This week marks the beginning of our 52 week journey through my latest book, “The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money.” Each week you’ll discover a new piece of information, a new way to look at old information, or at the very least, you’ll be reminded of something that you learned before, but have since forgotten. Congratulations on taking the time to invest in your own future and good luck as you journey through your twenties and thirties.
Since you are reading this section, I am going to assume you are either unemployed or underemployed. You’re not alone; it takes many college students months to find a job after they graduate. Think about it; you are competing against more than two million other people who just graduated with you across the country. The point of this chapter is to help you find that first (or second, or third) real job. What do I mean by “real job?” Basically, any job you actually want to do, or one requiring your degree.
To begin, you should have some idea as to what you want to do. There are all types of resources available including personality tests and self-evaluations to help find the best job suited for your wants and skills. Once you get a general idea, you should evaluate your education, skills, and experience. From here you should be able to either choose an industry or an occupation. For instance you may want to be in the banking industry, or you may want to be a financial analyst for a large company in any industry.
Don’t think you have to stick to a particular career just because it relates to your major. I know during the dot-com boom of the ‘90s, people with majors in history were hired for computer jobs. Companies were simply willing to pay for their training because they were that desperate for people with computer skills.
I don’t want to gloss over this topic too quickly. You really should be thinking about a career more than just a job. I know when you first graduate you might be willing to take just about any job that pays.
You may actually be forced to take just about anything if your job search takes too long. You might not find your dream job right away, but you could find yourself on your dream job track. In other words, you may start at the bottom, but you could be in the right industry, with room for advancement.
If you are interested in obtaining a federal job, you should visit the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) job site at www.usajobs.gov. At this site, you can search for federal jobs by location, pay level, department, current job openings, and more. For recent college grads, you can select “Entry Level Professional” and search by location. There are a number of jobs located outside of the Washington, D.C. area, so don’t exclude this site just because you don’t want to move near the nation’s capitol. When I first used the site, it was the most organized job search site I used. Of course, as with most websites, it continues to evolve.
Even if you are looking for a private sector job, you may want to apply for a few government jobs. If you do decide to apply for a job with the federal government, you may have to wait several months before you get interviewed. That is why you must start early.
Searching for a private sector job is somewhat more erratic. There are a number of useful websites. Following is a list of some of the more prominent national ones:
Hotjobs – www.hotjobs.com
Monster – www.monster.com
Careerbuilder – www.careerbuilder.com
College Grad – www.collegegrad.com
True Careers – www.truecareers.com
College Recruiter – www.collegerecruiter.com
There are also sites that list jobs in specific industries and are dedicated to particular genres, such as non-profits, education, etc. Appendix A (in the print version of the book) has a list of web addresses for specific professions.
You can also search for jobs using your local newspaper, or the local paper in whatever city that interests you. Many of the larger newspapers have their employment listings online, so you can sort through them much easier. You can search by job category; experience needed, or even salary, just like using one of the aforementioned national job searches. Unfortunately salary is not listed very often. If it says “entry level,” just assume you’ll be ranked somewhere between the cleaning crew and the interns.
If you already know which companies interest you, you should visit their website. Most large companies (and some smaller ones) post their current job openings there. You may be able to find an open position before it is posted in newspapers or job search sites. The sooner they receive your resume, the better your chances are of getting an interview.
Don’t just send your resume to that one job that sounds perfect. You should send it to many different employers at once. In fact, if you are unemployed, there is no such thing as too many interviews (unless they are scattered around the country). While larger companies collect resumes electronically, it is still a good idea to get a paper copy in the hands of the decision makers. You should definitely use a good quality paper (unless you are faxing your resume).
Don’t forget to post your resume online at one or more of the previously listed websites. But use caution when doing this. Your employer could see your listing or—even worse—you could become the victim of identity theft. Make sure the site is credible and has security measures before posting any personal information, including your full name.
Next week we will discuss more job search options and help you prepare for the application process. You’ll learn what basic facts you should know about every company that you are going to apply to.
Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.com or www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.