How to find and land an entry level job after college

The time right before and after college graduation should be an exciting one, but most students find themselves in a panic. Winter isn’t coming, but real life definitely is. While landing an entry-level job doesn’t have to be hard, it does require effort. Students better be ready to network, build their public profiles, and perfect their resumes. Ladders answered some of the major questions that students and recent grads usually have regarding entry-level jobs.

What is an entry level job?

“I think of that entry-level job as a springboard,” said Heidi Robinson, director of career education and training at Wake Forest University.

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While there are exceptions, an entry-level job is usually not someone’s dream job, but a starting point to work one’s way to their ideal position. Robinson thinks of an entry-level job as an extension of one’s education; it’s an opportunity to learn, get paid, and understand how to make an impact for an employer.

“I say it’s a first destination gateway entry-level opportunity,” said Bob Martin, the assistant dean for internships and career placement in the Bellasario College of Communications at Penn State University. “And I’m intentionally redundant about this.”

Martin defines an entry-level job as an opportunity rather than a job because it is the position you take directly after graduation that opens doors to opportunities in your career. It’s not always a full-time job, but it is always a step in the right direction that may open doors for the rest of your career.

How do you find entry-level jobs

Job boards are a great starting point to discover what entry-level jobs exist in your industry. If a job’s seniority level isn’t labeled, candidates can use context clues to tell if a job would be fitting for them. Most entry-level jobs list no experience needed, but some may say one to two years of professional experience required or preferred.

While job sites and online tools can be handy for researching and applying to opportunities, they are usually highly competitive.

“Once you go to those digital resources, you’re a number,” Martin said. Instead, both Martin and Robinson recommend using your network to excel in your career search.

How to network in your field as a student or recent graduate

While many students have only been taught how to network at events like job fairs or conferences, networking can actually be done largely online, which is good news for the Gen Z population that was raised on technology.

Upcoming or recent graduates may not have many allies in the workforce they’re attempting to break into, but weak ties can’t be overlooked. Weak ties are people with whom you have some sort of affiliation, even if that connection is weak.

“People with whom you have weak ties are sometimes those who have the greatest impact on your career trajectory because they have access to jobs that you don’t see in your inner circle of friends,” Robinson said.

Robinson explains how to network online using tools like LinkedIn.

How to use LinkedIn to find your allies

LinkedIn allows you to find your weak ties with a few clicks of a button.

Steps to find weak ties on LinkedIn:

Find your college or university page
Choose the alumni section
Find the “Where they live” section
Select the geographical area in which you’d like to work
Find the “What they do” section
Select the industry in which you’d like to work

When you scroll down, you’ll find a complete list of individuals that went to your school, work in your desired industry, and live in your preferred geographical location.

Why people should be a part of your job search strategy

Instead of networking, Robinson prefers to train students in relationship building. While job boards can be successful, candidates that rely solely on them miss out on the “hidden job market.”

Between 70 and 90% of jobs are landed through relationships, Robinson said, which means that only 10 to 30% of opportunities are actually posted online.

Instead of only submitting your college resume over and over, Martin recommends using a comprehensive job search strategy that includes people as well as online resources.

People should be the largest part of your strategy, according to both Martin and Robinson.

“The number one strategy for any new grad is to have multiple conversations a week with people you don’t know very well and ask them about their path and advice they have,” Robinson said. “That’s how we’re going to uncover the hidden job market.”

How to network and build relationships

Martin suggests creating a list of each professional that you know in your industry. Once you have your list and contact information, it’s time to reach out and see if they’re available for an informational interview. If you’re able to get in touch with the contact, face-to-face interaction is best. You should ask if the contact would be available to meet for lunch or coffee. If you’re unable to meet in person, ask if the professional is available for a 10-minute phone call.

Remember that you’ve got nothing to lose by asking somebody for a 10-minute phone call,” Robinson said.

It’s important to note that the purpose of this interview isn’t to ask them for a job but to seek advice from them about the industry and your job search strategies.

“If we only reach out to our allies and ask them to help us get a job, we have reduced relationship building down to a binary function,” Robinson said. Your contact can only answer yes or no to that question. There’s nothing powerful about having a transactional relationship.” Instead, building a relationship can be beneficial to both you and your contact, whether those benefits appear immediately or somewhere down the line.

Use this informational interview email sample to guarantee that a professional industry contact agrees to speak with you.

How to ace an informational interview

It’s important to remember that the purpose of an informational interview is to learn more and build a relationship with an industry professional, not to land a job. Keeping that in mind, early questions in your interview should focus on the professional’s career. For a list of specific questions to ask, read our story on 18 questions to ask in an informational interview.

If the contact is only able to give you 10 minutes of their time, it’s a good idea to keep the conversation focused on them for the majority of the discussion. Within the last few minutes, ask for their advice in your job search and if it’s okay with them to keep in touch.

If your contact agreed to an hour in-person meeting you can talk about their career path for the first 30 minutes. Learn how the contact landed her entry-level job and how she got promoted to where she is today. About halfway through the interview, try to switch the conversation towards yourself. You should tell the professional about your experience, give them your resume, present them with your e-portfolio, and outline your job search strategies. After each step, ask what he or she recommends doing differently.

Leaning into the resources of their university

Universities often provide job search resources to students and recent graduates. For example, Wake Forest provides students access to Simplicity and Handshake up to 6 months after graduation. Upcoming graduated should contact their career services department to see what types of tools are available to them for their job search.

Post-grad internships can be entry-level jobs

While many students are looking to land a full-time position directly after graduation, Martin emphasizes the importance of considering an internship position after graduation. Commitment is not as common as it used to be, even in the professional world. Many companies like to see how candidates fit in at an office before hiring them as a full-time employee. The upside is that you as an intern also get to judge the company atmosphere before committing to a full-time position. Not only does an internship give you the chance to gain skills, knowledge, and experience from a company, but it also gives you the chance to test-ride a certain position at a specific company. If that company is unable to hire you at the end of that internship, the experience you gained only makes you more marketable to the next company.

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