Getting a Job Out of College – It Can Be Done!

As a recently hired college graduate, I clearly remember the effort required to discover employment opportunities that were aligned with my aspirations – both professionally and philosophically. I forced myself to learn quite a bit about the real world during my job hunt, which spanned my last two semesters of college plus a couple of months post-graduation. It’s a scary process for students, who are trying to enjoy college but also nervous about what the future holds.

I’m a lucky job-seeker, but many people, including other recent college grads and established professionals, aren’t as fortunate as I was. It’s a tough time to find a job, especially if you want to stay in Michigan, but it can be done – I’m proof of that!

Now that I’ve been “on the job” at ILG for a few months, I’ve had a chance to receive feedback from my new co-workers about what I did right during the application and interview processes. These insights combined with things I learned on my own along the way, may be valuable information for others looking for a job.

Did I do anything radically different or truly unique from anyone else who’s looking for work? Doubtful, but it can’t hurt to be reminded of tips to make searching for a job less spirit-crushing.

My Story

I graduated last May and man did I love college. I loved college so much I stayed there for six years! I have two degrees to show for it and a ton of invaluable life experiences. What I didn’t leave college with was five to 10+ years of industry experience. It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d be limited in my initial professional opportunities.

I realized early on that finding a job was my full-time job. I started applying for jobs in the fall of my last year of school. I developed a process that made searching easier. At first, I focused on the potential opportunities that fell into my lap (i.e., I reached out to professional contacts and got my name out there as a potential target for the next spring). I went to lectures held by professionals on campus. Afterwards, I’d stick around and introduce myself to other attendees, just to get my name out. I worked that angle until I’d exhausted all of my existing professional contacts.

Next, I began looking for jobs on the Internet and other places that were outside the sphere of my network. I’d identify at least one potential job a day for about a week or so. Once I had about 10 targets, I’d spend a couple of hours applying to all of them. I’d repeat this process many times in seven months. At first, applying to jobs online is very tedious. After working this process for a while, I became fairly efficient at completing online applications.

I also developed three copies of my resume. The first one’s very high level and has very broad information about me that I used in situations such as the first contact with a stranger or on a web site like Craigslist. A note about Craigslist: If you’re looking for jobs on a site like Craigslist, it’s important to be very cautious about what information you give out. Craigslist, and sites like it, lack the security and transparency of professional job search sites.

My second resume’s the two-pager; front and back. It contains more detail than the first but not so much that people are flipping through multiple pages. During my last semester, I actually carried copies of resume one and two with me everywhere just in case I ran into someone or went somewhere that was hiring.

My third resume’s the interview-room resume that contains pertinent project information along with all the standard resume information. I emailed it to my interviewer the day before my interview or, in some less effective cases, brought it with me. This resume obviously has to be tailored to the position/company you’re applying for every time you use it. If you keep a master electronic file, you can do a save-as with the company name included in the file name and copy and paste relevant information from the master file into the company-specific file. Voila! You have a spiffy resume tailored to the position and company without retyping your life story!

Another helpful thing I started doing (and should’ve started much, much sooner) was networking with local professional associations like ASTD and ISPI. While you’re in school, it’s difficult to conceptualize that after graduation you’re on your own. The only thing that remains are the relationships you’ve created with your classmates, professors, friends, and your professional network. It makes terrific sense while you’re still in college to get off campus and start networking ASAP. Networking played a major role in my hiring, and I think it’s fair to say that if I hadn’t made that effort, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

When ILG’s CEO came to Western to do a guest lecture, I was there the entire day. There was a round-table discussion during lunch, and I was tuned in and asking questions the entire time. Between the discussion and the lecture, I offered to give her a tour of Western’s campus. Again, I was politely asking and answering questions throughout. During the lecture, I was again locked-in the entire time. At one point, she mentioned to a group of students that she would welcome us to come see ILG’s site and be her guests at an ISPI meeting; we took her up on it. Between the visits, I sent her a thank you email, connected with her on LinkedIn, sent her an ILG-tailored resume, and indicated I was willing to do “whatever it takes.” During the ILG visit and ISPI meeting a month later, I was personable, inquisitive, and engaged. All of these efforts paid off. I think, now more than ever, you have to go that extra mile to stand out during the recruiting/hiring process.

Interviewing

It’s important for the uninitiated to know: you are going to bomb your first interview. I did, my friends have, and other professional acquaintances have told me the same thing. What makes interviewing so tough? I’m a well-spoken guy, but interviewing is an unnatural process that takes some getting used to. Think about it…you’re forced into a meeting with a stranger during which the entire topic of the conversation is you, and what you’ve done. They throw out questions, you give back answers. But you never really get to ask any questions until the end – after everyone has already formed their opinion.

Once I got that first interview out of the way, the one that I messed up by being an overconfident, underprepared narcissist, I knew I had to get better at actually interviewing. I spent much more time preparing and practicing. This helped me anticipate the flow of the interview. I could answer questions more quickly, eloquently, and personably. Once I mastered this, it became much easier to remember to smile and actually act like a real person, not like some pre-programmed interview robot unaware of all my weaknesses or improvement areas. One thing all interviewers are looking for are prospects who are conscious of the areas they need to improve on. No company is looking for new people who have peaked already, are leveling off, or are coasting.

The feedback I’ve gotten since being hired was that during my ILG interview I came across as being comfortable with myself, that my real personality came through, that I was likeable, approachable, humble, and eager. These are important goals to keep in mind before and during your interviews. You won’t get hired if people don’t believe what you’re saying or if you look as uncomfortable as you may be feeling. These points have made me even more positive that it’s good practice to do as many interviews as you can. I know I was more and more comfortable after each interview I put under my belt.

Remember, there are jobs out there but you have to be diligent, be able to compromise, be realistic, and be persistent!

Good Luck!

I’d also like to hear any additional tips you used to find your job and any success stories.