Career Roundtable: How Did You Get Your First Job Out of College?

I often have students reach out to me for career advice. Rather than write a list of my own experiences, I asked five of my friends for their best job search advice.

If you're soon to be a college graduate (what's up class of 2016?) and on the job hunt, here's some advice from five successful young professionals on how to land your first job out of college.

Meet Phim!


Alma Mater: Syracuse University

Occupation: Graphic Designer

How did you land your first job out of college? 
After I graduated, I made a list of the top metropolitan areas I'd be interested in working in. D.C. was at the top of that list, so I looked into different agencies that were hiring. I heard back from J.B., an HR specialist at my current company, the day after I answered her job posting. She invited me for an in-person interview after doing an initial phone screening, and next thing I knew, my dad and I were booking a hotel and mapping our route down to D.C. from Syracuse. We drove down to D.C. a few weeks after that initial trip. This time, it was to help me move in for my first job!

What's your advice for current college seniors? 
I think the most important piece of advice that I can give to college seniors is: Identify your champions (whether you're in the classroom or on the job). By champions, I mean people who will support you behind the scenes, as well as publicly. Connect with people who will vocally advocate on your behalf, whether it's recognizing your hard work or vouching for your expertise. Find people who will celebrate and challenge you. And do the same for them. This isn't just about moving forward and getting ahead. It's about finding your tribe.

Say "hello" to Phim on Twitter and Instagram!

Meet Agnes!


Alma Mater: University of Maryland

Occupation: News Editor/Photographer

How did you land your first job out of college?
I optimized every network I had available to me. I looked at job listings through my alma mater's list-servs and Facebook pages. I told friends to keep a lookout for me and used online job search engines like Indeed and LinkedIn. I found this position through MediaGeneral.com, a site that lists news positions around the country. After I submitted my application, I was asked for a Skype interview the next day, and received the position soon after.

What's your advice for current college seniors?
Don't just accept the first job offer you get because you have been filling out applications endlessly and the position you were just offered is the only one that has seemed to pan out. Thoroughly research this position and make sure it is the right fit. Otherwise, you could be walking into a lion's den! There's nothing wrong with turning that position down and continuing to apply for the job you think someone with your skill set deserves. It'll be worth it.

Say "hello" to Agnes on
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Meet Danielle!


Alma Mater: Washington Adventist University

Job Title: Office Coordinator (For DC nonprofit)

How did you get your first job out of college?
I actually got my first job through a temp agency. I worked part-time all through college as a secretary and had some administrative experience, so I wanted to land something stable while I figured out my graduate school situation. I know some classmates who would never have tried a staffing firm, but I was hired permanently after working at the same organization for about 4 months as a temp. Some get temporary positions and don't work as hard, but after a few weeks of my placement the organization knew that they wanted me to work for them permanently. My "can do" attitude, my quality of work, and my timeliness were all factors that made my presence at the organization invaluable.

What's your advice for current college seniors?
My advice would be to not worry if your first job is not what you expected. In the months since I began working I have learned so much about myself, about what it means to work in a full-time position, about office politics, and the nuts and bolts about running an organization. All the lessons and experience I am gaining now are going to be formative for when I run my own organization one day! Also, do not worry if you don't know what you really want to do--work some temp jobs, and see what sparks your interest. I have co-workers who majored in English and Political Science, but now they work in IT, I have some who majored in History, but now they are Grants Administrators. The time right after college is the perfect time to explore new fields and gain some valuable, character building experience.

Say "hello" to Danielle on Twitter!

Meet Nellie!

College: Pacific Lutheran University

Job Title: Deputy Finance Director

How did you get your first job out of college? 
Ah, this is such a hard question to answer. Mostly because I feel like there were a lot of moving pieces that somehow came together at the perfect time to get me to where I am today. My roadmap has been years in the making (literally), but I'll focus on two things that were most helpful in making my job search successful: Internships. I decided the best way to figure out what I was interested in was through experience. Every summer, and throughout the academic year, I interned for numerous political organizations, all of whom where in different "areas" of the political world. Through these internships, I learned a lot about the process of government, campaigns, policy development, political parties, you name it. I learned what I liked about all of those things, but probably most importantly, what I didn't like. I used these opportunities to help whittle down my interests and to hone in on what I actually wanted to pursue after graduation. Relationships. I met some pretty incredible people throughout my college experience: awesome friends, fantastic professors, fun co-workers, great supervisors, and even better mentors. It's important to keep in touch with these folks, and where possible, continue to build and strengthen these relationships. Throughout my progression over the past couple of years, I relied heavily on the relationships I had fostered as a result of different opportunities to help connect me to new, broader experiences. I wouldn't have gotten my current job if I hadn't reached out to my mentor's friend, and wouldn't have met my mentor if I hadn't gotten coffee with a co-worker who recommended I apply for this internship, and I wouldn't have met that co-worker if I hadn't asked my previous supervisor to reach out to her friend at the office where I wanted to work, and... okay, I'll stop, but I hope you're seeing my point. Relationships are important, and you never know when they might come in handy, so take the time to maintain them.

What's your advice for current college seniors? Perseverance. Let's face it, looking for a job sucks. The excitement of new opportunities and the unknown road ahead quickly get bogged down by cover letter after cover letter, resume modifications, un-returned emails, and informational interviews that go nowhere. You're probably going to hit a lot of barriers and arrive at a lot of dead ends, but don't let that stop you from pressing on. You owe it to yourself to keep trying. And don't limit yourself. As young people, fresh out of college, with little (or no) strings attached, we have the unique opportunity to explore new places, and take big risks. Do both. Lastly, don't take the first job that you're offered, unless you really want it. As I said, the job search is tough, and it can be tempting to take the first opportunity you're granted out of desperation, relief, and anxiety that you won't ever be offered anything else. Of course, no first job is going to be the perfect job, but don't settle for something just because you're wary of the job search. It's okay to turn down a job that isn't right for you, or that you're not interested in! I promise that if you wait long enough and search hard enough, the right opportunity will present itself.

Say "hello" to Nellie on LinkedIn!

Meet Alex!


College: Emory University

How did you get your first job out of college? 
I think the Emory community is pretty close so that definitely helped--our alumni network is strong and our alums engage with students often. I got an alum's email from my college's database. [I then emailed] and wrote that I was a graduating senior, my major and what I was interested in doing as a career, and if they had time I would love to connect with them and learn more about their job and their company. Usually after we talked they offered to connect me with someone that handled recruiting, which was so helpful!

What's your advice for current college seniors? I would definitely recommend connecting with alumni whether from high school or college. People are more willing to help out than you think. And the worst they could say is no!

Say "hello" to Alex on LinkedIn!

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