How to Apply for Jobs Before (& After) You Graduate

All you seniors out there, let’s face it: graduation is only a short time away, and if you don’t have a job locked down, you are freaking out. Some students with majors such as finance or education get jobs for post-grad as early as the summer before senior year, but for the rest of us, we are deep into the search. Questions take over our mind like, “when should I start applying?” or “what city do I want to live in?” or “should I have already sent out applications and be going through the interview process now?” Don’t worry – everyone is doing this his or her own way, and there is no correct way to prepare for applying for post-grad jobs. Here are some tips on how you can prepare for the job application process before, or after, graduation.

Master your resume

By now, as a senior in college about to graduate, you should have your resume pretty much locked down. To be on the safe side, go through it, just to make sure everything is up to date and fresh. Some of your job experience may be from four years ago, and you haven’t updated it on your resume since then, so go back and reread. Also, never put anything too personal, such as your hobbies, on your resume. That can be in your cover letter.

Master your cover letter

Not all job applications require the submission of a cover letter, but you should submit anyway – a good cover letter shows the hiring manager or HR another side of you that your resume may not highlight. In your cover letter, you need to show your interest in the job you are applying for, be brief, be persuasive and highlight two or three of your strongest and most significant accomplishments or abilities. Don’t go into detail when it comes to what your internship or job tasks were; that’s what your resume is for. Also, include a fun fact or two about yourself. And remember to cater your cover letter for each job you are applying to.

Have a strong sense of what you want to do

Don’t go applying to random jobs just because they’re posted online. Have a good general sense of what you want to do, but not too narrow. For example, you can research “sports entry-level marketing jobs Boston,” not “digital marketing entry-level job for the Boston Red Sox.” By having a general sense of what you want to do in a general field, you will have better luck when searching and applying.

Network

LinkedIn should be your best friend at this point. If you can contact people via LinkedIn that have had a position you are interested in or work at a company you are interested in working at, or if you know someone who knows someone, ask a favor. Ask to meet with them for an informational interview. Also take advantage of your school’s career center and academic services, as well as your school's alumni network.

Master the interview

Mock interviews are a great way to prepare yourself for when you get called in for a real interview. Have a friend or a professor you feel comfortable with sit down with you and ask you questions, or even record yourself talking. It’s really important to know what to expect and practice beforehand.

Be organized

Organization may be the most important part of your job search. The more organized you are, the higher the chance you will succeed. If you forget that you applied for a job, or if you have files all over your desktop and don’t know what to send to whom, chances are you are going to have an accident. Create an Excel spreadsheet of all the contacts you have, where you want to apply to, what types of positions are out there, etc. Also, try to spend at least one hour per week on your job search, even if that is just searching on job boards, fixing up your resume or doing some research. You can never be too organized.

At the end of the day, there are so many things you can do to help you prepare to applying for real jobs, but if you end up graduating without a job, try not to panic. An online article in the Washington Post from January of 2015 said that four out of five college students graduate without a job. So don’t fret! There is no right or wrong time to start applying for jobs. All you can do is prepare and try your hardest. You might even want to take the summer off! Remember, there is no right or wrong time or way to start applying for jobs.