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We Spoke To Experts About How Many Jobs Should You Apply To After College

Before you toss your grad cap into the air, you’ve got to get through the thick of job application season, baby. Polish up your resume, your cover letter, and of course, your LinkedIn — your first post-college job is close in reach. 

If you haven’t landed a job already, no need to stress. There are plenty of other soon-to-be-grads out there who are in the same position as you. And, of course, there are some students out there who aren’t looking to work after school. For those of you who’re taking a gap year, this information might not be particularly helpful right now. Still, it’s never too early to prepare for your future job search. 

Nowadays, it seems like everyone’s competing for the same position. But are applicants even convinced that they’ll get the job they want — or any job, for that matter? As someone who’s been scouring the job market for a while, I often fixate on these questions. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially after receiving rejection email after rejection email. Here’s some news that’ll blow your mind: You’re not the only one who’s scared. Apply to your next position with confidence with these tips in mind.

How Many Jobs Should I Apply To?

Naturally, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Depending on what type of career you want to pursue, your number of applications will vary. In my case, I’m applying to jobs in publishing. I recognize that the publishing industry is competitive, so to increase the likelihood of breaking into it, I sent in my cover letter and resume for about 40 different roles. Maybe 40 is a bit extreme, but for me, it was better to try for more jobs than less.

In March 2023, Her Campus conducted a survey of 1,448 Gen Zers, asking them how many jobs they’ve been applying to. On average, respondents said they’re applying to 22 jobs, with the median answer being 10. The maximum response collected was 300 jobs — far outweighing my answer of 40. 

The extensiveness of these answers emphasizes how circumstantial job applications are. Before you apply to anything else, research your desired industry to gauge how competitive it is. Generally speaking, if it leans more on the closed-off side, then I suggest applying for more than 22 positions. If you’re seeing tons of open roles, 22 or less will probably be your sweet spot. 

Peter Maribei, PhD, Associate Director of the Career & Life Design Center at Trinity College, encourages you to start networking and buffing up your application materials ASAP. “There isn’t an upper limit on how many jobs one can apply to,” Maribei tells Her Campus. “It is recommended, however, that one prepares a resume and cover letter that showcases the required qualifications for each of the jobs you are applying to. To make your documents stand out, they need to be tailored to the industry and specific job you are applying for. If you have the skills and experience the employer says is necessary for the job, you need to demonstrate them convincingly in your application documents.” If you need a second set of eyes to review your resume and cover letter, check out your campus’ career center!

Am I The Only One Stressed About Finding A Job After College?

My answer to this question is a resounding no. It’s common to have some doubts when it comes to finding your first job. For many of you, this might be the first time in your life where you’re not a student. And don’t even get me started on the financial stress

There are tons of Gen Zers out there who share your fears. In the March 2023 Her Campus survey, 43% of respondents stated they’re on the hunt for their first post-grad job. Of that 43%, 39% of respondents expressed that their biggest concern is not finding a job that pays enough to support their needs. For another 30%, their biggest concern was that they wouldn’t get a job at all. And 15% of respondents were worried that their first job wouldn’t pay them enough to afford things they want. While most of these concerns are financial, 11% pinned their career anxiety on having to go through the interview process. 

Maria Dyane, an International Student Program Coordinator and Career & Life Design Coach at Trinity College, elaborates on how terrifying the job search can be for students. “Most students find it scary because they’re not sure how to start or how to go about it in addition to not being aware of how much goes into a job search,” she says. “We like to joke by saying that looking for a job is a job in itself … But it’s a commitment that requires you to do some outreach and keep a timed log. The application process is not just about applying for jobs, but it’s about networking too — a process that you need to start and nurture far in advance. It’s in the opportunities and exposure you get within your journey here. It’s also about how you showcase those skills that develop.” 

In order to confront your fears and build your confidence, Dyane says, “Look at the job search from different angles. Learn about the position, what the company’s values are, what projects they worked on, and what makes them unique — that’ll make you stand out because you know who they are and what they’re looking for. On the other side is the networking. All of these should work in parallel, in addition to you knowing yourself and how to personally brand yourself.” Getting yourself out there is one of the scariest parts of the process. But as Dyane makes clear, the outcome will be worth the stress. 

What Resources Can I Use For My Job Search?

Oftentimes the hardest part about finding a job is figuring out where to look. From Handshake to Intern Queen, there are countless sites that post job listings. But how do you know which one’s right for you? 

Finding the best resource might involve some trial-and-error. A whopping 84% of survey participants said that they frequently turn to job sites, with 83% reporting LinkedIn as their source. The third most common answer was on-campus resources at 55%, followed by internship programs and word-of-mouth networking, both coming in at 46%. 

Maribei echoes the survey results, stating that job sites might be your best bet. “There are two key ways to search for jobs,” he says. “The first and most common way is to locate and apply for open positions that have been advertised on job boards and company websites. For current students and those who are approaching graduation, [I] recommend that you search for jobs in Handshake. Additional sites that aggregate jobs include Indeed, LinkedIn, Internships.com, WayUp, Interstride, FindSpark, and Vault.” While job sites and LinkedIn seem to be popular options, I encourage you to branch out with what resources you use. You never know which one will land you a job. 

And, as always, it’s important to make connections. “The second way to find jobs, which is the most effective, is by networking by building connections in targeted companies before applying online,” Maribei adds.

“One great place to start is to network with alumni through LinkedIn,” Maribei says. “Then, make an appointment with [your school’s] Career & Life Design Coach to help you develop a plan for the job search that incorporates all these strategies. You can use the online resources to learn about different career paths, network with alums and employers at an event hosted by the center, create an individualized and flexible roadmap for your career, obtain guides to help you prepare your application materials, get your application materials reviewed, and prepare for interviews.” Although Maribei’s referring to Trinity’s Career & Life Design Center, this information can apply to other college career networks. 

Where Should I Look For Jobs?

If you’re anything like Her Campus’ survey respondents, chances are you’re eying jobs in the Northeast. Half of respondents said that they’re applying for jobs there, while 35% are on the hunt for remote positions. Remote jobs are clutch if you’re hesitant about moving, or if you want to save up money for housing. Compared to the 35% of Gen Zers who’re looking for remote jobs, only 1% less want to work in the Pacific West. Evidently, the Southeast earned the least amount of responses at 24%. 

If you’re trying to break into a tough industry, I wouldn’t be too selective when determining what region of the country you want to work in. To reiterate what I said earlier, it’s better to apply for more than less with highly-competitive jobs. If you don’t envision yourself living in a certain area, I would still send in a few applications anyway, just to increase your chances of getting a job. Before you accept any offers, visit wherever you might be working and see if your opinion on the location changes. 

Dyane says, “It really depends on what you’re looking for, and where you’re looking for it. It’s the what, where, and who. There are many platforms, like Handshake and LinkedIn, that will help you find opportunities listed, but what will help you stand out is the connections you make. Networking is how you get that foot in the door.” To “get your foot in the door,” Dyane suggests, “Talk to people, reach out to alumni, attend different events, or even go the old way and pick up the phone and express your interest to companies — sometimes that’s how opportunities are created. Sometimes companies don’t present opportunities on the different job boards, so it’s good for them to know you’re really interested in working there and building that relationship with them.” 

Reiterating Dyane’s response, wherever you develop a meaningful connection with an employer will likely be where you end up. Don’t limit yourself to one place — get out there and start networking! 

Jill Schuck

Trinity '23

Jill Schuck is currently a senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. There, she majors in creative writing and minors in rhetoric and media studies, with hopes of working in publishing. Aside from reading and writing, Jill enjoys traveling, practicing self-care, and spending too much money on matcha.