How to Get Your First Job


Trying to get your first job can be extremely intimidating.  You don’t know what to expect and you feel like everyone else is probably more qualified than you are.  The truth is that you are underestimating yourself.  Most employers are willing to hire a candidate with less experience if they have the right attitude because they know that the small details of the job can be taught.  Also, throughout your life you have been picking up transferable skills that will help you when you start working.  You have a lot more to offer than you think.  So let’s get started.  Here are some tips that will help you land that first job:

Use your network. When you are lacking in experience, your network is often your best source of job leads.  Many employers may be willing to give you a chance if you were referred by someone they trust.  Reach out to the people in your network and let them know that you are looking for a job.  You may be surprised by how willing people are to help you.

Identify your skills. In order to know what types of jobs to target, you need to identify your marketable skills.  This is more challenging if you don’t have any work experience, but you still have skills.  Make a list of your extracurricular activities, hobbies, volunteer work, community work, and any courses you have taken.  What skills have you developed?  What tasks have people identified to be your strengths?  What tasks do you tend to gravitate towards?  What do you most enjoy doing?  Once you have identified your skills, it is easier to find jobs that would be a good fit for you.

Create a professional resume.  Before being considered for a job, you will almost always have to send the employer a resume.  Your resume should highlight your skills and you need to customize it to each specific position.  While you don’t yet have a lot of work experience, your volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and education have all given you skills that you can bring to a job.  If you are finding it difficult to put together your resume, attend a resume workshop or meet with an employment counsellor at Tropicana Employment Centre.  We’re always here to help!

Practice your elevator pitch.  Keeping in mind that networking is one of the most effective ways to get a job, the ability to introduce yourself professionally is important.  When you’re at a networking event, people will ask, “What do you do?”  You need to have a strong answer to that question.  Keep it brief, focused on your career goals and never forget about the person standing in front of you.  It may help to practice your professional introduction in front of a colleague, friend, or employment counsellor to get some feedback.  

Get a professional outfit.  If you want to get a job, you’ve got to look the part.  Dress for the job you want and always look professional.  Pay close attention to your hygiene and grooming and try to achieve a polished look.  First, let them see that you would represent their company well and then you can sell them on your skills.

While looking for that first job can be a bit overwhelming, it isn’t really that scary.  When hiring for entry-level positions, employers are more focused on attitude and professionalism than they are on experience.  Show the employer that you are excited to be there and that you are prepared to work hard and they just might be willing to give you a chance!

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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