College students and other first-time jobseekers face several unique challenges. Here’s the information you need to convert your skills and background into job search success.
It’s understandable why the job search process is intimidating for first-time jobseekers. Recent college graduates, stay-at-home moms (or dads) and other first-time candidates have to compete against seasoned veterans for a shrinking supply of available positions.
It’s easy to get discouraged, especially if you fall into the trap of believing that you lack the credentials to be a real contender. But in some cases, first-time jobseekers actually have an advantage over more experienced applicants. The key is knowing how to shape your strengths and background into a coherent story – the kind of story employers find hard to resist.
Narrow Your Search
The surest way to sabotage your job search is to target the wrong positions. First-time job candidates have no shot at upper management slots, let alone C-suite (CEO, COO, etc.) positions. Rather than waste your time trying to land jobs that are out of your league, target entry- or mid-level job openings with requirements that match most, if not all of your credentials.
Research, Research, Research
Knowledge is power in a job search. Yet many candidates show up to the interview with absolutely no knowledge of the company or its industry. You might not have a lot of experience under your belt, but if you go to the interview armed with insights about the company and its industry, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Emphasize Relevant Life Experiences
Life experiences can sometimes compensate for a lack of on-the-job experience. The caveat is that you need to exercise discretion and spin experiences in a way that makes them relevant to employers. For example, your work as the head of the PTA at your kid’s school shows leadership ability, so it’s something you will want to mention to prospective employers. On the other hand, the fact that your bowling team won the championship last fall is probably not a suitable topic for discussion.
Connections are important for first-time jobseekers. Even though your industry connections are lean, you can leverage your personal relationships to learn about job openings and secure recommendations. If an acquaintance knows someone who works for a prospective employer, ask them to put in a good word for you during the hiring process.
In today’s economy, it’s a mistake for first-time jobseekers to discount the possibility of paid or even unpaid internships. In many instances, internships are a gateway to full-time employment because they provide opportunities to make industry connections and showcase your talents.
BONUS TIP: If you’re still striking out with employers, think about targeting small businesses. The pay may be slightly less than market rates, but it’s possible to get in on the ground floor of a rapidly growing company.