Graduated and confused? Questions to ask yourself to land a job
Congrats! You’ve made it. One chapter is closing, and another is just beginning—one with an ocean of exciting post-grad career possibilities.
So just what will be your first job coming out of college? If you’re unsure, you’re not alone. You may be feeling a bit lost and confused about where you should be headed professionally. Maybe even feeling pressured and in a hurry to land a great gig your first time out.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t start at your destination—finding your career passion and purpose is a journey, and getting direction starts here. To help you navigate that post-graduation job hunt and, ultimately, land your first job, ask yourself these food-for-thought questions:
What kind of job do I want to do?
Some people are lucky, and they know from a young age what they want to be when they grow up, but that’s not the case for the majority of graduates, says Wendy Jones, a Halifax-based career coach at wendyjonescoaching.ca. “Most graduates are seeking a way to make a living that has, in the beginning, at least some modest degree of personal and professional fulfillment.”
Take action: The more focused you can be as to what type of position would be a good fit for you, the better. Apply for jobs that excite you. “I’m not suggesting to only apply for your dream job, but I’m inviting you to at least get clear with yourself as to what type of job/sector/industry gets you pumped. That’s your goal!” Jones says.
A good place to start is to write out a list of the challenges and opportunities you care about in the world, advises Rebecca Beaton, a Vancouver-based career coach at rebeccabeaton.com. “Do you care about the challenge of climate change? You might want to consider the renewable energy industry. Do you get excited about video games? You might want to consider working in virtual reality" or in other computer science jobs. Taking an inventory of any products or services you use and love can also lend insight towards the type of industry you want to work in.
What are my must-haves in my first job?
Are you looking for a specific salary number? A fun workplace culture? Does personally meaningful work top your list, or is there something else that is important to you? Everyone comes out of school with a list of what they want in a company.
Take action: Get clear on your priorities and focus on applying for jobs that meet most or all of those priorities. “You may not be able to be picky, and you may well have to settle for something less than your ideal, but establishing some criteria for yourself is a good place to start,” says Jones. As you develop professionally and increase your skillset, now or later, then you get to check off more boxes on your must-have list.
Who do I know that’s doing something I admire?
We all have incredibly awesome people we admire and respect. Whether they work for a company you love or have the career of your dreams, most successful people are successful for a reason and can be an inspirational piece to your career puzzle.
Take action: Write out a list of people you know personally, as well as public figures, whose careers you admire, advises Beaton. Then, write out what precisely you admire about each of them. Doing that can offer clues as to what you want for your own career. Next, figure out how you could connect to have a conversation and get some advice from them. Picking their brains in an informational interview could increase your odds of finding what industry, company or role that interests you.
What experience do I have that could be transferable into my real first job?
The fact is most graduates don’t have much work experience, so don’t beat yourself up and drop out of the job race before you get in. “You’ve just spent four 4+ years working hard in school,” says Jones.
Take action: Make sure your resume and cover letter highlight the skills and achievements you’ve acquired over time. This includes your volunteer work or other experience that a potential employer might see as a transferable skill, says Jones. Use on-campus activities to help prove you are a potential match. Be sure to highlight positive character traits you’re known for—are you a hard worker, respectful, creative? Put it down!
Am I interview ready?
No one comes out of school knowing how to interview unless you graduated in job interviewing, and that’s highly unlikely. What is likely is that if you’re looking for a job, you’re going to have to do numerous interviews. The prospect of selling yourself to an employer can be terrifying. Flubs happen, and first impressions can be your last.
Take action: Google “typical job interview questions” and practice, practice, practice, stresses Jones. It’s not about memorizing your answers, but to get familiar with what you want to say. “Identify three to five examples of situations where you rose to the occasion; aim for examples in the areas of loyalty, resilience, leadership, collaboration or problem solving,” says Jones. Practice telling those stories using the S.O.A.R. method—Situation/Obstacle or Opportunity/Action/ Results. You want to ace the situational-type questions that are so common in job interviews.
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