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Three Steps to Finding Your First Job after College

I’ve been providing the following advice to a college senior searching for his first “real” job. Perhaps you know someone who’ll find this valuable.


Although this first section should be particularly useful for college freshmen and sophomores, many of the seniors I’ve talked with recently are still struggling to make the core decision of what type of job to search for.

Make a Tentative Decision Early about Your Future: Marketers develop a mission and vision for companies. College students need to do the same for themselves, hopefully by the end of their freshman year.

From one of my favorite blogs, Drew’s Marketing Minute Blog: “Your mission is what you do best every single day, and your vision is what the future will be like because you deliver on that mission so brilliantly every day.”

For a college student rather than a company, I’d make this revision: “Your mission is what you study most intently every single day, and your vision is what the future will be like because you deliver on that mission so brilliantly every day.”

Students need to decide on their vision before working on their mission (selecting majors and classes) since they’re paying large sums to become educated before beginning their quest.

The vision must include a combination of what they want to work on (think of a couple of related categories of businesses) and work doing (functional expertise: Marketing, technology, science, design….). This vision doesn’t need to be too tight: Remember the old thought of “go west young man.”

Keep Adjusting Your Vision and Formal Education: A student’s career vision is what they are aiming for sometime in the future, perhaps 10-15 years after graduation. Vision should be more about the general job function, industries and culture than financial success.

As students take more classes and absorb more experiences, it’s normal for their vision and therefore mission to change.

Unfortunately, many college students reach their senior year and still are uncertain about what type of job they want. Consequently, many will stay in school to obtain a masters, which is a very bad decision unless they have decided on their vision. Without a vision, students will be unable to select the proper school, degree and courses.


Become Best Friends with Career Services: Career Services at most colleges are understaffed and underappreciated. Career Services typically provides some classroom type education, limited access to alumni, and excellent tools, which students need take advantage of.

Study “What Color Is Your Parachute”: “What Color” is still the best “How To” text and workbook to help find a job, regardless of age. Students need to do the exercises to learn about themselves and how to search for a job.

Absorb Two E-books of Job Search Advice Aimed at College Seniors

46 job-search mentors provide snippets of advice for those looking for their first or second job in this uplifting eBook. Note that I am one of the contributors to this project that was conceived and produced by Barry Curewitz, a friend from the Marketing Executives Networking Group.

45 additional mentors telling how they found their first job compiled by Drew McLellan, whose blog I complimented earlier.


Decide what You Can Contribute

The first step is to determine what value they can provide that someone will pay them for. I’m going to assume that students are:

  • Smart
  • Hard working
  • Work well with others
  • Have good judgment
  • Don’t need a lot of supervision.

These are requirements to even be considered, not reasons that get hired. It’s important to understand that each of these positives must be proven in resumes and interviews. Candidates also must be likable, a difficult to describe but quickly judged characteristic.

These qualities are the foundation that will enable applicants to then convince a potential employer what they can do for them based on their education, previous work experiences, and even hobbies.

Decide on Your Target

I’m assuming that by this part of the job search process students have decided on:

  • The general job function (what someone will pay them to do), and
  • A few industries or not-for-profits (who will pay them).

Before launching a job search, it’s necessary to be able to communicate: “I want to work doing (1-2 job titles) __________ most likely in the following 3-4 industries: __________, __________, and __________.” Many students also have a strong preference for location, which can be part of this.

Make a Project Plan

Getting a job is a job, and it requires a thoughtful plan including these basics:

  • Objectives: What does the student want to do; where do they want to live; what do they want to learn from their job; and even how many hours/week they want to work?
  • Targets: Which industries and companies do they want to work for?
  • Brand: Why someone is going to hire them.
  • Marketing & Sales Aides: Cover letters, resumes, LinkedIn, Facebook, examples of their work, and references.
  • Schedule: What are they going to accomplish weekly in their job search, including specific goals for them to measure.
  • CRM: An acronym for having a system to keep records of who they want to contact, who they have contacted and when they’ll contact them again.

Practice, Practice, Practice Networking & Interviewing

Students should buy a couple of interviewing books and have a friend ask them sample questions while videoing their answers. Review and repeat and repeat and repeat to become confident and natural whether networking or being interviewed.


When looking for a job, it’s critical to meet people in the targeted job functions and industries. It’s called networking. The idea is to meet people to learn about the potential job and industry…it’s not about finding a job opening.

Leverage everyone they know, including family, teachers, previous employers, friends, and other students.

One last piece of advice from the student I’m mentoring: He says to make it easy for each person you meet to help you by letting them know what you’re searching for and what help you need.

I hope you’ll forward this blog and the eBook link to college students and recent grads.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

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