Home / Career Advice / Job Hunting / 6 Job Search Tips for New Grads

6 Job Search Tips for New Grads

Male graduate wearing his cap

The class of 2021 is making its professional debut in the most daunting economic climate we have seen in a generation. Latest numbers put the unemployment rate around 15%, while as of mid-May new job listings are down around 37% year over year nationwide, making jobs for recent graduates hard to find. It is a tough environment to get your first job out of college, there is no doubt about it; however, there are silver linings to be found as local economies around the country start to reopen.

Some industries, like finance and accounting, sales, and technology report hiring has picked back up as companies look to capitalize on the influx of available talent. Some companies say they are hiring faster than they ever have before, with virtual interviews and more adaptable schedules helping to move the hiring process along more quickly. Organizations have adopted remote work en masse, leading to greater flexibility and work-life balance for employees. 

If you’re a new graduate wondering how to get your first job in this unique environment we find ourselves in, do not lose hope just yet. 

Tips To Find Open Jobs For Recent Graduates 

1. Tap into your network

You have probably heard the old adage “it is not what you know, but who you know that counts.” In a post-pandemic professional landscape, this saying rings true. Now is the time to turn to the academic, professional and personal contacts with whom you have spent your college career building relationships. 

Consider reaching out to the following people, who may be able to point you in the direction of a job opportunity or connect you with others in their network who can help:

  • Contacts from previous internships
  • Managers from past part-time jobs
  • College professors
  • TA’s
  • Guidance counselors
  • Family friends
  • Personal mentors
  • Extracurricular group leaders
  • Volunteer group coordinators

While you can get your first job out of college by cold applying to job listings you find online, do not rely on this as your only job search strategy. Wherever possible, seek out a personal introduction to a hiring manager or other employee in the company who can help get your resume in the right hands. 

2. Be flexible

New jobs are out there—6.2 million of them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you want to make one of them yours, be flexible in considering positions that aren’t the spitting image of the “dream job” you may have had in mind when choosing your major.  

This advice is not unique to our current situation; even long before the pandemic, research demonstrated that college graduates tend to move in and out of different career paths during their first, second, and third jobs. Ultimately, only 27% end up working in a field related to their major. Being open to a professional pivot will vastly increase your job opportunities. 

This does not mean the last four years were a waste—far from it. There is heavy evidence that people with bachelor’s degrees in any area out-earn their peers who do not hold degrees. You can still get a job that capitalizes on the diverse skill set you built during undergrad. 

For example, maybe that elective course you took on American cinema might pique your interest in a job with an arts and culture nonprofit, or perhaps your extracurricular involvement with student government could be parlayed into an organizer position with a local political campaign.

3. Do your due diligence 

If there is one thing that holds true despite the tough jobs outlook, it is that the most prepared candidates are always at an advantage. Landing the job in such a competitive market means you need to work even harder to stand out from the crowd by doing thorough research and preparation for every interview. 

Gone are the days of the job seeker’s market where companies might have been more willing to make allowances for less polished first-time job seekers. Now, an employer could just as easily hire someone with more experience who will work for the same amount, so it is on you to show up and make a strong impression. 

Before an interview, do a deep dive on the company to learn not just the ins and outs of what it does, but its current market outlook. Has it recently made headlines for its struggles in a certain area, or is it garnering praise in the media? Find out what makes the company tick right now so you can craft a personal value proposition that speaks to how you can solve meaningful problems as an employee of the company. 

4. Continue your education

Considering post-graduate studies? Now might be the time to pull the trigger rather than heading straight into the workforce. 

If a graduate degree will help advance your future career prospects, it might be wise to delay employment for a couple of years until the market stabilizes. A lower starting salary in your first job, even if it’s the result of a recession, can negatively impact your earning potential over the life of your entire career—some say to the tune of $1 million or more. This is because your ability to negotiate your next salary is so often dependent on what you have made in the past.

We only recommend going the continued education route if you were legitimately considering doing so in the near future already, independent of the pandemic. It does not make sense to suddenly dive into, say, three years of law school—or the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that could potentially come with it—just because you’re facing uncertain job prospects. Data from the Department of Education shows that 27% of master’s degree programs result in higher debt than earnings. For medical and law degrees, that number spikes to 82%. 

If continuing your education was not previously on your radar or would put you in a significant amount of debt, the better option is to take a job you know will be temporary to build your resume and skillset. 

5. Transfer your skills

Not all industries have been equally affected by the pandemic. Some, like technology, have been more shielded than others and perhaps even empowered by the shift. You can capitalize on this by transferring your core skills to industries that are in a better position for growth. 

Working for a tech company, for example, does not necessarily mean you have to be a software developer or network administrator. Companies like Google and Facebook employ accountants, human resources personnel, publicists and even corporate chefs. Look to where the economic activity is and you will likely find a set of roles—albeit maybe unexpected ones—that could be a fit for your skills. 

You can also benefit by what’s known as cross-skilling—training for an adjacent skill that can also be beneficial to an organization. This is a growing trend that will not only expand your skills, but strengthen you as a candidate. 

6. Take Some Time Off

It is not uncommon for young adults in Europe to take a “gap year” between high school and college or college and professional life. Amid the economic uncertainty, the trend is catching on among students in the U.S. 

While some naysayers would condemn the gap year as an excuse to goof off for 12 months, it is gaining traction as a legitimate opportunity to volunteer for a worthwhile cause, work as an intern or gain real-world experience in a trade. The good news for candidates is that after the pandemic, hiring managers are likely to be much less critical of nontraditional career paths and gaps in employment. 

To make sure a gap year helps rather than hurts your future career prospects, put together a deliberate plan for how you will spend your time and what you hope to gain from it. Will you learn a new language while immersing yourself in another culture? Do hands-on work on a passion project? Work part-time while learning to code or mastering photoshop? Demonstrating how you did something useful with your time off will be key in demonstrating its value to future prospective employers.