How to Find a Job After College

In a recent article, my husband Aneil and I explored whether or not a college degree is actually worth it. Despite the high cost of tuition and the higher rates of unemployment for college grads, we ultimately decided that a college degree is worth it, if you put the effort into it.

But, that is small consolation if you are one of those college grads who make up the 11% of the unemployed — with the looming student loans coming due, what do you do now?

We actually spend quite a bit of time counseling students and alums about how to look for a job. We encourage our students to start thinking about their post-graduation job as soon as they start college. Some students, however, don’t think about it until the final semester of college, which is actually pretty late. If you are one of those students who have graduated and are trying to find a job, don’t fear — there is still hope.

First of all, make sure that your resume and LinkedIn profile are polished and up-to-date. You are a graduate now, so make sure those documents don’t say “degree expected.”  You are done! If you need help, there are plenty of resources at your college and on LinkedIn that can help you upgrade your resume, cover letters, and LinkedIn profile to make sure that they are polished and professional. 

Second, go and buy the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. It can be a critical resource to help you uncover your strengths and find out what you are good at. You have spent so much time in college taking courses and worrying about grades, that you might not have had the opportunity to think about what you are good at and how you can apply that to a career you will love. This book can help you get on the right track. We have used this book successfully with thousands of our students, and for many of them it has been an invaluable career tool. It prepared them for the next time an interviewer asked them, “So, tell me about your strengths and weaknesses,” it helped them in revising their resumes, and it helped them tailor cover letters to position descriptions. 

Next, make a list of what you love to do and how you love to spend your time. You can use the job search function on LinkedIn to help you begin to look for jobs in those areas, to begin this next phase of your job search: informational interviews. Once you have a grasp of what type of job or industry you want to work in, reach out to professionals at companies or in jobs that you want to learn more about. Alumni from your college are especially happy to share what they do over coffee or lunch, or even over email. Ask them for just 30 minutes of their time, and thank them (and connect with them on LinkedIn) when you are finished. You are asking about them and their job — you are not asking for a job. There is a big difference. The more you talk to folks, the more you will learn and the more you learn, the sooner you will be lead to your new job. Indeed, at some point, you will undoubtedly connect with people who know each other, and who may be in a position to recommend you for a job at another organization.

Once you’ve mastered these steps, you should be ready to apply for jobs, through the great new network you have created. There are so many ways to find jobs — don’t forget to keep using your college career planning office, as well as your alumni network, LinkedIn, your professional associations, and even your family and friends.

In the meantime, don’t just sit on the couch and watch TV while waiting for that great new job to appear. Volunteer, get out and meet people, and even take a lower-paying job while you are waiting for that dream job. It will all come together when that hard work pays off.

Karen and Aneil Mishra are business school professors and authors of Trust is Everything (2008) and Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012)