When I think of my final year of university, I think of a lot of things. The last homecoming. The final lecture. Convocation.
But in all those days leading up to the pivotal moment of graduation day, there was a looming threat keeping graduating students up at night – a silent, cold sweat-inducing panic, an all-consuming urgency that kept hearts on the edge of dropping to stomachs at all times.
The job hunt.
I specifically remember that from the beginning of September in my final year, students couldn’t stop asking each other whether they’d gotten jobs yet. The way one released a sigh of relief after getting an offer made all the other students even more anxious and desperate.
It was excruciating to be in the hot seat, interviewing and waiting for responses when every day, ex-jobless graduates dropped out of the race, having secured their lives after graduation. It was almost like an epidemic: the ones with jobs lined up vs. the others.
Some of the jobless handled it well – they weren’t worried, they knew something would come along sooner or later. Some didn’t even want jobs, they wanted to take time off after graduation. Some were going straight into their master’s programs.
I was one of those anxiety ridden, fists-clenched-around-my-planner-as-I-scour-the-university-career-portal students. Safe to say, my final year wasn’t my finest. However, about eight months after graduation, I survived, secured a full-time job in my field and now I want to share some tips that may help.
1. Take Advantage of University Resources
I had a wonderful professor in my final year of university who sometimes spent half of lecture giving us tips on how to secure a job, or how to negotiate offers. In our second lecture, he brought in someone from the university Career Services department to give us tips on how to write a proper cover letter and have a polished resume. After class, I asked her if she would take a look at both for me, and she happily agreed and gave me her e-mail. There are people at your university whose job it is to help you get a job – they’ll edit your resume and cover letter, and go back and forth with you while you edit and revise until perfection. They’ll also give you the tools and resources to find job postings, and when it comes to an offer, they’ll help you by providing some stats and benefits you should expect and aim for depending on the position title. These resources are also available to alumni, so if you find yourself in need of finding a job even a couple years after graduating, they are still available to help.
Also, many companies have recruiters scouring LinkedIn for potential candidates to interview. Therefore, make your LinkedIn as professional, clear and impressive as you can make it. Put all your cards on the table – this is not the place to be humble.
I know what you might be thinking: ugh. By the end of my own job search, when someone told me to network, I almost got full on hostile. I networked for most of my university career, trying to attend company events and fill my resume up with all kinds of extracurricular activities and leadership experience. I put myself out there, and even went out to coffee with a few professionals that friends or colleagues were kind enough to connect me with. I know many people who found jobs this way, and it is truly a powerful resource. Most of the time, especially for new graduates, you’re not expected to have much experience, but the hiring managers want to know that you’re driven, curious and a quick learner. Networking works best if you have a pretty specific idea of what you want to do, because that way you know exactly who to talk to. Professors are great to network with, because they often know a lot of industry professionals seeking new graduates, or can offer a few tips on specific companies that are hiring – they’re usually in the loop. Either way, networking doesn’t hurt. At the very least, you push yourself out of your comfort zone and get comfortable talking to all sorts of people (a networking survival guide, coming up soon). At best, you get a great job. A compelling form of Russian Roulette, networking is.
3. Make a Diagonal Move
So finally, I didn’t get a full time job by the time I finished my final year. Survival instincts kicking in, I decided to go in another direction.
My friend referred me to her work, TD Canada Trust, and I ended up getting a part-time job there as a bank teller, which was wonderful. It gave me the comfort of having some kind of income, while giving me the time to also search for and apply to full-time jobs that aligned more with my long-term career goals. The job taught me a lot about banking and myself for that matter, and even gave me more perspective on what I want and need in a job.
Most of the time, you’re not going to be doing exactly what you want to do right out of school. But it’s important to be open to opportunities, because even the simplest or most unrelated jobs will add something to your list of skills and qualities. Customer service will teach you patience and help you earn thick skin. Sales will teach you how to understand people’s wants, needs and motivations. Think of yourself as a tool box, and think of what tools you can take from every job that you consider.
So if you’re freaking out because you don’t have a job – don’t. I’ve been there, and freaking out doesn’t help at all, but what does help is strategy. Go at it full force, and when you hit a wall, turn around and find another way across. It’s not always a straight line for everyone – sometimes, it’s diagonal, horizontal, some people even have to go backwards at some point. Never give up, and know that if you’ve made it through university, you can make it through anything. You’re educated, tenacious, and ready to take on the world, even if you hit a few bumps on the way.
One final tip from the wonderful professor I mentioned earlier:
“As soon as you find a job, start looking for another one.”