Once the time comes to start applying for jobs, you should have a good sense of the type of work you’re looking for. But it can be tough to find your first career-based job, especially since you probably don’t have a ton of experience to list on your resume. Here are some smart strategies to jumpstart your search and hopefully land you a job quickly.
If your school or training program has a career center, start your job search there. You can get one-on-one personalized advice, help with your resume, interview tips, and they could even help put you in contact with local companies. Centers like these are invaluable (and often free) sources to help you land your first job.
There’s no shortage of online job boards, and they make it easy to find, apply, and track professional opportunities. Sites such as Indeed and Monster allow you to customize a search for nearly any industry, plus you can set up alerts and upload your resume to help employers find you.
Other job boards are more specialized. FlexJobs, for example, shows openings for remote job opportunities, while Glassdoor shows comprehensive reviews of employers by the people who work there. Certain industries have their own job boards as well, so if you’re having trouble cutting through the noise on general websites, consider a more niche job board for your desired career.
Never underestimate the power of your contacts. Sometimes, all you need to land your first job is to get your foot in the door and catch the attention of the hiring manager. Let people know you’re looking for a job — they might have an opening at their company that hasn’t been listed yet, can forward your resume to their manager, or give you a good reference.
You can also grow your network by joining organizations, such as a school alumni group or industry-specific association. This is a good way to meet people who are already in the workforce and might be able to help you land your first gig.
Stalk companies you want to work for
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your job search; there are seemingly thousands of listings and more are added every day. But you can narrow your focus if you already have some companies in mind that you’d like to work for.
Whether they’re doing unique work or offer amazing benefits and perks, having a shortlist of companies you admire can help give you a specific goal to aim for. Check their career page weekly for new postings and follow them on social media so you don’t miss any updates. You can also reach out to your network to see if you already know someone who works there.
You’re busy searching for companies who will hire you, but are you making it easy for employers to find you? If not, that’s an easy fix to make.
Most young workers can benefit from a LinkedIn profile — they’re free to set up and offer potential employers a big-picture view of your professional accomplishments so far. Include a nice photo of yourself and any internships or job experiences that relate to your chosen industry. If you don’t have much experience to list, think outside the box: awards, volunteer experience, and significant class projects can all be included to make you stand out.
Depending on your career, it might also help to create your own personalized website. Wix can help you do this for free, or Squarespace offers paid options. You can use a website to let potential employers know about who you are as a person, plus you can add a portfolio of your work or start a blog about a professional topic. This is a great way to show off your skills, even if you haven’t had a job that’s allowed you to prove yourself yet.
Customize your resume and cover letter
You should have a basic resume already started when you begin your job search. There are hundreds of templates you can find online, but be sure your resume includes your professional experiences, education or training you’ve completed, and any special skills or achievements you have.
The best resumes are simple and brief, but also specific. How have you measurably contributed to previous jobs? For example, maybe you caught an error that saved an employer money or you came up with an improved system to check out customers faster. Highlighting actionable strengths like these are more meaningful than a routine listing of job duties.
But the true key to crafting a killer resume and cover letter is to customize both documents for each job you apply for. Look for keywords in the job listing and add those to your application docs, update your objective (if you’ve listed one), and add in specific skills that the company is looking for. You should always be truthful and faithfully represent yourself, but you should also make it easy and obvious for the hiring manager to see exactly why you’re so qualified for the role.
Keep your search organized
Searching for a job can feel like a part-time job on its own, so staying organized is key. Consider keeping a spreadsheet of the jobs you’ve already applied for so you don’t waste time submitting multiple applications to one company. Include the position’s title, job description, where you heard about the opening, any login information to track your application, and a link to the listing.
It could also be helpful to set weekly goals to stay on top of your search. Maybe you want to spend five hours a week searching for jobs or apply to at least three listings each weekend. Whatever you decide is right, setting goals like these can help you stay on track.
It may take some time to land your first gig, so don’t panic if you don’t get asked to interview right away. Put in some extra thought and care to your resume, grow your network as much as you can, and above all, be patient!