Are all your friends getting settled into new careers while you’re still sitting on your parents’ couch and hitting refresh for new job postings? It’s a scary feeling, but, don’t worry…there’s NO reason to freak out!
Recent college graduates, listen up! I am living proof that you do NOT need to get stressed, anxious or freaked just because you don’t have a job yet. Sure, I get it — summer is winding down, the fun is over, and the reality is starting to sink in that you’re in the REAL WORLD now. I know the feeling of mindlessly applying to any full-time job you can find, worrying that you may have to ask for your high school gig at the local supermarket back if something doesn’t come up soon. It’s SCARY as f***! But there’s no need to go crazy — at least not yet. Take a deep breath, because there is most definitely hope.
I graduated from Syracuse University in May 2012 as a double major in Broadcast Journalism and Sociology (OK technically it was Dec. 2011, but I refused to leave school a semester early), and guess when I started my first full-time job? APRIL 2013! Yep, literally almost a FULL year later. I was living a pretty easy life…at home in my childhood room, spending my days going to the gym, getting my nails done and running errands for my parents — but I consider that year one of the most stressful times of my life. Granted, I was freelance writing here and there, so there was some cash flow, and I was lucky enough to have amazing parents who were always willing to help me out, but my anxiety was constantly through the roof. And, in the end, it was all for nothing!
I wasn’t willing to just take any job that I came across because I was pretty specific in what I wanted to do: Write celebrity/entertainment news in New York City. After several interviews at various magazines and websites, I was finally one of two candidates being considered for a position at a popular magazine in Feb. 2013. I didn’t get the job, but a few months later, they needed a new web writer…and I was totally their girl! The job was only three days a week at first, but it didn’t take long for me to get promoted to full-time, and suddenly, I found I was doing exactly what I wanted, and eventually, it led to me to HollywoodLife.com!
Of course, it doesn’t work exactly like this for everybody, but this is proof that there is hope if you’re just patient. In the meantime, here are some tips from Jenna Collins, who works in Career Services at Syracuse University!
What is the most common misconception people have when looking for their first job? That it will be easy! And I think the process is different for everyone. However, I would say that a common theme I see is the idea that quantity is better than quality. With the ease of online job boards, it might be tempting for some to blast out resumes to similar jobs and companies without making changes. All jobs titled “project coordinator” or “business development” may be considered the same, but are, in fact, very different. Taking the time to find the right position, the right company, and then truly tailoring your application materials will be more effective than sending out 100 generalized applications for positions they think are similar. Making connections, asking questions and truly marketing your skills should be first thought, and most of the time that isn’t the case.
Is there anything recent grads can do to beef up their resumes while still looking for a job? There are always things to be doing to add value to one’s knowledge and experience. Continuous professional development, whether through industry trainings, online learning, self-teaching or certifications, is an important piece to help validate the knowledge and experience of an individual. Staying involved with the community, volunteering, working part-time or freelancing can continue to add value. The value is more about the holistic picture of the individual, and sometimes we get too caught up in “technical aspects.”
What is your best advice for recent grads still looking for work? Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It is very difficult to navigate a job search at any level of experience, so don’t be intimidated and feel like you have to figure it out on your own. A lot of schools offer continued career support, especially right after graduation. Also, reach out to your network — friends, family, industry peers, non-industry peers, alumni randoms. You can always learn something from someone and you should always try.
What’s the best way for applicants to make themselves stand out to employers? This is a struggle. I try to emphasize that the job seeker market themselves in a way that is unique to their OWN background, experience and true characteristics. I ask questions like: What is your driving motivation for that industry or job? What is the part of your story that is different from what you are trying to convey on your resume? How do you fit into this role like nobody else could? I think the best way to stand out is to tell an employer why you are the best fit because of the skills you bring to the table, the experiences you’ve had and the values you hold. For entry-level candidates, a lot of the resumes will be very similar. However, there are other parts to that story, and being creative with how you include that or show those things is an important component of the job search. It’s the same for networking — be yourself and ask questions. Don’t just try to make connections after you have applied for a job, but make connections because it is going to be part of your professional identity going forward!
Any last advice? Taking the time to have a strategy, market yourself effectively and build genuine, professional connections should be a priority. We are in a world of work where most people are at least passively looking, if not actively. It is important to maintain you network, be curious about further opportunities to grow and develop, and explore opportunities that might not be on a traditional path.
HollywoodLifers, are you feeling better about your job hunt now?