I specifically remember my first time looking for a job. I was in high school, and at that time I don’t think any online job sites existed – or at least I wasn’t aware of them at all -, therefore I went for the classic way and registered with a student job service. That was my first and last time with such a thing because they took off a pretty high percentage of my not-so-impressive hourly wage for giving out flyers, and I barely had any money left afterwards. That’s when I realized that it’s not easy at all to enter the labor market as a newbie.
After this first encounter with real life my next jobs and internships weren’t through official job search, they were rather coincidental through friends and my university. I was doing fine without truly diving into what the labor market can offer until my graduation from college. I was 23 years old, the proud owner of a master’s degree from a field I was honestly invested in. At that point I had already completed some internships and a 1-year scholarship of studying abroad, so I was feeling quite confident and good about what I can present myself with to my future employer.
And yet when I started looking – this time through all the job search sites – what I had on my resume didn’t even come close to the requirements. First of all there are very few actually entry-level positions offered, or if they are listed, the expectations are ridiculous. Why would you call it entry level if you expect 2 years of experience? Second of all the all time favorite advice from experts is to start your resume with your educational background details if you don’t have a lot of work experience, but to be honest I’ve never met a hiring manager who really cared about what classes you took during your college years. So what to do? How can you get your foot in the door? What are the things that you can do to boost your resume and increase your chances? Here are my tips & tricks to endure the beginning of the road.
1. Be active, do internships
Start gaining experience during your studies! I wish someone told me this but they didn’t. Parents tend to say the opposite and encourage their children not worry about anything else just their studies, but that’s wrong. Do worry! Don’t be a full time student and “just” study. Engage yourself in other activities, do internships, be member of student associations, and definitely take advantage of whatever your university can offer, for example scientific events and language courses. Instead of just wanting to get through your classes and live a very active social life – which is undoubtedly very important –, pick a class or two that you’re drawn towards and do a splendid work. Invest all you’ve got into those papers, read ahead, prepare and share your opinions during class, build a relationship with your professor and by mid semester make sure they know your name. That is the first step of your professional network. Having a sparkling reference from a university professor who can connect you with others, and recommend you to various places can be the deciding factor while applying for a position, not mentioning how important and useful a mentor can be. My last advice about internships is to think ahead! A lot of organizations and companies have their recruiting process done around February for the following September, so make sure that you keep an eye out for opportunities.
2. Initiate and volunteer
In case there are no intern positions offered at the organization that represents the industry that you are interested in, and if you’re absolutely determined to get into that specific place don’t just wait. Call in, ask for an appointment, send your CV via mail or even fax it ahead and create your own opportunity. Prepare a presentation about what you could do for them! Even if it ends up being a chance of shadowing a manager for a couple of hours twice a week that’s an amazing opportunity for you to learn. Best-case scenario your volunteer work will have something to do with your field but there is no need to be sad if it doesn’t. Volunteering at an animal shelter or at fund raising events is a noble way of spending your free time, and it says a lot about your character, which is an aspect recruiters take into consideration.
3. Online presence
What happens when someone googles your name? Do your party pictures pop up where you had one too many and were dancing on the top the bar? If yes you should definitely take a thorough look at your profiles, fix your privacy settings and create proper representation. A detailed LinkedIN profile is a must! Take your time and summarize everything that can be interesting from the job-hunting point of view. Upload a professional picture – not a selfie! - with a white background, looking straight to the camera wearing normal clothing. Connect with some people there and endorse them for some skills, so they’d take the time to review what they could endorse you for. If you want to take it further – and why wouldn’t you do that – create a blog, a professional one. Write posts frequently reacting to newest researches, articles, policies related to your field, express your opinion and show that you’re original and up to date. These days the ultimate goal is to have a professional website that serves you as an overextended resume/portfolio; a domain where you can collect all that you have done and currently are doing. It can have a blog, videos, pictures and whatever else you want to show as a sample of your work.
4. Start your own project!
How many success stories do you know that started in someone’s garage? Many, and it can happen to you too. All you need is a good idea, a couple of fellow adventurers with motivation and hard work. Creating and running your own small project can teach you a great many things starting from setting goals, managing time, doing research, writing plans, prioritizing, cooperating with others and so on. Also if the subject matter is related to your desired field it gives you the perfect opportunity to read, read and read about your field, and it can definitely boost your resume and chances of getting discovered. And who knows, if you do a great job you might find investors and end up a millionaire. In that case please reference this article in your biography. ☺
My final advice is to build connections. Go to expos and conferences, seminars and meetings. If you join a few organizations trough LinkedIN or your university, you will have plenty of events to select from, where you can meet people studying something similar or working on the same field. Having a broad professional network gives you a great opportunity to find internships, volunteer or regular work, and to learn from your fellow teachers, engineers, managers etc. In case you are not a true social butterfly you can start your networking online. One of the best ways is to try to find a group with similar interest on Meetup or any other similar website, or enroll in a free online course (e.g. Coursera) and become a part of a community through that experience. Connect with others and be a part of colorful groups where you can share and learn.
Don’t forget even if you take a few months to work at a call center, there is no such thing as a work you can’t learn from. You can learn about work ethic, polish your social and interpersonal skills, meet people and learn a lot about yourself too. Also, once you’re in you might be able to work your way up within a workplace. At any point if you have the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone do so! After all being able to adapt to any environment is one of the most valuable skill you can ever have.