How to Start a Career: The Most Crucial Tips for Recent Graduates

When you were at college, you had great dreams about your future. It was going to be special. You were going to do great things. You were just waiting for that degree, and you were working hard to reach that goal.

Now what?

If you’re like most college graduates, you’ll feel the harsh hit of reality as soon as you start looking into your job options. Yes; there are opportunities for young grads.

Most of them, however, are entry-level positions that are not very attractive. Some graduates can’t even get to those entry-level jobs, since the competition is too fierce.

Do you know what the biggest problem is? Lack of experience.

Hiring managers are not willing to give graduates a chance, since they realize that theory and practice are two different worlds. You might have the theory, but you lack the practice and that’s a problem in an employer’s eyes.

How do you get through this point? How do you convince an employer that you’re perfectly suitable for the job you want? How do you start a career immediately after graduation?

We have important tips for you to follow.

1. Stay Real

If you’re applying for a job as a recent graduate, you’ll have to settle for entry positions. No business owner would give you a position in their management team just because you graduated. They will want to see you make progress from entry-level up.

Even if you were a great student, you’ll still have to accept the reality and start applying for entry-level positions. Maybe you were great at programming and your academic record shows that, but maybe you also got help in programming assignments and your GPA doesn’t show that.

The only way for a business owner to see if you’re fit for a better position is by testing you on an entry-level position.

The good news is that it won’t take too long for you to get noticed if you work hard and well enough. So embrace the opportunities for entry-level jobs as a chance to gain the experience you lack. Starting from the bottom shows your dedication and commitment to growth.

When Michael Bloomberg was fresh out of college and nowhere near to becoming a billionaire, he followed an important tip: “Don’t take a job based on salary, but on how much you think you can grow at a company.”

Entry-level jobs may have low salaries. That’s okay. If you can get such a position in a company that lets you grow and invests in your training, you’ll hit the jackpot.  

2. Personalize Your Resume for Each Job Application

So you decided to start applying to job ads? Good for you!

There’s a challenge: you’re going to need personalized resumes and cover letters for each application. Many job candidates neglect this fact, thinking that if they have a universal LinkedIn profile that’s supposed to attract employers, it’s okay to send out the same resume, too.

First of all, you need to understand the resume and the LinkedIn profile are two different things.

  • Your resume needs to be arranged according to priorities. If a job ad mentioned that knowing German would be considered an advantage, you’ll list that fact at the top of the skills section.
  • The resume should also include relevant keywords. Hiring managers use applicant tracking system, so they can scan through the resumes and identify the ones that meet their expectations for the particular position.

They use keywords to search, so you need to include those keywords in the resume. That’s an easy thing to do: you’ll locate the most important keywords in the job ad.

If, for example, the add calls for applicants with Python and JavaScript skills, you’ll include those terms in the resume. That’s why it’s important to adjust the resume to each position you’re applying for.

3. Apply for Jobs You Want to Have and You Can Do Well!

When you’re interested in a particular ad, ask yourself:

  • Do you want this job? Maybe it’s just an entry position and you only see it as a temporary opportunity, but it is related to your career plans? If you start applying to ads just because you need any kind of job, you’ll start doing something irrelevant to your plans and you’ll lose the good opportunities.
  • Can you do this job well? Do you have formal and informal experience that would make you a good fit? Each job involves a lot of learning, but you do need the initial capacity if you want to be good at something you do.

When you make the link between this job, your current capacity, and your potential for career progress, it will be easy to express your relevance as a candidate through the resume and cover letter, as well as during the interview.

4. Unlock the Potential of Your Alumni Network

Do you know why people like being part of an alumni network many years after they graduate?

That membership keeps them connected to the people they once were. They remind themselves of the hardships they faced when they got out of college, but they also get reminded about the ideals they had for the future.

If they are successful business owners at this point or have influence over the hiring decisions in a particular company, they are more than willing to help young graduates to succeed.

This gives them an opportunity to practice their mentorship skills, but it also brings fresh talent into their businesses. It’s a win-win situation for both graduates and alumni.

You probably have access to the alumni database from your college, so you can get contact information. Don’t hold back; you can approach alumni in a straightforward manner.

However, it’s not okay to ask them for a job straight away. Just ask for a mentorship opportunity. Try to connect via LinkedIn.

Ask if they could find some time to chat with you over coffee, so you can learn more about what they do. You’ll be surprise to find out how many successful people are willing to support young grads throughout their career growth.

You can make the contact with a simple email message. Just explain who you are, what degree you graduated with, and how you got their contact information.

Then, ask for 20 minutes of their time, so you can ask some questions about working in the industry. You can also attach your resume and ask this person to consider you for any relevant position in future.

5. Emphasize Your Soft Skills

When you’re just out of college and you have zero experience to brag with, you have to find that something that makes you special among all other candidates. What’s that something? Soft skills!  

Maybe you’re a friendly person who’s pleasant to talk to. Maybe you’re highly professional and responsible with whatever project you become part of. Maybe your communication skills are what make you a great candidate.

The good thing about soft skills is that you can practice and improve them. This shouldn’t be a simple list in your resume. You must support your statements with facts.

If, for example, you mention that you have great critical skills, you should mention a situation that allowed you to put those skills to action. The cover letter gives you space for that.          

Ready or not, you’re going to start that career! You just graduated, so give yourself some credit for that. It was a long journey towards that degree, and you made it.

Now, you’re ready for even greater challenges. You’re ready for real life, and you’ll make it if you try hard enough. The above-listed tips will help you overcome the initial shock of being a recent graduate on a tough job market.  

Written By
Mark Thomson is the founder and leading writer of AssignmentMasters writing group. He is devoted to creating content in career-making, self-development, and education fields. Mark strives to provide only essential and up-to- date info to his audience which he is constantly widening through guest blogging.