Passed all your courses? Use this quick guide so you don't fail at finding a first job after college.

How To Get a Sweet First Job After College or University
Photo credit: JD Hancock

This is a guest post by Veronica Wright.

With a degree in hand and no job yet, are you wondering if it was worth all the years you spent in academia?

Don’t fret, job hunting for new graduates is like a full-time job itself and has to be treated like one.

You are not alone, and while your job hunt can be as hard as one of the classes you took in school, with diligence and presenting your resume in a way that it gets noticed, you can do this.

Here's how to get your first job…

How long did it take you to find your first job after college?

Free bonus: Download a PDF version of this article to use as a handy reference.

Leverage contacts as much as possible

The one thing that soon-to-be graduates need to do while still in college is to make contacts. Then, after graduating, follow up on some of those hands you shook at the many conferences, workshops, internships, and job fairs, etc., that you attended during your final year.

Look through all of your books for notes, business cards and anything that was given you during these events. Call numbers you find, reminding those on the other end where you met them, and that now graduated, you are looking for employment.

Name drop if you can, there is nothing wrong with it. To get in the door of many businesses today, you have to know someone or be recommended by someone.

Reach out to former professors

Revisit your school. Let previous professors know that you are stomping the sidewalks looking for a job after graduation and can't seem to find anything in your field, the field they educated you about. They may be able to offer teaching assistant jobs that don't pay much but can tide you over until you find a more lucrative position.

While on campus, find out if you're eligible for job placement resources as an alumnus. Given your academic record, they might have suggestions about good jobs for you.


Losing contact with your friends from college and your online connections happens, but build those connections back up. Those that you reconnect with may be able to lead you in the right direction, or you can even start a local group of recent grads and industry professionals that network to help each other find jobs.

Check which of your acquaintances are working in relevant jobs or companies, and ask if their company is hiring, or if one of their colleagues can recommend a company that is.

Update your social media profiles and look for active groups, pages, Meetups, etc., in your field. Pay particular attention to this: 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn when vetting candidates.

94% of recruiters use LinkedIn when vetting candidatesClick To Tweet

A small paycheck at first is better than no paycheck

Do what you can till you get what you want. Work at a grocery store? Any job that comes up, take it, especially if it's an entry-level role at a place company that you are dying to work for and will get you in the door. In the mail room? Use it to work your way up. Eventually, with hard work you'll be noticed.

If you think that you're ready, start your own small business. Freelance writers are big now, and there are many online positions for those that are diligent in looking for them.

Look for seasonal work in your area, or let perspective employers know that you are willing to relocate if need be.

A good resume is a must

Getting yourself ready for job placement is one thing, but getting that resume in the hands of those that make the decisions is another.

Today, many companies are using applicant tracking software (ATSes) to sift through the hundreds if not thousands of applications that come across their networks every day. This software looks over your resume before a human being lays hands on it.

Here are a few essential tips on how to make your resume “robot-proof”:

  1. Don't waste space. For instance, in your contact information: Email: You don't need the word “Email”. There are actually companies that will have their robot check for unnecessary words.
  2. Resume keywords are important. Research the company that you are applying for and use relevant keywords in your resume such as those mentioned in the given job description.
  3. When it comes to your skills section, don't just list that you know “the Microsoft Office Suite”. The robot will be looking for any word but Office or Suite. Instead, specify Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  4. Don't use a minus sign to separate wording, only use em dash—between words or numbers.
  5. Grammar is extremely important when submitting your resume, because the ATS will simply trash those that it cannot understand.
  6. Make use of strong action words.
  7. Update your resume every 3 months.
  8. Don't include your whole life story. Go back at most until your freshman year unless relevant for a given role.
  9. Only include related course work.
  10. Use a professional resume writer.

Consider the following “professional experience” description. Example 1 was prepared by the job applicant, and Example 2 one was done by a professional resume writing company for the same person. Which would you choose?

Example 1:

  • Developed relationships with current and prospected customers
  • Analyzed market data for senior analysts
  • Performed daily trade verifications
  • Maintained monthly and quarterly revenue figures
  • Oversaw domestic and international accounts

Example 2:

  • Partnered with two brokers to develop and foster relationships with current and prospective customers to increase market share by 35%
  • Analyzed market data using Bloomberg and FactSet to tailor and pitch trade recommendations specific to customer needs to senior analysts
  • Performed daily trade verifications ensuring the execution of trade details were entered correctly
  • Maintained monthly and quarterly revenue figures utilizing Excel to compare quarterly and yearly revenue amounts for profit projections
  • Managed and oversaw over 12 domestic and international accounts covering Asian emerging products totaling up to $500 million

When you can show your future employer what you changed for the better at a previous company and what you can possibly do for them, they invite you in.

When you start getting interviews

Getting that phone call that they want to sit and have a chat with you is mind numbing. You jump up and down when you hang up the phone, and run around yelling that you have an interview!

You want to leave a lasting impression.

Be prepared:

  • Start the night before. Iron your clothing, make sure everything is neat and clean. Appearance is everything.
  • Eat a good breakfast. Try adding a banana, they relax you.
  • Review the things about the company that interest you so you can bring it up at the interview.
  • Have a list of questions to ask your interviewer(s).
  • Aim to leave for the interview early. Have the phone number, address and office number in your smartphone in case of emergency.
  • Stand straight, do not slouch.
  • Shake hands upon entering the office and wait to be asked to be seated, while smiling. Never ever go into anyone’s office without a smile on your face 😀
  • Make eye contact
  • Comment on how nice their office is.

The cliché says that it's a full-time job looking for a job. Those that work on it every day are those that find employment. Your education was worth it and it will pay off eventually, but you're the one who needs to make it work.

Good luck in your search! Once you get that coveted job in a corner office, pass these suggestions on to the next person that may need them.

Bonus: Life After College: How to Get a Job, Dealing with Debt, My Experiences

About the author

Veronica WrightVeronica Wright is Co-Founder of Resumes Centre, blogger, and career coach. Her main passions are self-improvement, career guidance, and traveling.

Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email and follow me on Twitter for more ideas on how to get that first job out of school.

Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has One Comment

Leave a Reply