Your First Job: How To Gain Experience Without A Shot At Experience

​Graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington, Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Jessica has made a career in Recruitment and Human Resources. Most recently, Jessica has taken to personal consulting for career development, specifically those starting or making a major career change.
As a student, Jessica attained her BA in four years, was an active member of the Multicultural Greek Council (Alum Sister of Delta Alpha Sigma); as well as, a member of the Psychology Society and the Association of Mexican American Students.

College has a masterful way of painting a picture of instant big bucks as soon as you graduate. The truth…unless you set yourself up for it with the exception of a few degrees or who you know, most of us will find ourselves making about 35-40K fresh out of school. It can also seem impossible to land or find a job that you are qualified for, let alone really like.

Every employer is looking for candidates with years of experience which places us in the age old cycle of “how can I gain experience if no one will give me shot at experience?”

Thankfully that code has been cracked and the answers are available for those willing to put in the work.

As you enter your Junior and Senior year of college change your focus from school to career.

Building your resume to reflect real world knowledge and experience you’ve gained throughout your educational career will be mandatory for landing a first job you actually like and that pays well.

Develop Experience Through Internships and Beyond

You are paying a ridiculous amount of money to attend college so utilize those “free” resources to the maximum! (i.e. Career Center) to help you in your quest for the perfect internship. I suggest subscribing to a mailing list specifically geared for the college student, like internship.com.

Internships are just one focus of the perfect career plan. Your whole junior year should be focused on building/developing your experience. Get your foot in the door of your target industry through people, events, and business relations/internships and acquire “relationship capital” from every experience.

This is your opportunity to see firsthand the struggles the industry faces and how you can directly impact those struggles. Being able to define the unique value you bring to a company and an industry is what sets you apart. This firsthand experience will help you to define your value and natural conversation and unique positioning come interview time.

Participate In Research Relevant to Your Degree

Graduate students are constantly looking for research assistants. Being an assistant counts as an elective credit for most degree programs as well. An added bonus is most graduate students are also actively working in the field they are researching. This becomes a resource for you to connect with the connections of someone already in the door.

The Digital Age Job Killer – Your Social Media

When on the hunt for a job tighten up your social media. All accounts that you use for fun should be set to private (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) NO EXCEPTIONS! I would even suggest making yourself unsearchable. Update your Linkedin page, there is never too much professional experience you can share on these pages. You can step your game up even further and create separate professional pages on Facebook (make this a fan page not a personal page) and Twitter and follow the companies you are most interested in working for. Show interest in their posts, leave insightful comments, and connect with people already working there. Your goal is to be recognized and separate yourself from everyone else applying for a position. This is simple and it works. Do it.

It Literally Costs You Money NOT To Do This

Attending networking events has proven to be the best thing I’ve seen new graduates do for their career. This is your bread and butter. Experience proves, it’s all about who you know, so make yourself known.

Spend the ten dollars on Vistaprint and make yourself some business cards. Be sure to follow-up and connect with each person you meet along the way. Follow-up is the most important step because it pays dividends in the future that you may not be able to see in the present. Set up coffee dates through Linkedin to get more insight on the company. People love to talk about themselves and what they have going on. Here’s a neat tactic If you are not comfortable being that straight forward.

Ask to interview them for a school paper. The interview tactic is a way to appeal to their sense of volunteering and service. These interactions are your first opportunity to make an impression and place a name to a face. Keep it very casual and DO NOT ask for a job. Remember, the focus is them. Your only interest is in what they do at their company.

How To Deliver A Message They Won’t Forget.

If you focus on saturating your chosen industry your Junior year, by the time your senior year rolls around landing an entry-level position should not be a problem and this will set you up for a potential raise after you graduate.

I do highly suggest working your senior year.

Let’s take this back to the old school…as a recruiter I can safely say that online applications have actually given everyone an enormous disadvantage when applying for work.

You are limited to looking like a rock star on paper without given the advantage of a first face to face impression.

How do you combat this? Think old school, ALWAYS submit a cover letter and ALWAYS send a follow up email. Hopefully that sounds familiar, but here’s how to take it a step further. Put those snooping social media skills to use and do some research. Find out who the hiring manager is and directly follow up with them. Address your cover letter to this person as opposed to the overused “To whom it may concern”.

Keep taking it up a notch and FedEx your follow up letter directly to the hiring manager if you are serious about landing this position. I can promise you (from personal experience) my eyes get bored seeing the same thing over and over. Make yourself stand out. That is the key.

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