As a student or newly graduate, you probably have your first real job in your sights. While you have been studying and times may have been tough, you have always known that your first real job is waiting for you at the finish line. Right?
If your major is something like communications, arts, a language, or anything else, which is a broad topic, you have a lot of opportunities. You can get a job in a lot of different sectors and companies, but you are not really studying to become something specific. Not a doctor, dentist, engineer, or pilot.
On the other hand, that gives you an almost infinite amount of job opportunities. But on the other, you also cannot be sure, that a job is waiting for you. That is mainly down to the fact that you are not studying to become something specific and puts a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders to educate yourself. To form and shape yourself and your profile into something that you enjoy being and that employers find attractive.
In other words: If you want to make sure that a job is waiting – or is obtainable for you – from the moment you have graduated, you must optimize your own chances of landing a job. And how do you do that? Read along and I will tell you.
Get a lot of relevant experience while studying
For many students a job besides their studies is a requirement and not a choice in order to make ends meet. But not for all. What matters is that you get out into the field and get yourself some relevant working experience. Because that experience will help you a lot when you apply for your first job. It may even be the deal breaker.
I know it’s an old cliché that you cannot get a job because you do not have any experience because you cannot get a job because you do not have any experience… You get the point. And it is a cliché, yes. But it is still true. And often it is not the amount of experience that is lacking. It is the right kind of experience.
If you have been working at your local supermarket for four to five years while studying, you have done great. You have learned a lot, you have earned your own money, and you have shown yourself capable in a real workplace. It is good, it truly is, but it may not be enough.
If you want to work with – let us say, communications, copywriting, and SEO – does it really help you that you have done a great job at your local supermarket? It does not really help if you are competing against someone who has worked with something more relevant.
And that is why you must get some relevant work experience. It brings you closer to your dream job – or just your first job, which too brings you closer to your dream job – and you help yourself enormously by optimizing your future career potential while studying.
Imagine, if you can say: “I am newly graduated, but I am not inexperienced.” Almost immediately you will move past many of your classmates and compete with people who have one, two, maybe three years of work experience.
What is relevant work experience?
As I mentioned, if you want to be a copywriter or work with SEO, you need some work experience. And I can see the paradox, but it is possible to get an internship or externship as a junior copywriter/junior SEO consultant or something which sounds more fancy. And the only thing you need for jobs like that is a semi-relevant education, some curiosity and courage to contact the relevant companies.
And if you succeed in that, you are building up some relevant work experience which will help you a lot when applying for jobs after graduating.
Do not think that the experience is just the amount of time or years you have spent at said company. It is about what you learn while doing so. Because what you learn is what you can contribute with. And the contribution you make is what makes you attractive to a potential employer.
Can you see, how it all adds up? It is not just having the amount of experience, but the right one which gives you skills and makes you more certain about the field you want to work on. While working as an intern you may even realize that the job is not for you. That is time well spent. You can only learn and get wiser from putting yourself out there.
So relevant work experience is about learning new skills, testing yourself and getting to know yourself better. And that makes you more attractive for future employers.
On top of experience: You will build your network while working
So, you have your relevant working experience. You have your skills, and you know the field you want to work on and – most importantly – what companies and employers seek. The last thing you need to truly optimize your career potential is by building a great network.
You grow your own network by going into the field of work through internship. Your network consists of the people you know from your work life. Colleagues, bosses, clients, customers, or anyone else who may be relevant for your job search.
It might come useful to use your network to truly move ahead in the que.
Your network opens the doors which may seem closed or slightly shut. Imagine you seeking a job along with 100 other people. Of those people, 50 are less qualified than you, because they spent their time as students only focusing on their studies. They did not find relevant jobs or internships. They do not have the same practical skills as you do.
The other half is almost, even, or more qualified than you, and as such you cannot be certain that you will land a job interview. If you know someone who knows someone in the organization which you apply to, you can get ahead. Use the contact in your network to let the employer know that you are a good guy or woman, and that they should read your application twice. Just put some focus around your profile.
If your application is good and your skills match the job, you will have a much bigger chance of getting called to a job interview. And from there it is all up to you.
Your network may also come to you. Let people know what kind of job you are seeking. Use LinkedIn and write that you are seeking a job in a certain sector or in a specific line of business. Someone might know someone who may look for someone just like you but the job has yet to be public.
Your experience, skills, and network will lead you to your first job
As I have said, I know it is one of the biggest clichés in job search. You need experience and network to get a job. It is true, and now I have shown you and explained in detail why that is true.
It is not just the amount of time you have had a job. It is just getting to know a lot of people. It is about educating yourself in the field of work, getting the right skills, and getting to know the right people.
Those skills and your experiences will make you so much more valuable to future employers. And you will only get a job and be hired if you can add some value to the company. That is just how it works and you cannot change that. You must adapt to it and take control of your own (future) chances of landing a job.
If you put in a focused effort of landing an internship and learning skills and building your network, you will be able to find a new job within reasonable time from graduating.
And your future self will thank you for it.
My name is Frederik Fisker Wæhrens, and I help young people, students, and newly graduated people with their job search on frauddannelsetiljob.dk. I have worked with the Danish job consulting/outplacement company AS3 Transition and from there, my interest in job search really kicked in. Today I work as a Content Specialist (SEO copywriter) for a marketing agency and run my job site.