College graduates: Tips and advice on how to land your first job

Posted October 07, 2013 by
Matt Krumrie

Matt Krumrie

Even though it’s starting to cool down, fall is a time when many companies are heating up the hiring process, according to Twin Cities-based college recruiting firm GradStaff. Summer vacations are over and busy HR and management staffs are back focusing on hiring, training and adding new staff members.

During this prime hiring time, GradStaff is busy arming college grads with the right tools and knowledge to get them on their feet (read more about how GradStaff can help college graduates) and on to a career path and out of Mom and Dad’s house, where a record number of young adults are living. According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 36 percent of adults 18-31 are living in their parents’ home, the highest number in four decades.

GradStaff specializes in connecting recent college grads and employers in industries like insurance, health care, real estate and finance – an industry which added approximately 2,300 jobs in Minnesota in July, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The finance industry’s job creation was second only to government, which added 4,000 jobs in Minnesota in July.

While competition for the best positions is fierce, the right candidates can easily rise to the top of the résumé pile. What are companies looking for in entry-level hires? Bob LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff, shares the top six tips for recent grads who want to land not just their first “real world” professional job, but the perfect career opportunity.

1. Don’t let your degree limit you. You may have a degree in English or music, but if you’re having a hard time finding opportunities in your field, think outside the box. Writing and communications skills translate to a number of professional roles in industries such as finance, insurance, health care and real estate, which are seeking entry-level talent to prepare for the upcoming mass exodus of baby boomers currently working in these fields.

2. Differentiate yourself. Be strategic. In addition to your degree, what else do you bring to the table? Focus on things that have value in the workplace – key attributes like problem solving, time management, and communications skills to name a few. Identify positions that fit your strengths.

3. Network, network, network. Focus on personal relationships to open doors. Professors, alumni, coaches, parents of friends, etc. can all provide contacts that can help you land a great job.

4. Be realistic. In the professional world, everyone has to start somewhere. Prospective employers will value your skills more if you are realistic in your expectations for titles, responsibilities and especially salary. Get your foot in the door.

5. Ask good questions. Nothing frustrates hiring managers more than candidates who aren’t prepared for an interview with a few good questions about the position, as well as the company and its industry – this shows employers that you are engaged.

6. Ask for help. Job seeking shouldn’t be a solitary pursuit. Connect with a job coach, college career office or an entry-level hiring specialist like GradStaff and utilize the resources – including résumé advice, job listings and more – available to recent college grads.

If you recently completed an internship, learn how you can turn that summer internship into a job. If you are still searching for a job, or an internship, these tips and resources from GradStaff can get you headed in the right direction.

Matt Krumrie writes about careers, jobs and workplace topics for a variety of publications, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he writes the Ask Matt career column. He also is a professional resume writer who helps clients with their resume, cover letter, job search and networking needs. Learn more via Follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie

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