Securing your first job is top of mind for college students on the cusp of graduation. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the employment rate for people between 25 and 34 years old with bachelor’s degrees was 86%. Employers plan to hire almost 11% more new graduates from the current class than from previous years, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
“It’s a candidate's market—we've had low unemployment, so candidates have a choice as to where they want to work,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president at Indeed.
And students should be applying for jobs now. “You don’t have to wait until you’re finished at school,” he says. “A lot of companies will hire you knowing that you’ve got a graduation date a month from now.”
Be diligent in your job search
It’s critical to do your research when it comes to finding a job that will be a good fit. Wolfe recommends treating the job search like a full-time job.
“You should spend a good chunk of your day focused on that and not just randomly doing it,” Wolfe says.
Spend time researching companies that interest you and fit your goals. Then make sure you tailor your resume to match the job description. Wolfe also recommends connecting with your contacts and networking.
Consider freelance work
While many grads have their sights set on a full-time position, Wolfe says it’s important to consider the gig economy as a good place to test the waters.
“The gig economy is good if you’re not certain what industry to get into or what type of role you want to get into,” he says. “This way you won’t realize four or five months into it that you really don't like it.”
Additionally, getting freelance or part-time jobs could add up to a similar salary as a more permanent gig, and you get the flexibility of exploring different opportunities, Wolfe says.
Once you’ve started your job, it’s important to couch your expectations, Wolfe says.
“During your first job, you're not going to know everything walking in the door, especially if you've just graduated college,” he says. “We've all been in that spot before where it's our first job and were a little freaked out by it, but I would not put a ton of pressure on yourself to know every answer right out of the gate.”
Use your early days on the job to get to know your coworkers and learn about the company culture. Ask plenty of questions so you understand the expectations from the beginning. This can help you avoid feeling stuck a few months in, Wolfe says.
Plan an exit strategy if it’s not a fit
If you’re unhappy at your new position and already want an out, Wolfe recommends looking at what is making you unhappy and understanding if there are ways to make it work before you jump ship. While he used to tell people to wait six months to a year before leaving a job, Wolfe says he’s reconsidered.
I think if you really don't like it and you've done everything you can to try and make it work, leave,” he says. “The line between work and life is blurred today because of technology, and so you've really got to enjoy what you do.”
Use the time you were working before on a new job search and stay focused on finding your next opportunity.
“Your career is a long game. It's an evolution,” Wolfe says.