part-time jobs. Use your resume to make a stronger statement about your desired career path. Think about what you can offer an employee, and make your resume an effective marketing tool.

Use your cover letter as an opportunity to sell yourself to your potential employers. Do some research on each company you are applying to and personalize your cover letters. Address the letter to the appropriate person and show your work to your employers by making statements that show you’ve done your research, such as “[Your Company] has grown to be a market leader in [industry] and I believe it would be a great opportunity for me to join the team.”

Put in the extra effort

Career advisor Harmion Morris says it’s important to take time to draft a grammatically correct and constructive resume for each of the job postings you apply for. Ask for guidance from a mentor, family member or friend to ensure you haven’t made any spelling or grammar errors and that it reads well; a second set of eyes can make a big difference. If you need extra help with your resume, there are great services our there that offer resume templates to help you put your together or you can enlist the help of a career coach.

You’ll also want to take the time to learn all you can about the organization you want to work with, through their website, Google searches and websites like Glassdoor. With many competitors in the race, make sure you use relevant keywords that will make you stand apart from others. Instead of using the common keywords, use the ones that employers have used on their website and in the job posting. Doing so will help to capture the attention of the recruiter.

Best part-time jobs for college students

Are you a college student looking for a decent-paying part-time job to help you pay for your cost of living while studying? You don’t have to wait for your degree to land a job and start paying off college loans. There are many benefits of working part time while in school, especially if you land a part-time role in your field of interest.

To get you started, here is a list of five of the best part-time jobs for college students:

  1. Academic tutor
  2. Freelance programer/web designer
  3. Freelance writer/blogger
  4. Fitness instructor
  5. Massage therapist

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you find your dream job after college graduation? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

Wondering how prepared you are for the work world following graduation? Take this quiz to find out!