Summer has arrived, and you’re starting to worry that you still haven’t landed your first job. What’s worse, your friends from school are all working and getting on with their careers. But don’t let it get you down. You probably just need to change your job-search strategy for the summer months and try doing things differently.
One of the most common missteps among entry-level job seekers is to keep doing the same things but in greater doses. If something isn’t working, doing more of it isn’t likely to work, either. And now that more recruiters and hiring managers are out on summer vacations, you may find hiring process slowing down, giving you a little extra time to rethink your game plan. Here’s how.
1. Tap into classmates who’ve landed jobs
Your fastest route to your first job is through people you already know. Classmates who’ve recently started full-time jobs are a great resource. Reach out to everybody you know who’s managed to do that in a field you’re interested in. Those new hires won’t have a ton of leverage to advocate for you, but they’ll at least have contact information for recruiters and hiring managers in their companies. And whether or not it carries much weight, many will gladly serve as a reference. Since your classmates just went through the job search process themselves, they’ll know how to navigate it and can share some valuable tips. And if your friends are doing great work at the company already, their referral might give you more of a boost than you suspect.
2. Start a freelance or temp assignment
Interviewing for a full-time position as a freelancer or temp worker is better than interviewing as someone who isn’t working at all. First, you’ll have some experience to talk about in your interview and cover letter, which can help establish your professional credentials. Hiring managers are also likely to respect your resourcefulness when they see you’re doing everything you can to land full-time work.
Plus, contract jobs can often turn into a full-time offers. If your employer sees that you’re responsible, smart, hard-working, and compatible with their team, chances are they’ll consider you first when new positions open up.
3. Get your college career center to advocate for you
Most students graduate from college and never look back. Maybe your university’s career counselors helped you get your resume into shape, but once that was finished you went on your way. Don’t hesitate to reconnect. It’s perfectly okay to reach out to your career placement center after graduation and ask for continued support. After all, the career office’s job isn’t done just because you graduated. And chances are the experts who work there are filled with plenty of ideas, contacts, and resources to help you find openings and promote your candidacy until you’ve landed that first job.
4. Find five companies you want to work for, and let them know
If you’re passionate about working for a company, reach out to a recruiter there (or, better yet, the hiring manager for a job opening you’ve just applied to) and write a stirring explanation for why, totally separate from any cover letter (which should address your fit for a specific job). Yes, it’s a shot in the dark, but you’ve probably got the 20 minutes to spare to take it.
Have you long admired the organization’s culture, which you believe you can fit into perfectly? Do you feel a connection to the company’s mission? Do they support a social cause that’s close to your heart? If you feel a connection to a company, pour your heart out to a hiring manager and let them know that. That passion can go a long way, particularly early on in your career when you’re asking employers to bank on your potential, not your track record.
5. Practice interviewing
If all else fails and you’re leaving interviews feeling like things just aren’t going well, call a time out and take a break from interviewing. It’s a good sign that your job applications are getting through the door, but it’s not a great sign that you’re falling short afterward. So run some mock interviews with a friend or someone you trust who has more professional experience than you do. Or grab a few sessions with an interview coach who can walk you through the interview process, critique your communication style, and flag any missteps you might be making.
It can be difficult for new grads to know what to do differently when they don’t have much experience interviewing. Sometimes a few well-placed pointers can improve your performance so you can start landing those elusive job offers–ideally, between now and Labor Day.