Numerous job postings require applicants to have work experience, posing the dilemma of how individuals can gain this experience if it's a common prerequisite for many positions. In other words, How can I increase my chances of getting a job after college?
You can take many steps to improve your chances in the job marketplace, and some of those steps can begin right now, whether you’re just starting college or are getting close to graduation. Let us dig deeper into how to get a job after college.
8 Steps To Increase Your Chances of Getting a Job
Are you thinking about what to do after graduating college, or finding a job after college? Graduating from college is a major milestone in your life — and a significant accomplishment. After putting so much work and effort into earning your degree, you might be tempted to take a little time off before you begin job searching. However, it can be beneficial to dive right in. Let’s take a closer look:
1. Start Your Job Search Early
It’s a good idea to work on career preparation while still in college instead of waiting until after graduation to pursue employment. Solid career preparation can take time. You’ll need to focus on skills development, for example, and on completing work-related experiences to make yourself a more competitive job candidate.
It’s never too early to enhance your marketability, such as completing job shadowing opportunities, internships and part-time jobs.
2. Complete Work-Related Experiences
Job shadowing may help narrow your career choices. If you’re a college freshman or sophomore and you’re still unsure of your career path, talk to a career services representative at your school about local job shadowing opportunities in your field. This can help you determine which jobs might be best suited for you and which aren't.
As you narrow down your career choices, start looking for internships and part-time jobs related to your field of study. For instance, if you’re considering working in law, you might want to look for a job or internship as a legal assistant at a law firm. If you’d like to become a scientist, look for a position such as a lab assistant.
These work-related experiences can potentially increase your chances of getting a job after college in several ways. First, they’ll help you determine if your chosen career is a good fit for you. Second, they can provide opportunities for professional networking (it may be possible to receive a job offer from a company you interned for). And third, you can add these experiences to your resume. Even if you have no professional, full-time work experience when you become a college graduate, an internship or related part-time job may help address a position’s work experience requirements.
3. Make a Good Impression
This step goes hand-in-hand with completing work-related experiences like internships. Merely completing an internship isn’t sufficient by itself. You’ll also have to work hard to make a good impression; otherwise, you may be lowering your chances of getting a good recommendation from your supervisor and/or obtaining a job offer from the company upon graduation.
To make a great impression at your internship, consider doing the following:
- Always arrive a few minutes early for your shift.
- Maintain a positive, friendly attitude and avoid complaining about work assignments.
- Dress in a manner befitting your role and the company’s level of formality.
- Strive to meet different people at the organization.
- Actively solicit feedback.
- Take the initiative to request tasks when the first one is finished.
- Avoid participating in gossip.
If you think you might like to work at that organization after graduation, try to stay in touch now and then with key individuals who are employees there.
4. Sanitize Your Online Presence
Organizations might consider your online presence when hiring for a professional role. It’s best to assume that hiring managers will do a thorough online search of the top candidates for a job to check their personal social media profiles.
If you use a social media platform that has privacy settings, you should ensure that people who aren’t connected to you cannot view your personal posts. If you cannot hide certain personal posts, consider deleting them instead.
After going through your online presence, do a Google search of your own name to see if anything else questionable pops up, and then make any other necessary adjustments.
In addition to sanitizing your personal online presence, you can actively create a more professional image of yourself online. Consider creating a LinkedIn profile and perhaps even create your own website that showcases a portfolio of all your work, if appropriate for your field. You might set up a professional profile on a social media site to share articles about your chosen industry and comment on industry insights to show that you’re actively engaged in the field.
5. Focus on Skills Development
Depending on your chosen field, earning one or more professional certifications may be possible while you’re still in college. For instance, if you’re studying to become a nurse, you could take a CPR class from the Red Cross while still a student.
Look for certification options that you currently qualify for and do your best to obtain them ahead of graduation. By focusing on skills development before you even graduate, you’ll be able to show potential employers a more robust resume.
6. Create a Strong, Robust Resume
It can be tough for a college student or recent graduate to write a resume, particularly if you don’t have much experience to include yet. Keep in mind, however, that most hiring managers don’t really want to look at an overly long resume. Chances are, they need to look through dozens if not hundreds of resumes, so long resumes may not necessarily receive more attention than shorter ones.
Focus on being succinct, but emphasize your skills, experience and accomplishments. As you progress through college, it can be helpful to keep a log of the highlights of your academic career.
You’ll be able to refer to this log when creating your resume. Keep track of:
- Which soft skills you worked on developing
- Major projects/capstone courses completed
- Job shadowing, internships and part-time jobs
- Volunteer experience
- Certifications (e.g. CPR)
- Extracurricular activities
You might not necessarily want to put all of these items on your resume, but if you have the details in a log, it'll be easier to pick and choose which items would create the best impression.
After completing your resume (or for help getting started), visit your school’s career services department. Ask for assistance on resume development. While you’re there, you can also ask for help polishing your job interviewing skills, such as by doing a mock interview.
7. Conduct a Targeted Job Search
There are many job boards available to search. As you approach your college graduation date, start setting up alerts on one or more job boards so that you’ll be notified when a job meeting your criteria becomes available.
Some people might already know which organization they’d love to work for, and what to do after graduating college. For example, if you majored in aerospace engineering, your dream job might be at NASA. In addition to checking job boards, you can navigate directly to company websites and view their careers or jobs webpage.
It’s important to feel confident in applying for a job even if you're unsure about meeting all the qualifications. For instance, if a job ad states that the company requires one to two years of experience, consider applying for it even if you have only completed a three-month internship. Some hiring managers treat qualification requirements flexibly and may consider you for a job if you're a strong candidate in many other areas.
8. Stay Organized
It’s important to stay organized, especially if you’re applying to many jobs at once. Consider maintaining a spreadsheet with information on jobs you’ve applied for, such as:
- Organization name and location
- Job title
- Application date
- Hiring manager contact info
- Hiring manager’s response to your application, if any
Of course, you'll want to keep track of interview invitations as well. Each time you conduct an interview, you might consider writing a thank you note. Try to personalize the note, such as by mentioning something like, "It was a delight to talk to you about our mutual alma mater" or "I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions about the engineering department."
At Grand Canyon University, you can fuse your academic interests with a purpose for the future. If you are interested in studying at GCU, you can choose from a wide range of degree programs that feature industry-aligned curricula. Get career preparation support at our Career Services department, which offers assistance with writing resumes and cover letters, and practicing job interviewing skills. You can also attend on-campus or virtual career fairs and other professional development events at GCU.
Fill out the form on this page to learn more about joining our learning community in Phoenix or online.
Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU Marketing on Dec. 7, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.