As a new grad looking for a job, you’re probably faced with a lot of pressure to find a job. The current unemployment challenges facing new grads are a steady topic in the news today, and I wanted to share some lessons that I’ve learned that will help new grads looking for a job.
1) You’re not that special, so stop thinking that you are.
A new grad looking for a job needs to understand one thing above all else: you’re not special, and neither am I; most people aren’t that special. Unless you wake up in the morning and see Bill Gates when you look in the mirror, you’re not that special or important in the grand scheme of things. And that’s ok!
I’m not saying that you should go around hating yourself, but there is an overabundance of self-love and narcissism present in our world today, and a little humility can go a long way.
How can you apply this outlook to get a job easier? You’re going to have to start somewhere, so apply for any job that you can get. Don’t go around thinking that there are certain jobs that are “beneath” you.
My advice is get a position in a client-facing role in order to meet more people. Work in a coffee shop around a lot of businesses that your skills are suited for. Chat with customers. Get to know them and let them know a bit about you. Make it clear what type of work you want to do, but kick ass at the job you currently have to show that you take pride in your work no matter what the job is. Networking goes so much deeper than just attending networking events.
2) Know the strengths and weaknesses of your degree.
New grads looking for a job need to know the ins and outs of their education. Every degree in university has a set of hard and soft skills taught throughout the course of the program. Some degrees are more writing intensive, while others teach data analysis. Some encourage a good deal of collaborative group work, and others require a lot of presentations. Think critically about what your degree has taught you, and what you could improve upon. Volunteer or self-teach to fill those gaps (see later points for further explanations).
3) Recognize what skills are currently in demand. Learn one on the side. Turn it into a hobby.
I was recently speaking to a colleague who works for a large insurance company, and they informed me that there were currently 40 unfilled programming jobs at their office, and almost 1,000 in the city of London, Ontario. More and more businesses are adapting to the times and recruiting freelance digital creative employees, so new grads looking for a job need to consider learning a digital trade, like coding, web design, or graphic design. A sociology degree is all too common nowadays, but a sociology major who has a graphic design side-business can be quite valuable for a company. You can save the company a lot of time and effort while simultaneously enhancing your own value as an employee by bringing more skills in-house than the position requires.
A great way to get your foot in the door is to offer pro-bono work to build a professional portfolio and gain experience with the particular skill you’ve decided to learn. Learned some basic web design? Use your spare time on a few Sundays and offer to build a local church a whole new website. Decided to take up photography? Offer free engagement photo sessions on Kijiji or just by asking around on social media.
4) Volunteer strategically
As we progress through high school and university, we’re told that volunteering looks great on a resume, which is a partial truth. I’m a big fan of volunteering, and I’ve done a great deal of it throughout high school, university, and beyond. There are a great deal of skills you can learn from volunteering, but the mistake most people make when they are listing past volunteer experience on their resume is that they list EVERY recent position they’ve had. The problem with this approach for a new grad looking for a job is that it clutters your resume and fails to tell a clear story of who you are.
When you’re looking into volunteer opportunities, any new grad looking for a job should seek out positions that will help you develop skills that will complement your current value as a potential employee. For example, if you want to get hired as a writer, then instead of listing “excellent written communication skills” on your resume like every other university grad ever, seek out a volunteer opportunity that involves writing. Want to break into the sales & marketing game? Look into volunteering for charities or non-profits that would welcome some assistance in that department. If you can’t find a position, try cold-calling to establish your own. Use your volunteer opportunities to gain experience with the skills that will complement your degree.
5) Create and maintain a LinkedIn profile.
Unless you have insanely good connections or your parent(s) own a company, any new grad looking for a job should probably create a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is Facebook for grown-ups, and while most of the site is full of shitty career advice articles like this one (or this one) that won’t actually make a difference in your life and unnecessarily lengthy descriptions for entry-level positions, LinkedIn is still a valuable tool in your job search. A fantastically detailed LinkedIn profile will not guarantee that you’ll get a job, but not having one can only hurt you.
