Landing a job after graduation

You did it! Four (more or less) years of hard work, late nights, study sessions and endless cups of coffee and you made it through your last finals week EVER! You went to all the parties and celebrations, your friends and family came to celebrate with you and now it’s time to embark on the new adventure of school-free life. It’s incredibly exciting and exhilarating, but also a little bit scary. The idea of experiencing “adulting” for the first time can be intimidating, plus figuring out things like 401ks, retirement contributions, savings, insurance and a little thing called vacation time? But before panicking about all of that, let’s talk about finding your first job out of college.

So you walked across the stage on Saturday and you don’t have a job offer yet. That’s okay! The national average of recent graduates employed at time of graduation consistently sits around 40 percent. Here at the University of Washington, we survey graduates 6 months after graduation, and at that time only 7 percent of UW recent graduates report to us that they are still seeking employment. And 83 percent of those employed are in “career-related positions!” You are in good company and your UW degree is certainly sought by employers. However, it takes a little bit of time to find a job–usually about 2-3 months, in fact. So if you are just getting started, give yourself a little time. It’s also a good idea to remember that your first job does not have to be your “forever job.”

I didn’t have a job lined up when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. In fact, it took me 16 interviews and 2 part-time jobs over 6 months before I landed in my full-time, career position. It was a long and frustrating process through which I kept hearing, “we really liked you–you were our second choice–but the candidate we went with just had more experience directly related to this position.” In fact, I got so used to hearing that phrase, that when I finally received a full-time offer, I was shocked and didn’t quite know how to respond (hint: say, “thank you, I am so happy to hear this. Could you send me the full details of the offer and give me some time to review everything before I give you my final answer?”). My own job search took more time than I would have liked, but I will also admit I didn’t do everything I now know could have sped up the process. Let me share a little bit about some job search strategies that could have gotten me to that place a little bit faster.

1. Networking.

I know, I know. Everyone and their mother tells you to be networking. But honestly, they tell you to do it because it works. Nationally,  statistics tell us 40-80 percent of people get their jobs through networking contacts. And from our surveys, we know that 48 percent of UW graduates found their post-graduation job through a networking contact. There are many different styles of networking, so there’s something out there that everyone will feel comfortable with. Get comfortable sharing with your network (people you are already connected to–friends, family, friends-of-family, neighbors, old co-workers, etc.) that you are looking for a job and what you are hoping to do! You never know who people know.

One networking strategy that is proven to be extremely effective is conducting informational interviews. An informational interview is when you reach out to someone who is doing the work you would like to do (use LinkedIn to find UW alums) and have a 20-30 minute conversation where you ask them questions about their work, their company, how they got to their current position, and if they have advice for you. Not only do you gain information and advice, you get to share a little about yourself and what you’re looking for with someone who may be able to refer you to a hiring manager! Find out more about informational interviews on page 15 of the Career Guide.

2. Targeted research.

This is a proactive way for you to think about who you are interested in working for. Do some research, learn about the market in the geographic area you want to work and methodically start creating a list of “target companies” you would like to work for. You can do this by reading industry publications, studying business journals or Chambers of Commerce for that city or finding resources like the Seattle Networking Guide that provide a nice overview of the market. Use this list to systematically check their websites, seek out informational interviews with employees at the company, learn about events or job fairs they are attending and become familiar with their hiring practices. Combine this step with #1 and #3.

3. Online job searching.

This is where I spent the majority of my time when I was seeking my first job after graduation. And it did eventually get me to a full-time job, but it took me 6 months longer than I would have preferred. When you are searching for jobs online, you should use a variety of job search engines and job boards. What is the difference, you may ask? Job search engines (ex: Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, LinkUp.com) pull job postings from other job boards and company websites. They can help you find opportunities from places you might not know to look. Job boards are sites where companies go directly and post positions (ex: HuskyJobs, LinkedIn.com, Glassdoor.com, Monster.com). There are often job boards tailored to certain industries (ex: Dice.org for tech jobs, Idealist.org for nonprofits), so this can be a good way to identify opportunities in a specific area of interest. After you find and apply for jobs through these sites online, circle back to tips #1 and #2 and follow up with some networking or a little bit more targeted research to learn about that company specifically.

All of these strategies work together hand-in-hand, and a strategic approach to your job search should speed up the process! Set small and manageable goals for yourself along the way. One adjustment to life after graduation is learning how to manage your time when professors aren’t setting deadlines for you. Set tangible goals for your week (ex: apply to 3 jobs and reach out to one new networking contact) so that you are making visible progress each day. And remember, the Career & Internship Center is here for you. We work with recent graduates for up to 24 months after graduation! So schedule an appointment, attend one of our workshops and keep an eye on our employer events (like the Summer Career Fair on June 14th!). And congratulations once again on your achievement!

By Shannon Merchant
Shannon Merchant Career Counselor Shannon Merchant