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Congratulations on the momentous achievement of graduating from college! But now comes the hard part: searching for a job when you don’t have much experience to speak of. Unfortunately, many companies want experience even for entry-level positions, and you are often competing against other candidates with more experience. This puts you at a disadvantage, but it can be overcome if you take the proper steps and you have a lot of persistence.

1. Decide What You Want

This can be one of the hardest questions to answer, but it’s the first one you need to address before beginning your job search in earnest. You can take online evaluations or stop and seriously think about what you want your career goals to be. Talk to your academic adviser and look online for information on jobs that are good fits for the degree you earned.

2. Enlist the Aid of College Services

Most colleges have a department that specializes in helping students land jobs after they graduate. Seek them out, even if you graduated several years ago, for career counseling, recruitment offers, mock interviews and general advice in taking your next steps. They might be able to open some doors for you.

3. Network Effectively with People in The Profession

Networking continues to be a critical element of landing a job, as many jobs are never posted on job boards and are instead filled via connections and referrals. Internships can be a great source of connections. Get in contact with anyone you know in your chosen profession and reach out to them. The key is to not come across like you’re just trying to get a job. The best professional relationships are genuine, and so approach potential contacts with the genuine desire to learn more about your chosen profession.

4. Put Together a List of Your Skills and Experience

You likely won’t have a lot of work experience as a recent grad, but any you do have, especially if it’s in your chosen industry, is helpful to note. Volunteer experience counts as well, as nearly all employers take accomplishments while volunteering into account when weighing candidates for a position. The next thing you want to do is compile a list of your skills that will make you an attractive candidate for the types of jobs you’re looking for.

5. Write an Effective Resume

Now that you’ve written down all the information about yourself you can think of; the next step is to create a resume with it. The first step is to remember that you should alter your resume as needed for every job you apply for. Sending out the same resume to every company is not likely to help you stand out and you’ll probably hear back silence. If you have been working and there’s a gap, do what you can to fill it up. Perhaps you did some freelance work or volunteered somewhere. Even unrelated jobs, like fast food, could give you relevant experience. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on an unrelated job while ignoring your degree and schooling, however.

6. Include A Cover Letter

Even if a cover letter isn’t asked for, it’s a good idea to include one, even if it’s short. As a recent grad without much job experience, a standout cover letter could very well be the difference between getting called in for an interview and getting ignored. Resumes are difficult to make too personal, and a cover letter is where you have an opportunity to showcase your enthusiasm for this position, this industry, and this company. It’s also where you can explain any red flags on your resume, like your lack of experience in this particular industry or a gap in your work history.

7. Act Professional

To be taken seriously as a candidate, you want to keep up a professional appearance always while job hunting. A classic example of this is to use a neutral-sounding e-mail address consisting of simply your name rather than something childish or inappropriate. While many businesses and start-ups run by younger people can be very informal, it’s always better to be more formal than less. Suits are nearly always a safe bet, though if the company at which you’re interviewing has a particularly laid-back culture, coming across as too formal might make you seem like not the right fit for the work environment. So, it’s always a judgment call. Look nice and be prepared to ask and answer questions at job interviews, and you should do fine.

It can be harder and require a lot more work to land a job just after graduating college, but since your first job is often a major stepping stone into your career, you need to choose wisely and, if possible, not just take the first job offered to you. Following the steps listed here should give you a good chance of success.

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