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6 Job-Hunting Tips to Make the Jump from College to Career

Ashley Jezek | January 13, 2023

You’ve spent at least four years studying. You learned math, science, history and maybe even some conversational French. But now it’s time for a completely new challenge. One that can shape the entire trajectory of your professional career: your first interview.

No pressure, right?

Even without a lengthy resume, a deep network of colleagues or years of industry experience, it’s possible to stand out from the competition as a strong, viable candidate. As in college, the right preparation can make all the difference.

Here are six tips for when the time comes to trade the cap and gown for a steady payday and all the break room coffee you can handle.

  1. Start early
  2. Networking is essential
  3. Use social media
  4. Use your college’s resources
  5. Prepare for interviews
  6. Stay motivated

Start early

Waiting to write a research paper at the last minute rarely works out well in college. Waiting to begin a first-time job search is no different. One of the biggest mistakes college students can make is waiting until graduation to start the next step.

If you delay your job search, you’ll be competing against recent grads who already have spent months researching, interviewing, building networks and putting themselves in front of potential employers. It’s recommended to begin the job-hunting process at the start of your final semester, if not sooner.

Networking is essential

Contrary to popular belief, networking isn’t only important for finding your first job. You’ll need a strong professional network throughout your career, so start building one as soon as possible.

You already have relationships with mentors, professors, advisers and even industry professionals you’ve interacted with during college. Simply connect with them via social media or a quick face-to-face conversation. Let them know about your goals, and be willing to help them when and if the opportunity arises.

Use social media

Speaking of connections, leveraging the power of social media is an easy and effective way to connect with professionals.

But how professional is your social media profile? Does it portray a valued team member in the making, or is it closer to NSFW?

According to a CareerArc survey, 91% of recruiters search the social media profiles of prospective candidates, and Forbes found that 95% of recruiters will look you up on LinkedIn before an interview. Make sure what they’ll find gives them confidence, not reluctance, in your hiring potential.

Consider cleaning up your social media account, changing your settings to private or creating new accounts altogether. Your digital presence should present a positive picture of what you’ll offer as an employee, a co-worker and a representative of the organization. This can include memberships in professional organizations, extracurricular activities and charitable work.

You can also use some of our tips from this blog post to tune up your LinkedIn profile to optimize your career momentum.

Use your college’s resources

Nearly all colleges and universities offer resources to help students make their way into the workforce. Although programs vary from institution to institution, they usually include resume workshops, interview prep sessions and career advising. Whichever your institution offers, take advantage of these services to add momentum to your job search.

Prepare for interviews

Practice is essential to build confidence in any skill. That includes your ability to interview well.

Many universities offer mock interview sessions with experienced professionals, but you also can prepare on your own. Practice providing clear, concise answers to basic questions covering skills, work experiences and goals.

Don’t forget interviews are a two-way street: You’re getting to know the organization as much as it’s looking at you, so don’t fail to research the company beforehand. Be sure you can answer:

  • What does it do?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses in the marketplace?
  • Who are its competitors?
  • How committed is it to employee development?
  • How can you help it reach its goals?

You’ll not only present the image of an employee who’s prepared and confident, but also help yourself find an organization in line with your goals and values.

Stay motivated

It’s not impossible to land a great job after your first interview, but be prepared to hear “no” several times before hearing “yes.” Job hunting takes time, but with a bit of preparation and a dose of positive mental attitude, you’ll make a strong first move to set your career on a path to success.

If you’re interested in beginning your career with an organization redefining the HR tech space, apply at Paycom today!

About the author
Author picture, Ashley Jezek
Ashley Jezek
As a senior recruitment marketer for Paycom, Ashley Jezek helps the talent acquisition teams determine their goals and assists with strategy development. Her efforts include campaign management, engaging with top talent and increasing brand awareness. After earning a public relations degree from the University of Oklahoma, Jezek served as marketing team lead for OU's Tom Love Innovation Hub and joined Paycom as a marketing database specialist. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, attending concerts and cooking.