Life after college can be tough. Many of us have been left to wonder if we will find a job after college with the degree we’ve earned, and without any kind of process to figure it out.
So, how do you get a job after college? It comes down to building your experience and your professional image one step at a time, and we’re going to show you how.
Why you can’t get a job after college
If you can’t find a job after college then you aren’t alone. There’s plenty of data to suggest that new graduates always have a tough time finding employment on average.
For example, finding employment after college takes about 7.5 months on average, yet it takes everyone else closer to just four months. There are a few other key factors impeding graduates’ job searches too:
- The average graduate applies to 23 jobs before finding an offer.
- More than 30% of the U.S. population over 25 holds a bachelor’s degree today compared to just 10% in 1970, making the job market more competitive.
- Many employers don’t want to train employees anymore.
- Liberal arts graduates aren’t over unemployed out there, but they are among the most underemployed on the market.
- The average debt after college is higher today than it’s ever been before, which can limit people’s options to move, to buy a car, or to travel for work.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has changed what students want to study, but some of those changes appear out of left field.
How many students get a job after college?
A college degree is no guarantee of a job, but it’s also your best chance to get one if you aren’t starting a business or learning a trade. According to the University of Washington, 53% of recent graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.
Simply put: looking for a job after college is hard for the majority of grads.
However, employment rates shoot way up to a range of 83-91% for college graduates aged 25-34. This shows that, in time, almost all college grads find jobs over time—so don’t worry about being stuck in a job you don’t want.
Unfortunately, most of the data focuses on young adults aged 25 and over, but not on recent graduates aged 22-25, who need career support the most—and I’m speaking from experience.
How to get your first job after college (the quick way)
After going through four years of intense reading, essays, exams, and general stress, you’re more or less just left out in the cold. The reality is that there’s rarely a shortcut to find a great job, but you can score some quick wins without following a strategy (although you should follow a strategy to improve your odds).
This is how to get a job right after college the “easy” way:
- Update your resume with experience from college activities and assistant roles.
- Upload your resume to Indeed and customize your job alerts.
- Upload your resume to LinkedIn with a quick-and-dirty profile photo.
- Network with 20 of your friends and family for opportunities.
- Follow up with every lead from your network, Indeed, and LinkedIn to land an interview.
That’s the best you can do on short notice and under a tight deadline, but it’s not really the best way to get your first job after college. Alternatively, you can try to get an internship after college, but following a focused strategy will help you get a paying gig faster.
All of the other desperate graduates will follow that same playbook, so it’s in your best interest to stand out from the masses.
Which brings us to my next point…
How to get a great job after college (the best way)
Since finding a job after college takes over 7 months on average, it makes sense to follow a strategy that plays out over a few months instead of throwing weak applications at every company with an opening. The sheer number of applicants in the job market put recent grads at an inherent disadvantage.
In reality, figuring out how to get a full-time job after college comes down to a balance of two factors:
- Your quality as a candidate.
- The quantity of your active applications.
You can’t get a good job with just one of those two elements. You need both.
It’s important to have “multiple irons in the fire” (referring to the number of serious applications you’ve made), but none of them will get you anywhere if you aren’t actually qualified to fill those openings. That’s why you need to focus on yourself first before applying anywhere.
I can walk you through the entire process step by step in my Job Roadmap, but here’s the strategy at a glance:
- Quantify everything about your resume.
- Create an all-star LinkedIn profile.
- Tap recruiters to work for you.
- Make job boards bring opportunities to you.
- Find 3 key work projects to get real-world experience.
- Build a portfolio website with a thought leadership blog.
- Network your way into key companies by giving, not taking.
- Turn interviews into business consultations.
Follow that strategy and you will cut your job search time in half at least, if not by more. You can’t win the numbers game if you have the same odds as every other graduate peddling weak resumes.
Building work experience and a personal brand brick by brick will put you on equal footing with candidates who have 1-2 years of experience, making you a prime candidate for entry-level jobs.
Here’s how to make that strategy work for you.
Prioritize your portfolio
Most college graduates struggle to understand what a resume should look like after college, yet it’s probably the most important part of your toolbox. There’s a caveat, though: it’s not worth much without legitimate work experience.
Acquiring experience makes your resume 100% better in just about every situation, and you can’t really exaggerate your way around it.
The catch-22 becomes this: how do you get experience without the job in the first place?
The answer is that you need to start hunting for companies that will let you do projects for them. There are all kinds of businesses that need work done but don’t have the resources to hire someone internally.
That’s where you come in!
Look for these organizations that are strapped for cash, time, or expertise:
- Local non-profits and charity organizations
- Heritage preservation associations
- Consultants and sole proprietors
- Law firms
- Local newspapers or news sites
Most companies in these categories would be thrilled to get some affordable or free help, so long as they feel that you’re confident and competent. After you’ve gained the experience and updated your resume with it, then you get to command a higher salary after college.
Pro Tip: Avoid chatter about “internships,” though—these kinds of organizations don’t have the time or resources to train junior employees most of the time.
Start your own passion project (in the industry you want to join)
Starting your own passion project is one of the best things to do after college for a number of reasons:
- You can learn new skills.
- You can fill out your resume.
- It shows initiative to employers.
- Side projects can become side hustles, bringing in money.
- It’s considerably more affordable than travelling with money you don’t have.
Working on a personal project may also serve your career better than taking a gap year after college. Some employers look down unexplained gaps in a resume, even construing it as “lazy” in some cases. It’s not fair and it’s not a particularly enlightened approach to hiring, but if this did happen then you’d never know. It would just be a quick shuffle from the “maybe” pile to the “no” pile.
I’ve started side projects and leveraged them for my own career. It works! Starting my own freelance writing side hustle helped me to land a job after 9 months of unemployment, and Writing the occasional piece of content as a hobby has brought in multiple requests for me to perform client work.
Try it out. You might be surprised where it takes you.
Turn networking into a lifestyle
Networking is one of the best ways to find a job after college, but it rests on the shoulders of everything else we’ve covered so far:
- Acquiring work experience with substance, without shortcuts.
- Developing new skills with one or more projects.
- Creating an excellent brand for yourself on paper and online.
With all of the pieces in place for your job search, you can spend time building relationships in your community and with the companies that you’d like to join. That gives you the inside track when jobs open up plus it gives you credibility with the right people.
The catch? Nobody will care if you aren’t more or less qualified for those roles. Networking can only amplify your candidacy—it doesn’t serve as a substitution.
As for how to do it: be of service. It’s a simple formula.
- Connect people with other professionals they might want to know.
- Share industry updates and chat about them.
- Give people a kudos on their work.
- Share your experiences with new industry technology platforms.
Networking consistently like that will catch the attention of people in a matter of months.
Understanding how to find a job after college comes down to following a strategy. That strategy needs to capitalize on acquiring real experience (or else you won’t get past the first interview) and then amplifying that through job boards, social networks, recruiters, and personal relationships.
Stick with it and I promise you’ll start seeing results in due course.