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3 Job Search Tips Every College Student (Fresh Grad) Needs to Know

If you’re a recent college graduate or you’re graduating soon, and you’re wondering: how can I find a job if I don’t already have work experience, and if I can’t find a job, how can I gain the experience in the first place, there is no need to worry. Cause today, I’m going to share with you the exact strategies to overcome this age-old chicken & egg problem, once and for all.


There are unique challenges that new graduates have to face that are different from what experienced professionals go through. The expectations and priorities of employers are vastly different for college students vs candidates with over 3-5 years of experience.

When companies look for recent graduates, their no.1 focus is not necessarily leveraging their knowledge or expertise - it’s more about investing in the person to learn the skills as quickly as possible so that they can contribute in the long run.

This means, most significant qualities employers value are not the individual’s ability and knowledge per se, but often one’s dedication and proactivity.

Also, as a new graduate, you’re placed on a level playing field. By definition, everyone has a degree, and chances are most people will not have any full-time corporate work experience. What it also means is that it’s quite difficult to convincingly prove one’s professional ability. Therefore, how you differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition becomes that much more crucial in achieving the outcome you want.

As a result, you need unique strategies that are specific to your situation, if you want to create the most opportunities for yourself and find a job you’ll be truly happy with as quickly as possible. And here are top 3 strategies that will help you get the most out of your first full-time job search experience. Let’s go!


1. Get Work Experience NOW

Do not wait until you graduate. Get your work experience NOW!

Hands-down the most useful career advice for college students is to find some work experience before graduation. I’m going to teach you two ways to achieve this.

The first and the most straightforward way is through a work placement or internship program.

A Placement or internship program is the most extensive work experience scheme available to students. The biggest difference between the two is duration. Placements usually last up to 12 months and take place during the school year whereas internships are around 1-4 months and mostly happen during the summer break. This is truly an invaluable opportunity for students. Many people find their first full-time job at the same company where they interned or through the network they built during that time and you should absolutely go for it if you are able to.

More universities now require placement or internship as part of the graduation requirements which will make things easier for you. But if your school does not have such a requirement and there is no built in procedures to follow, you need to take proactive measures. The first step is to find out when your university career fairs take place and make sure you attend them. Also most universities have a student affairs office which provides job search related information including how to apply for an internship, goal setting, resume revision, interview tips, etc. and almost always they are free. Well, actually you’re paying for it with your tuition so, even more so, take advantage of it.


But what if you’re unable to find work placement or internship opportunities for whatever reason? No problem – there are other ways that can be just as effective. The next best thing you can do is to find volunteer or non-paid work. Non-paid work can be just as effective when searching for a job – why? because, first, you don’t have to indicate whether your job was a paid or non-paid one in the resume. And 2nd, you can still leverage the volunteer work to demonstrate what you learned and contributed in a professional setting. The key is to find a role that aligns with or at the very least is related to your career goals in the future.

One of the best ways to find such volunteer work is through your professors. Many professors in universities have research projects for which they can use an extra pair of hands and they’d be more than happy to work with students who are committed and responsible. Reach out to professors whom you have good relationships with or in whose classes you performed well. And ask them if they have any projects you could assist with at minimal or no cost. More than likely, they will be happy to work with you as long as you have proven yourself to be reliable and this is precisely the kind of experience you can mention on your resume. Also, after a successful project completion, don’t forget to ask your professor for a spectacular reference letter too!


2. Talk to Everyone!!

The 2nd strategy which is just as important as the first one is to leverage your network. When I say leverage your network, I mean talk to everyone you know including your family, relatives, friends, social groups – again, EVERYONE! It’s always easier and faster to find a job through referrals and introductions. According to most research, over 60-70% of job openings are filled through referrals and only about 20% are filled through direct online job applications.

Referred candidates are about 4 times more likely to be invited to the first round interview and employers tend to trust them more even if the referrer is not that familiar with the candidate. In almost every way, leveraging your network will be hugely advantageous for you. So when you’re starting out in the job market, make it clear to everyone around you that you’re looking for a job and clearly explain what type of roles, companies and industries you’d like to target. More often than not, people are quite willing to help out especially when you’re just starting out.

You don’t have to leverage your network only for your first job either - You can find internship opportunities and even volunteer work this way too! It’s always easier to go through an introduction. There is no better time to leverage your relationships than now.


3. Demonstrate your skills

What do you think is one of the greatest challenges of hiring a new graduate from the employer’s point of view? Usually, the biggest difficulty lies in their inability to tell how strong the candidate really is due to his or her lack of professional experience.

Therefore, one major strategy that can convince the employer that they should hire you is to show them and demonstrate your skills & knowledge instead of just talking about them.

One of the best ways to achieve this is by doing what I call a demo project. A demo project is a small piece of your work designed to showcase your skills and what you can offer. It’s like a portfolio. A portfolio is a must-have for industries like design, architecture, etc. and we are borrowing their idea.

The key is to choose a project that is relevant to the type of roles you’re targeting. For example, if you’re applying for a digital marketing analyst position, and you read from the JD that the employer is looking for someone to manage their social media ads, you can potentially pick one of the employer’s products and draft an online ad for it. You can think about what kind of hooks to use, research the benefits, features and even work on the graphics, and then write the advertisement at a professional level. Checking out their existing ads and making your work consistent to their style will increase the likelihood of the employer approving what you have done. And then during the interview, you can say something like, “While I was preparing for the interview, I took the initiative to draft a mock advertisement for one of your products. I know it’s not perfect but I thought it would be helpful to demonstrate what I can bring to the table from the get-go. Would appreciate your feedback too!”

This will blow their mind. The goal is not necessarily to impress them with the quality of your work (of course it still needs to be excellent and has to look professional) but the real goal is showing the employer the self-initiative you’re taking as well as your commitment. Again, most candidates will not do this and therefore, this is how you can truly stand out.

Or if you’re worried that you may not be able to finish a demo project in time, you may want to start building your portfolio now. Going back to our online marketing analyst example, you can start creating multiple ads for various online products you come across or improve other people’s ads and then showcase your sample work during the interview.

Of course, you can do this for other industries too. If you’re looking for an accounting job, maybe you can build a small portion of a relatively complex accounting book to showcase your book keeping ability. If you’re a programmer, the possibilities are endless. If you’re looking for a management consulting job for example, you can potentially conduct a sample market or company analysis. I’m sure you have an idea as to what employers look for within your own respective industry. 

If you absolutely cannot think of a way to prepare a demo project, at the very least, create a powerpoint presentation to sell your background and skill set. You gotta show them something! Otherwise, how would you stand out in the sea of all the other graduates who also have a degree like you, who also have completed their school projects, and who also claim they are “hard-working”, they are “fast-learners” and just need a chance to “prove themselves”? You know what I mean? You don’t have to wait to get a job to prove yourself. You can start right now.

If you want an exceptional outcome, if you want results that you can be truly happy with, what you wanna do is to go the extra mile to differentiate yourself and convince the potential employer that you have what it takes to be successful. Simple as that.

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