Earning a degree is a considerable accomplishment, and one that carries a great deal of weight in the job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, adults over the age of 25 who have earned a bachelor’s degree earn an average of 46% more than those who haven’t.
Of course to take advantage of that earnings potential, you have to get a job. And with considerable competition in the U.S. job market, many college graduates are having a tough time finding employment in their field of study. In fact, nearly 70 percent of recent graduates are either unemployed or working in non-professional jobs not related to their degree, while 67 percent of graduating students don’t have a job lined up.
What do you do if you’re one of the many who’ve earned a degree but haven’t found a job?
Get a foot in the door, any door.
The first job is a first step
While it’s certainly a best-case scenario to land one’s dream job right after graduation, it doesn’t happen all that often. The new reality of the job market is that first jobs out of college are almost always the first step in a longer journey, rather than a destination. For example, CNN Money reports that workers often change jobs four times in their first decade out of college.
While that can seem daunting, the modern job market does have a silver lining. Research has shown that searching for an ideal job is far easier when you’re currently employed. So while finding the right job can be a long process, one of the best ways to speed that process up is by taking what the market gives you, maintaining full employment, earning an income and continuing the search.
Don’t get discouraged. Remember this first opportunity is the first step in a long journey, and plan accordingly.
Tailor your resume to each job
When searching for a job across a range of industries and employers, you need to make sure that you adjust your resume for each job you apply to. Sift through your professional and educational experience to find what’s most applicable to each job you’re pursuing.
Don’t forget to include soft skills that are valued across different fields such as communication skills, critical thinking, or the ablity to work as a member of a team. While it might seem that your summer job as a camp counselor has nothing to do with the professional-level job you’re applying for, when you’re chasing your first job every bit of experience you can demonstrate really counts.
Earn certificates in new industries
Professional certificates offer an opportunity to find initial employment, and most of them require a lot less commitment of both your time and money than a degree program. Search through industries with high employment rates and consider earning a certificate needed to get into them.
Build a LinkedIn profile that gets you noticed
These days, your LinkedIn profile is critical for job searching. It allows you to control your first impression with potential employers, and recruiters use it to find talented workers. Take advantage of this valuable tool by building a profile that employers will respond strongly to.
Network, network, network
Networking is both more important and easier to do than ever. Job seekers can tap into personal and professional connections in multiple ways, online and offline, and use their networks to earn referrals or discover open positions they wouldn’t have known about. Having an “inside track” on a job because of a personal connection gives you a substantial leg up on all the other people who might be applying for the position you’re after.
Develop a plan for long-term career goals
No matter if you’re a recent college graduate or mid-way through your career, a long-term career plan can help guide you towards your ideal job. Motivate and inspire yourself by looking at available roles where you can crush it, and reach out to learn more about pathways needed to get there. Invest in yourself now and it’ll pay off later.
Reach out to job market experts
As we mentioned, finding a job is easier when you’re already employed. Contract work is a terrific way to get your foot in the door at different offices or worksites and be more marketable to future employers. You can use the opportunity to gain experience, build your network, and plan out your career. It’s a lot easier to land a job as an “insider” rather than an “outsider.”
And seeking contract employment comes with another benefit: you’ll have the chance to connect with a recruiting partner who can be a powerful ally in your long-term career development.