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Updated Oct 24, 2023

Diploma to Paycheck: Job Search Tips for New Grads

Looking for jobs after college doesn't have to be stressful. With a few tips, you can improve and expedite your job search.

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Jennifer Post, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Congratulations, you graduated! Now what?

Starting your job search can be daunting, and stepping into the “real world” means you have to be a whole new level of adult. With this transition comes more competition in the job market than maybe ever before.

According to estimates from an Education Data Initiative study, more than 4.4 million students graduated from college in 2021. That’s a lot of people looking for jobs. While they won’t all look in the same industry, these graduates have an excellent reason to be optimistic.

If you're wondering how best to monetize your college education, check out our article on finding the best job for your college major.

The current state of the job market

During the earliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic, industries such as restaurants, travel and leisure, and entertainment experienced significant declines, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. However, since the pandemic began, many of these fields have seen a remarkable recovery.

The vaccine rollout has also given many people the comfort they sought to slowly ease back into their pre-pandemic lifestyles. The consumer demand from this shift created thousands of openings for positions such as pilots, flight attendants and travel managers.

Analysts say the current job market is candidate driven. By this definition, applicants have a greater voice in standards and expectations as employers scramble to recover from sudden layoffs.

According to a Conference Board wage survey, starting salaries are projected to increase by an average of nearly 4% in 2022. Overall, wage increases are predicted to rise higher than the averages throughout the past decade.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers expects employers to hire 26.6% more graduates from the class of 2022 than 2021.

Here are a few things you can do right now to take advantage of these job market projections and make yourself marketable to employers as a recent college graduate.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Many analysts believe the state of the job market will improve in 2022, with higher average salaries.

1. Don’t delay your search (if you haven’t already started).

The most crucial job search advice for college students is to start early, according to Jason Weingarten, co-founder and CEO of talent acquisition software Yello.

“If soon-to-be grads are just starting their job search, they are already behind,” he told Business News Daily. “As early as freshman year, college students should begin building their networks by attending club events, networking with faculty members, securing leadership roles within campus organizations, and lining up internships.”

Geoff Gross, president and CEO of Medical Guardian, said that even if you’re not keen on a particular career opportunity, the job application process can still be helpful. Get as much interviewing experience as possible to bolster your interview skills so that when your dream job does come along, you’ll know exactly how to impress the hiring manager.

“When it comes to applying for jobs, don’t hold back,” Gross said. “Even if the job description doesn’t sound exactly like the type of work you want to do, it never hurts to apply [if you’re qualified].”

2. Show what you’ve learned.

Recent grads generally must find a job with limited work experience, but even if you’ve had only one or two brief internships or volunteer opportunities, you can still be a valuable employee.

“When I’m hiring, I’m impressed by candidates that highlight life experiences over skills,” said Cynthia Davies, managing director at design collective Safari Sundays. “[Demonstrate] what you have learned about life and how you can apply what you’ve taken away from your background to your job – what makes you a well-rounded person.”

If you're considering creative ways to apply for jobs, think of an approach that demonstrates your creativity while targeting the skills mentioned in the job description.

3. Polish your social media presence.

Since job searching in the digital age means social media will be involved in your process, recent grads should build a solid digital presence to make themselves findable online, according to Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer of applicant-tracking system iCIMS.

“Social networking sites are great ways to show off your professional skills and expand your network,” Vitale said. “They also offer candidates opportunities to connect with and interact with companies to increase their chances of being noticed.”

Amid COVID-19 restrictions, many companies have shifted from in-person to virtual models. The most obvious example is using one of the best video conferencing services, such as Zoom, to host meetings.

As such, recent graduates and job seekers should be especially proactive about networking online. Career advisors at Texas A&M University encourage graduates to take advantage of LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. These sites allow job seekers to find hiring managers’ profiles and reach out to them directly about open positions.

Students should keep in mind during the hiring process that hiring managers can also search for and see a candidate’s profile, according to Alexa Merschel, U.S. tax talent acquisition leader at PwC.

“Students should not forget that some of those people [on social media] are potential employers and future colleagues,” she said. “The best personal brands include a professional and appropriate online presence.” Because of this employer social media screening, job seekers may want to consider getting rid of questionable tweets and party photos.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Social media can be a great tool to advance your job search. You can use these platforms to contact hiring managers and establish professional connections.

4. Do some offline networking.

Digital networking is booming, but speaking with like-minded professionals or seasoned leaders face-to-face may influence your ultimate career path.

“[In-person] networking might be the biggest thing that makes students feel uncomfortable, but doing so will set you apart from the crowd,” Gross said. “Keep up-to-date resumes and business cards with you wherever you go – you never know when an opportunity to network will happen and what could come of it.”

5. Know where you want to go.

Only a lucky few go into college knowing the exact career they want. However, by graduation day, you should have some idea of where you want to land, said Monica Smith, founder and CEO of Marketsmith Inc. She encourages new grads to create personal road maps for the next one, five and 10 years. It may change as you go, she said, but this tool will at least help you get moving on your journey.

“Define what’s important to you,” Smith said. “Pitch your plan to anyone who will listen, and before you know it, you’ll acquire the interviewing skills you need to put your plan into action.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have started hiring for temporary or permanently remote positions. You can view this situation as an opportunity to work from home or travel while working. On the other hand, you might not be as pleased with this shift if you work more productively in offices or prefer hands-on training.

It’s important not to stress if your first job or working environment isn’t your dream job – or a position you thought you’d ever find yourself in – but still presents immense value. Joe Weinlick, chief marketing officer at career network Nexxt, reminds new grads that regardless of where they end up, their first job is often a gateway to every job afterward.

Shayna Waltower, Nicole Fallon and Shannon Gausepohl contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Jennifer Post, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Jennifer Post has spent nearly 10 years advising small business owners on best practices for human resources, marketing, funding and more. She devotes her time to ensuring entrepreneurs are equipped with not only the knowledge necessary to launch and grow a successful business but also the software products and tools that are essential for everyday operations. These range from CRM and credit card processing solutions to legal services and email marketing platforms. Post, who has a bachelor's degree in journalism, has shared her expertise through Fundera, The Motley Fool, HowStuffWorks and more. Most recently, she has focused on risk management and insurance, two key areas business owners must understand to sustain their enterprises.
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