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Finding your first job


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Congratulations! You have finally made it through four (or more) years of college and are ready to enter the "real world." Now comes the next big step -- finding your first full-time job.

For some, this task can be more challenging than any final exam, but with the right tools and planning, finding your first job is a manageable feat. Following are some steps to get you moving on the right path.

Step 1: Determine your goals

Even after several years of college, you might still be unsure about the type of job you would like or what opportunities are available to you. Take an inventory of your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes to figure out what kind of job suits you. Do you want to work with people? Are you more suited to being active rather than sitting at a desk? Do you thrive on high-pressure situations?

Once you have answered these questions, research the jobs that fit your talents and personality. You can find references at bookstores and libraries that outline careers for different majors or interview professionals to learn more about their careers. Learning about your options now will help you develop a focused game plan.

Step 2: Get your tools in order

It is important to have the right tools for any task you take on. The tools needed for a job search are a strong resume and cover letter. Take the time to develop a resume and cover letter that convey your strengths and experience clearly. While there are scores of resources available to help you develop these tools, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Think about the type of resume you need. A functional resume, which highlights your abilities rather than your work history, might be the best choice for first-time job seekers.
  • Write your resume to focus on accomplishments and results you have achieved, rather than simple descriptions of your experiences.
  • Use action words in your resume and cover letter to describe experiences, such as "initiated," "produced" and "managed."
  • Remember that not all experience comes from full-time work. Don't forget about your volunteer experience, school activities and part-time positions.
  • Make sure you have the correct contact information at any company you are targeting. Most hiring managers are turned off by greetings like, "To Whom it May Concern."
  • Don't make the mistake of sending mass mailings of generic correspondence. Write your cover letter and resume to speak directly to each company you target and the position you are seeking.
  • Step 3: Use your contacts

    It's often not what you know, but who you know. Tap into any resources you have, such as family and friends, former employers or volunteer contacts. Visit your school's career center and take advantage of the vast resources available through that avenue.

    Go to professors for advice or names to contact. Talk to your parents' friends about people they know at companies you can call. Use any and all contacts you can find. Sometimes all you need is a name and a good reference to get your foot in the door.

    Step 4: Be persistent

    When it comes to finding a first job, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Send resumes to your targeted companies, but don't let your work stop there. Always follow up with a phone call, more than one if you need to. Be proactive and suggest times to meet with potential employers. Ask for informational interviews if there are no positions open at a company. Ask contacts you have made to have lunch, and be aggressive when you meet with them.

    The best thing you can do is work hard to get your name out there, and then keep it out there.

    Step 5: Be professional

    It can be difficult to make the transition from college life to the professional environment, but those who do fare much better. Dress the part for all interviews and meetings -- wear a conservative business suit and be well-groomed. Follow up all meetings with personal thank you letters. Practice answering tough questions and rehearse your phone speech before making cold calls.

    The more you can do to make a good impression, the better chance you will have of standing out in a crowd.

    © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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