There’s been some talk lately here in BC about new graduates and their struggles in finding a job in this economy.
While there was a period of job creation, the unemployment rate of new graduates and students rose in the past month, and this comes as no surprise to most people. It’s always been a bit of a catch 22 in most fields; you get a degree but nobody will hire you without experience. You can’t get experience unless somebody hires you.
I spent a lot of time fretting about this in my first and second year; I had to work, but was stuck in a retail job instead of working at something that would enhance my resume because I didn’t have enough experience for anybody to take me seriously.
Here are some tips for new grads (and students graduating soon) around how to get a job after graduation.
You know what drives me mad? People that say “volunteer in anything!”. No. Don’t. That’s a waste of your time (well, no. Social responsibility and all that. But not for the purpose of gaining experience).
A recruiter looking at your resume for a position in IT isn’t going to think “Oh, great. Jane walked dogs for the SPCA. That gives her the skills necessary for reprogramming XYZ”. The recruiter might think of you as a better person, but the bottom line is, your resume will be going straight to the shredder if walking poochies once a week is your idea of volunteering for experience.
When I say volunteer, I mean contact not-for-profit societies (there are probably a ton of them in your area) and offer up help that directly relates to your education. So, maybe you are a web designer and the XYZ Dog Rescue Society has a terribly designed website. Volunteer your services for free.
It will help build your portfolio, and your resume, and at the end of the day, nobody has to know it was a volunteer position.
I know movies and tv shows portray interns as the lackies that run back and forth from the coffee shop to the photocopier, but that’s not real life so you can just push that out of your head.
If you can find an organization to take you on as an intern in your field – and there should be tons of them, because who doesn’t want free labour? – that’s really great experience.
I was lucky – I had paid internships – but even if they weren’t paid, I would have found a way to do them. My internships are what landed me my job that I have now, and I’m way ahead of my peers in school.
As far as finding an internship, you can find some tips at this other post I wrote.
Take a Temporary Gig
There are a lot of temporary gigs out there to be had. Many more experienced professionals have no interest in taking them, but as a new grad, it will give you experience and help build your skills.
You can find temp work on any job board, and it’s usually term specific. Sometimes it’s there for the duration of a project, or sometimes the incumbent is going on a leave of absence and they need somebody to fill the role.
Do Things You Don’t Want to Do
As a newbie in your field, you should push aside your pride and entitlement issues, bite the bullet, and do the things you need to do to gain extra experience for your resume.
One thing that jumps to mind is commuting.
If you have an opportunity an hour drive from your house, take it. Because at the end of the day, no job is ever going to be perfect and the chances are that your willingness to go the extra mile (literally) will put you in a favorable light to any potential employers.
My current job started off as an internship, and I drive for 75 minutes each way in traffic to get to it. After my internship, I was able to score a real job in the company, and don’t have to commute for that long anymore.
Ask Your Current Company
Especially for those new business grads, the company for which you currently work may have some opportunities that may help you build your portfolio. They won’t know that you’re looking until you say so, and especially if you offer to help the department you are interested in with something aside from your normal work time, they’ll usually let you (as long as you are a good employee).
I work in Human Resources, and in my first couple of years, I lived in my hometown, which has almost no opportunity. I asked my manager of my retail job if I could help make interview questions and a reference check template for the sales associates they needed to hire, and they said yes. I added that to my resume as experience, because that’s exactly what it was.
In school, (almost) everyone does projects that can be considered experience. In my program, I’m constantly analyzing company practices, recommending alternatives, doing case studies, etc.
Make sure to recognize that and market yourself to show that. Put those skills that you learned in school that are directly related to your field on your resume.
Make business cards with your name, photo, and contact information on it so that people can remember you.
Make sure you have a LinkedIn account or other professional networking method. Start a blog on the topic in your field; put yourself out there and make yourself known.
Putting yourself out there is sometimes hard, especially if you lack confidence because you don’t have experience. But while it may seem impossible to get a job after graduation, it’s not.
If you recently graduated, how did you find your job? What were the crucial steps you took?