Walking. Algebra. Wakeboarding. It’s hard to do anything for the first time, but looking for your first full-time job might very well top the list of scariest, most confusing, and daunting endeavors you’ll have to face.
You’ll be applying to jobs that will undoubtedly affect the trajectory of your career, you’ll be interviewing with strangers in positions of power, and likely dealing with rejection on the path to signing an offer letter. So it makes sense that it’s a little nerve wracking.
With those worries in mind, we talked with experts who offered their advice for overcoming the five biggest challenges of the entry-level job-search world.
How you can overcome it. Does it seem like there aren’t any perfect fits for your major? Then it’s time to set up some meetings with the people who can help you figure out how to connect your education with a job you’ll love.
"Speak with alumni and network with industry professionals to help determine where your background fits in the workforce, especially for liberal arts students," says Kimberly Brown, associate director of employer outreach at Princeton University. And if you haven’t visited your university’s career services office yet, make an appointment, stat! These professionals are dedicated to helping you find a field and a job that’s right for you.
How you can overcome it. So you’ve settled on a job—or a variety of jobs—where you could see yourself. Now comes the ultimate catch-22. When you’re just entering the workforce, you likely don’t have any on-the-job experience, which is to say you’re in the same position as countless others just like you. But if you’re willing to go the extra mile—and maybe do a little work for free—you could differentiate yourself and land a paying gig in your field sooner than your peers.
"Contact companies with a proposal for a project that you can autonomously implement within their businesses pro bono [for free]," says Brette Rowley, a career and business coach to young professionals based in Charleston, South Carolina. "Not only will this give you experience, but you'll also make valuable connections in the industry that you're interested in."
How you can overcome it. Okay, so you’ve done the work for free—thereby getting valuable experience. Now it’s time to interview for the job.
In-person interviews are perhaps the most important part of the job search process. Interviews are make-or-break moments in which the hiring managers—and other members of your potential future team—form an impression of whether or not you’ll be a good fit for the position. This can make a job interview pretty scary, possibly the scariest part of the whole search process.
"Do a mock interview with your friends, or ideally with someone you don't know, and go to as many interviews as you can," recommends career coach Anna-Jane Niznikowska. "With interviews, a lot of practice really helps." Even if you don’t get every job you interview for, you’ll be honing your "selling yourself" skills, so soon, you may not even have interview jitters at all.
Speaking of interviewing . . .
How you can overcome it. In many cases, even for entry-level positions, companies will roll out hiring teams to conduct interviews—sometimes three, four, or more employees. The people with whom you’ll be speaking can range from low-level managers to people in the C-suite, depending on the size of the brand. But no matter what, you need to make sure you know how your role would help each person at the company.
"Ensure that the initial recruiter provides the names and titles of the interviewers, [and] the backgrounds of each interviewer," says Elaine Krehmeyer, owner of her career coaching business, Career Revelations Research in Atlanta. "Prepare customized, thoughtful questions for each interviewer. Understand that what is important to a high-level hiring manager will be different than a peer-level teammate, with both having an important role in the hiring decision."
How you can overcome it. Congrats, you landed the job! It’s one of those hard truths: Entry-level workers are often underpaid. But don’t worry, these situations are often temporary. "Understand that this will pass, that this position is a stepping stone to get into your chosen career," says Laurie Berenson, founder of Sterling Career Concepts, a job search consultancy based in New York City.
"Do not take it personally. Look for ways to cut expenses in all other areas of your life. These positions tend to last one to two years and then things improve in terms of salary and responsibility." And don’t forget to always negotiate—even for entry-level jobs. You can probably get more than you think.
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.