In a recent survey, about 45% of 2020 grads said they are still looking for work, according to employment site Monster. A recent Pew Research Center analysis of federal labor data also found that about 31% of 2020 graduates were unemployed last fall, well above the 22% for 2019 graduates. But there are things you can do to help your chances of landing a good job.
1. Know your career vision. It’s important to go into a job interview knowing what you want for yourself. Ambition is one of the most compelling qualities a young professional can display and sets you apart immediately. Take the time to figure out what you want for yourself, and don’t be afraid to express it, even if it’s a goal you’ll build towards.
Many new grads don’t know exactly what they want because they haven’t experienced enough of the workplace yet. It’s fine to have a vision for now. For example: “I want to be in a position where I can be part of a team, contribute my problem-solving abilities, and gain exposure to the industry. Someday I’d like to own my own business.”
A very common mistake is to communicate that you just want a job to show you’re hungry. That makes you look unfocused and desperate. You want to show the interviewer why you’re the perfect fit for the job at hand.
2. Embrace your major. You’ve worked hard to achieve a degree in your chosen field. Let it work for you. Many new hires at companies are generalists, who work hard, learn, and get trained on the job. Your goal is to figure out how your major helps you in your job seeking. For example, if you’re a philosophy major, discuss how it’s helped you manage opposing viewpoints and complexity. This is great for sales and customer relations. Talk about how political science has taught you about getting work done in complex organizational structures, which is perfect for management consulting.
3. Network. Ask every professional person you know to meet with you and explain your vision for yourself. Then ask them who else they would suggest you meet with and reach out to the new folks. Follow up regularly to let people know how their intros have benefitted you. People are more willing to help young people than you’d guess. The worst they can say is no.
From this, you’ll start building a solid network. Most people get jobs from connections, so this is the path to land your job. And as a side benefit, you’ll learn new information from each person you meet, and expand your knowledge of various professions.
4. Remember your internships. Most grads have done internships, which don’t pay much (if at all) so this is where you can finally collect! Keep in touch with people at your internships and contact them when you’re in the job search regardless if you want to work there. Add them to your network. Call or email them on a regular basis to check back in. You want to be top of mind when they hear of opportunities.
5. Don’t take one interview or meeting for granted. Approach every meeting with the utmost professionalism – you never know who will refer you for a job. Dress professionally. Show up on time and always be gracious and thank them for their time. Manners matter when looking for a job.