Just graduated? Here’s how to start looking for a job

Between the virus and the recession, searching for a job can feel daunting. But it’s not impossible.

Just graduated? Here’s how to start looking for a job
[Source photo: viafilms/iStock]

Students and graduates around the country are grappling with the loss of job offers and in-person internships. So you’re not alone if you’ve just graduated and are wondering how to land your next opportunity. New job seekers are certain to face novel challenges. “I think it will work out fine in the end,” Tom Gimbel, CEO of LaSalle Network, told Fast Company. “[But] the landscape is different for new job seekers.”


For parties on both sides of the job hunt, things are changing quickly. Many college students and graduates finished their classes online and participated in online graduations. HR and recruiters are leaning more heavily on virtual tools. Moreover, the entry-level industries most in demand are changing, too.

If you’re searching for a new job and trying to demonstrate your best skills, remember it’s not only about emphasizing your academic achievements, but also—cue the flashbacks to college applications—how well-rounded you are.

Here are five helpful tips to get you started on your search for an entry-level role:

1. Open yourself up to every new opportunity

Students should take advantage of their “learning mindset” when researching job opportunities. On the other side, small businesses can benefit by bringing these bright, young minds into their fold. After the dust has settled from the current crises, students who have established strong connections during this uncertain period may secure a full-time opportunity.

As Fast Company contributor Andrew Fennell writes, many entry-level hires demonstrate a few key characteristics. These new employees show they are willing to learn, possess a strong work ethic, and are interested in the company’s work. Candidates who can demonstrate they are flexible and positive-minded are more likely to stand out.

2. Consider your hirer’s “pain points”

To stand out in an applicant-heavy field, pay special attention to how you can provide value. Think about how what the company desires matches up with some of your biggest achievements. To reframe this thinking, consider what and where the hirer’s “pain points” are as you prepare for an interview. Then make sure you emphasize how you could help.


3. Pick up gigs, for the time being

In order to demonstrate you are staying sharp in your desired professional area, consider taking on freelance work. Gig work is obviously great for flexibility, and can also help diversify your skill set. Your ability to try out new work and sharpen a range of skills will benefit you in the long term.

4. Build your network

Try to set up informational interviews over Zoom with people you find interesting or who work in your desired industry. Put your emphasis on reaching out to semi-recent grads who remember the struggle of finding their first job. Connecting with millennials who also graduated during a recession may be especially helpful. Alumni are often the closest network for college students who are just out of school and still lacking in professional experience.

5. Hold your ground for competitive pay

In a series of findings from a 2020 iCIMS report, college seniors expected to make an average of $48,781 in their first job out of school, with male students expecting $4,000 more than female students after graduation.

When considering priorities for their first job, graduating seniors said that, after the type of job and work benefits offered, their next priority was earning competitive pay. This may not feel like an easy time to negotiate, but half-hearted efforts to secure deserving pay from the start will only hurt future paychecks.

This isn’t to say that every graduate will have the luxury of turning down a job because of an unsatisfactory salary. But that doesn’t mean you should jump at the first offer they provide, either. Try to negotiate with the idea that the crisis and its many uncertainties will pass eventually.

About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur