“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Samuel Goldwyn
I’m one of the “lucky” college graduates: I landed a full-time gig in my chosen field within six months of graduating from college.
However, luck had nothing to do with it. I landed that job because of all of the hard work and preparation I put into planning my career in college, and because I treated my full-time job search as if it were a full-time job itself.
I took my studies seriously, picked up three highly valuable internships, and wrote my résumé and LinkedIn profiles in a way that positively highlighted my experiences and positioned me as an industry expert.
About a month after graduation, my father’s boss offered me a part-time position at their company in a marketing position they were willing to create for just for me. For the first six months out of college, I knocked on the doors of every highway department, garbage collector, and town supervisor in a 45-minute radius to introduce them to my company’s new painting and sandblasting capabilities.
Not at all glamorous, and only loosely related to my career goals, but this opportunity changed my life. I’m no longer afraid to knock on anyone’s door and give them a 30-second elevator pitch about a product or service. I’m comfortable holding conversations on subjects I know little about. I learned a lot about myself including what I do and don’t like in a job or a manager, so when it was time to move on a couple months later, I knew exactly what I was looking for. (That’s not the job-hopping millennial attitude in me — I knew when I signed on that the position was only temporary.)
The problem was finding what I was looking for.
It may sound like cliché, but the job market is tough out there. People think that we’re exaggerating when we say that interviewers are looking for five years experience, six Olympic gold medals, and superpowers to land a full-time job, but honestly that’s what it feels like sometimes.
Looking for a full-time job became a full-time job within itself for me.
Each day when I got home from working at my part-time job, I devoted several hours to searching for jobs on Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn, and even Craigslist. I submitted résumé after résumé, making the effort to tailor each résumé and cover letter to each potential employer, and had several phone and in-person interviews.
Most of the interviews I went on went great, although a couple were downright sketchy (another story for another day) and yet I still found myself without a full-time job.
Despite all the rejection, and despite the looming quarter-life crisis that every twenty-something faces when they take a job that isn’t in their major (or in my case, what I was looking to get out of my major), I kept applying and interviewing.
Related: Be Fearless In Your Job Hunt
Finally, on a glorious day in October, I received a LinkedIn message from one of my now-coworkers that said she would soon be hiring for a full-time Sales & Marketing Assistant position and that I seemed like a strong fit based on my profile and academic background. I researched the company, carefully read the job description, and realized they both were a perfect fit for me.
Two interviews later, I did it. I landed my full-time gig in my major six months out of college.
Let’s recap. In order to land my full-time gig in my major soon after leaving college, I:
- Took my studies seriously. I’m not saying you have to be an A+ student or graduate at the top of your class. What you should do, though, is use research projects as a chance to explore areas of research related to your career field, that you can use as portfolio pieces later down the road. I wrote my senior honors thesis on how to use Instagram for business, and the research I conducted for this allowed me to position myself as an industry expert in job interviews.
- Picked up valuable internships. Look for companies that can offer you a chance to work on productive and meaningful assignments (i.e., more than just fetching coffee and filing papers.) Be proactive and ask to help out on things that will allow you to build your portfolio and flex your skills in a particular area.
- Wrote my résumé and LinkedIn profiles in a way that positively highlighted my experiences. Showcase those research papers and intern projects! You worked hard on them, and now they’re an important part of your professional portfolio.
- Positioned myself as an industry expert. This one is incredibly important. It doesn’t matter how old you or are how much or little you know about a subject, anyone can be an industry expert. It all depends on the amount of effort you’re willing to put into it.
- Used each job and internship as an opportunity to learn about myself and what I do and do not like. Every job, even the summers you spend as a retail associate or Starbucks barista, will teach you something. You’ll learn what your ideal work atmosphere looks like, the kind of people that you like to work with/for, and what your strengths and weaknesses really are. Use the interview process as the chance to interview the interviewer about the company’s culture and general atmosphere — you have to feel like they are a good fit for you as much as they have to feel you are a good fit for them.
- Treated the full-time job search as a full-time job itself. Get active on job hunting sites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. Look for jobs at companies that you find interesting and don’t let yourself get hung up on whether or not you’re 100% qualified. Take the opportunity to interview the interviewer. Follow-up with a thank you after each interview.
Finding a full-time gig requires patience and persistence. I promise, all of your efforts will pay off.
If you ever need an extra set of eyes to look over your résumés and cover letters, or want to learn how to get more active on LinkedIn, I can be reached on Twitter and LinkedIn. After everything I went through to land my full-time job, I’m more than happy to assist others in landing theirs!