Goodbye summer break, hello full-time jobs! As you count your days to your last 8am class, last all nighter studying, and last final exam, you might be feeling all sorts of emotions, from utterly terrified for what’s ahead to incredibly excited to start a new chapter. Either way, getting your first job out of college is no small feat. Luckily with the right amount of foresight, a dedication to followthrough, and a little bit of soul searching, there’s no job out of your reach.
Narrow down the search
While it might be tempting to throw your resume at every opening you see, doing so will burn you out by the time you’re interviewing for the positions you really want. Remember that finding a job is a two-way street! You should feel as compelled to the position or company as they hopefully are to you.
If you don’t know what kinds of positions you’d be interested in, start at the intersection between your skillset and your passions. Just because you studied psychology doesn’t mean you have to become a therapist - Monster has a great series of articles on jobs for different degrees: here’s history, economics, math, and political science to get you started. You might also take inspiration from older classmates and what lives they’ve led after graduation.
City-bound? Which one?
If you’re set on living in a particular city, you can filter jobs by location on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed, but your search might not be comprehensive if some companies haven’t posted all their openings yet. Another way to find positions is to identify potential employers in your ideal city. You can do this easily on sites like Glassdoor - for example, here are some of top companies in the Houston area. If you don’t see a position you’re a fit for just yet, take the opportunity to set up some coffee chats with alums, mutual friends, or family connections who work at that office. You might find an in to future openings and/or a referral in your future!
Priorities and preferences
Now that you’ve thought about what position you want and where you want to be, it’s time to think about your values and priorities in a new job. Of course, you can’t always be picky for your first job out of college, but it’s still important to keep in mind some of the following things. It might just be helpful down the line, or when you’re comparing offers.
- Company size: There’s no right answer when it comes to the company size. At 10,000+ person companies you’ll tend to find more structured mentorship or a cohort program to join whereas at a 10 person company you might find more autonomy and direct impact. Think about class experiences where you’ve enjoyed the work the most - did it involve clear frameworks and structured learning, or more ambiguity and flexibility?
- Compensation: Whether you have student loans to pay off or you’re transitioning to fully supporting yourself financially, compensation is a huge factor for most people. Total compensation is more than just salary - it might include stock if the company is publicly traded, equity if they’re not, commissions, or significant yearly bonuses that factor into the equation. Beyond that, you might also want to consider benefits like insurance, free meals, or various stipends. If a company isn’t offering what you’re looking for though, you can use other offers as leverage in negotiation - here’s a great guide on how.
- Culture: Different industries have different norms on culture and within them different companies hold various reputations on culture. For example, tech generally promotes a more casual and laidback vibe while finance upholds more traditional structures. A great way to gauge culture is to ask about the company’s values and how they practice them during interviews. For example, if a company values transparency, they might have company-wide meetings with the CEO every Friday. This is also a great way to show your interest in the company to your interviewer.
How to get the job you want
If you’ve answered the what, where, and why, you’re in a great position to start your search. The last question is the biggest one: how? Here are some tips and tricks to set yourself up for success:
Go for coffee
Coffee chats these days rarely involve coffee, but nonetheless they’re a great way to learn about opportunities and paths to get there. Platforms like LinkedIn make it simple to filter searches by company, school, and even location. Try to find people you have something in common with—like an alma mater or a similar background. The best connection requests are personal, specific, and actionable - here’s a great list of outreach templates you can use. You might even consider getting LinkedIn Premium to help make this process easier.
A good way to start is by searching alums who have roles or work at companies you’d be interested in. You can
Practice makes perfect
Most times, interview processes for various roles will be standardized and structured throughout the industry. For example, most companies start their processes with a behavioral interview or two. Consulting companies will then often ask you to do case studies, or software engineering jobs will ask you to have a technical interview that involves coding. The best way to learn more about the type of questions to expect is to search for interview questions for companies you’d like to join. Glassdoor has a great platform to do exactly this - check out some interview questions for Walmart.
The best trick to making progress is staying organized. If you’re no sure where to start, don’t worry - we’ve made a job hunting tracker template for you. When you apply to a job, you can fill out the tracker and remember to follow up on those positions if you don’t hear back, for example by sending the recruiter or hiring manager a connection request to follow up on your application. The trick is to follow up once a week for 3 weeks. If you still don’t hear back by then, at least you’ve put your best effort forward.
Gaining the motivation and energy to start your job hunt is often the hardest part! Once you get in the groove of it, the momentum will take you right to that first offer, and many more. Find yourself a job hunting buddy or mentor to help you stay on track and you’ll be accepting a job you love sooner than you think.