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Accordingly to recent news, 53% of recent college graduates are either underemployed or unemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. And the numbers are worse for majors like humanities, art history, philosophy or anthropology. It’s enough to make those just about to graduate feel hopeless. But don’t – you can get a job, and a good one, no matter what any research says.
Even in the toughest job markets, the best candidates find great positions. You simply have to know how to be one of the best. The emotion you feel is fear — and you deserve to feel it. I could feel phantom anxiety pains just thinking of being a 22-year old, toiling away in a retail job waiting for real life to start, with no certainty except accruing student loan interest.
It is absolutely worth every penny. A few years into a career, I’ve never met anyone who regrets their college education. It’s a core part of who we are as professionals and as people. It’s normal to feel trepidation as getting into the workforce is one of the biggest life changes you’ll have. Feel it, and move on. Don’t let it incapacitate you or strip you of hope. Do not give up or get stuck. If you want the best chances of landing that amazing job you’ve dreamed about, apply yourself to this advice. You’ll be the star candidate everyone is clamoring to get.
1. Have a vision for yourself. Personal 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. A very common mistake is to communicate that you “just want a job” in order to show you’re hungry. That makes you look unfocused and desperate. (This works a lot like dating.)
2. Embrace your major. Conventional wisdom suggests that unless you’re a software engineer, nurse, or some other in-demand, specialized field, you’ll be out of luck. Don’t buy it. Never apologize for your major. You picked it for a reason, and own it with pride.
3. Network and don’t stop. 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 benefited you. People are more willing to help young people than you’d guess. (And 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. This is key – keep doing this after you get a job! The average tenure for a first job is 1-2 years. You’ll want to keep making those key connections even when you don’t need them. In fact, that’s the best time to do it.
4. Milk your internships. Most grads have done internships, which don’t pay much (if at all) so this is where you can collect. Keep in touch with people at your internships and contact them when you’re in the job search — whether or not you can or want to work there. To point #3, ask them to lunch and let them know what you’re looking to do. Call them up on a regular basis to check back in. You want to be top of mind when they hear of opportunities. If your relationship is particularly good, ask if the company will allow you to work from a vacant desk while you job search. It gives you a professional base of operations, and also allows you to be in the water cooler talk of the organization.
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.