I graduated college as an optimist. I had a hard earned, expensive degree and loads of motivation to get a good job. I started sending out my resume before I had even finished my final semester. I knew I wanted to stay close to a specific location and I wanted to make money. Beyond that, I had very few limitations on what job postings I would apply to.
After printing many resumes, ironing many interview outfits, and miles of travel, I finally landed my first real job. All of my hard work had paid off. I was happily employed for the whopping wage of $12.50 an hour. My expectations had been much higher, but although I wasn’t making the amount of money I had hoped for, I did find a job in my field.
Since that first job seven years ago, I have learned quite a bit about myself and about the employment process as a whole. I now sit on interviewing committees and quiz fresh from college newbies and veterans alike on what they have to offer my organization. I have picked up a few tips since being that fresh faced college graduate, and I’m happy to share them with you.
1. Only apply for jobs that you are qualified for….sort of.
The general rule of thumb is to only apply for jobs that you are qualified for. If you are repeatedly applying for jobs that do not fit your skill set, education, or experience, it becomes very easy for employers to overlook your resume. However, there are some cases where it is appropriate to apply for entry level positions with no experience. If you can link your experience and education to the job description somehow, it might make sense to apply, even if you do not meet the requirements entirely. It most likely would not be appropriate for someone just leaving college with a political science degree to apply for a job as the president of a company. Even if you can link your skills and abilities to the role, you would not meet the experience requirements. Had I followed this advice myself, I could have saved a large quantity of resume paper.
2. Don’t overestimate yourself.
Occasionally, I would apply for a job just a touch out of my reach, hoping that my shining personality would carry me through. I always figured that if I got an interview, I would have time to study up on the position enough to make myself a candidate. I don’t think that theory ever worked. I remember one interview for an administrative assistant position where I was asked to complete a computer task in a certain amount of time as a part of the interview. Being that my degree was in Sociology and my work experience consisted largely of working with people, I failed miserably at the task. After staring at the screen for a good ten minutes silently willing the knowledge I needed to leap into my brain, I had to admit to the interviewer that I did not know how to complete the process. Embarrassing for me and a waste of both of our time. Lesson learned.
3. Don’t underestimate yourself.
Interviewing is both an art and a science. Being a good interviewee takes time and experience. One of the most important lessons I learned when interviewing for my first job was not to short change myself. Interviewers want to know what you are made of and they want you to tell them. It may seem awkward to have to tell other people what you believe you are good at, but if you want to land that dream job, you will need to become proficient at highlighting your skills and abilities, and explaining to others what you can bring to their organization. Interview with complete confidence that you are the best person for the job. Remember, job hunting is a competition sport, you need to put your best foot forward. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, leave nothing at the door.
Congratulations on your college degree. Start printing resumes, buy a nice outfit, and go confidently.