At a basic level, a new grad looking for a job should have a well-rounded LinkedIn profile, complete with a high quality photo of you dressed professionally (or whatever the appropriate context is for the job you seek). Your description should be brief and to the point. You shouldn’t have some pretentious autobiography as your description (see Point 1). Don’t worry about skills and who has endorsed you for them; recruiters don’t pay attention to that (one of my friends has endorsed for “katana”). If you want to up your LinkedIn game, you can look into keyword optimization, a premium account, posting articles on your page, and even try engaging with thought leaders in your industry in a discussion on other articles you see.
6) Don’t forget to edit your resume.
When you graduate from university, don’t forget to trim your resume. Employers sometimes receive hundreds of resumes for one position, and recruiters often take a mere 30 seconds to skim over your application. Resumes that are longer than two pages are usually immediately discarded for the sake of time. You’re a new grad looking for a job; there is no reason that your resume should be longer than 2 pages. Do not list every little thing you’ve done and avoid overly lengthy descriptions of past positions. In fact, I’d advise to leave out the entire description of what your past position entailed unless it was a more obscure one. There’s no point in dressing up mundane tasks in overly verbose clothes. Instead, highlight important accomplishments from past positions, make use of bolding certain key terms, and keep it neat & concise. Challenge yourself to reduce your resume to one page.
7) Fit in with the culture of where you apply
This one may be the most important, because it is often the final deciding factor. I do realize that the first bit of advice was “apply everywhere!”, but applying this advice to any most entry-level positions can only help your chances as a new grad looking for a job. For most entry-level positions, the top candidates will all match closely on paper, but the best candidate is the one that fits into the culture of the organization the best.
For example, let’s say that you’re applying to Lululemon for a entry-level marketing position. You have a business degree, a post-grad diploma in marketing, and you even have freelance graphic design experience. That’s great, and while you may be qualified for the position in terms of your education and experience, unless you fit in with the culture of Lululemon, you may get overlooked for someone else.
The reason for this way of hiring is that at the end of the day, qualifications mean far less than a proper culture fit. The company is going to train you their way, and all of your experience and education will make your transition to the new role easier, but after you’ve been trained is what companies are really concerned about. No one at Lululemon really cares if you graduated top of your class if you’re not passionate about fitness and overall wellness – two values closely aligned with the company’s mission.
A good way to see if you fit with the values of a company is to simply cold call a current employee and ask for a moment of their time to see if they can answer a few questions about the culture of the company. If you want to apply to a bank that’s full of very competitive and athletic people, your own life had better mirror those values, otherwise you probably won’t get hired; people prefer those similar to them, so if you don’t match the culture, your chances of getting hired are slim.
8) Play sports. Join a club. Get outside of your home.
This aligns closely with the previous tip about culture, but following this advice will connect with you with people from all different walks of life that are connected by a common interest or hobby. If you really want to think about this strategically, pursue activities that you enjoy that are associated with more affluent members of society like road cycling or photography. Both of these hobbies allow for constant upgrading as your income and skill level increases, so they attract all sorts of people, but seem to be populated with a good number of affluent members.
Say you buy an entry-level DSLR camera and join a local photography club. A good amount of the conversations that will occur when a younger person first joins a club will be personal ones (what did you take in school, what do you do now, what do you want to do later, etc…). If any member of the club works for a company that happens to be hiring, or they know a friend of a friend’s brother’s uncle that is hiring someone with qualifications similar to yours, a personal referral is worth its weight in gold. It is estimated that almost 80% of jobs are not publicly listed and are filled internally or by personal referral. Take advantage of this and get your face out there.
9) Complement your degree with a post-grad program that makes you more valuable.
Think back to point 2. On their own, most university degrees are not that useful at face value. If you’re not having any luck as a new grad looking for a job, consider augmenting your degree with a post-grad program, accelerated degree, or a new program altogether. Common examples include a post-grad degree in marketing if you took business or psychology, an accelerated nursing program if you took science in undergrad, or a project management diploma if you took engineering or business.
I hope these tips help any new grad looking for a job and that you’ve realized what the underlying theme is: get out and meet people! If you have any questions or want some advice, feel free to contact me via email (listed in the about page).