Your First Job After Graduating

You’ve graduated.  Finally, all of those late nights at the library, and early mornings in classes will start to pay off.  You are ready to find a job where you can use all of your new found knowledge.  However, if you are like many new graduates, you may find that it is not that easy.  You may quickly become frustrated as employers demand experience, and offer you entry-level positions that have nothing to do with what you studied at school.  You may start to wonder if there was any point in going to school in the first place.  Before you get too frustrated, remember that it is all part of the process, and that everyone has to go through it.  Here are some tips to help make this transition a little easier:

Don’t expect too much. Everybody has to start at the bottom.  That’s the rule.  While you may have taken ample classes in management, you will not start as a manager.  However, you could start off by answering the manager’s phone.  You need to prove yourself before the employer will increase your level of responsibility.  Take the opportunity to learn from your coworkers, and to get some experience in the industry.

Have a short-term and long-term plan.  Where do you want to be in five years?  What do you need to be doing now in order to accomplish that goal?  Even an entry-level job can give you foundation that you need to achieve your dream job in the future. Don’t worry about the job itself.  Pay attention to how it fits in with your future career goals.

Look and act professional at all times.  Since you are new to the industry, you are making a first impression, and building your network.  Try to leave positive impressions with everyone that you meet.  Remember, you never know where you will find that first opportunity.

Distinguish yourself.  What do you have to offer that is unique?  Can you speak Cantonese?  Do you have skills in graphic design?  Are you exceptionally creative?  Seek out positions and organizations that may be able to make use of your special skills.    Use your special skills to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Take advantage of internships, co-op placements, and other school connections.  Your school may offer special opportunities for its students and graduates.  Be sure to make use of them  They are a great way to gain experience, and to make connections.

Identify the skills that are in demand.  Take a look at the job advertisements for your target job.  Focus on the requirements, and try to identify the skills that are in demand.  Pay special attention to the hard skills that are less common.  They may be listed as assets rather than actual requirements. Do the research, and if it is not too difficult, acquire these skills.

Network.   Since you are new to the industry, it may be easier to get your first opportunity from someone who already knows you.  Talk to your friends, family, and acquaintances.  Let them know what you are looking for, and ask if they have any suggestions or connections that may help.  Don’t be shy.  Networking is going to be important throughout your career, and now is a great time to start 

Remember that being a new graduate can be a strength.  You may feel that since you are a new graduate, employers will be unlikely to hire you over an applicant with more experience.  However, that isn’t always the case.  For an entry-level position, the employer may actually prefer to hire a new graduate.  They may believe that it will be easier to train a new graduate for the position, because they are not yet attached to particular way of doing things.  They may also be less concerned about a new graduate getting bored and leaving after a few months.  While you maybe afraid of those job seekers with lots of experience, keep in mind that they are afraid of you too!

Most new graduates start their job search with enthusiasm, but quickly become discouraged by how difficult it can be.  However, if you remain flexible, realistic, and persistent, you will eventually find a job that will help you achieve your career goal.  Think of it as a part of your education.  None of us ever really graduate.  If you make an effort to find the learning opportunities in every experience, your career will continue to grow.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand, Photo From: scottchan /

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