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How to get a job after college: 5 tips for juniors and seniors

April 26, 2022
Woman facing away from camera with graduation cap mortarboard that says "U-R amazing" illustrating potential to get a job after graduation.“This year’s graduates have an opportunity to take advantage of the altered employment landscape created by the pandemic,” says Jodyi Wren of the University’s Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections. (University of Rochester photo / Matt Wittmeyer)

Rochester’s Jodyi Wren, a career education professional with more than 15 years of experience, offers advice for college students and graduates.

The annual commencement season inspires many college seniors and juniors to look for work as they map their job and career prospects.

Jodyi Wren, interim executive director of the University of Rochester’s Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections, has good news for soon-to-be and even newly minted graduates aiming to get a job.

For starters, during the pandemic, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher consistently experienced a lower unemployment rate than those without at least a four-year degree, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That trend has continued, even as unemployment nears pre-pandemic levels.

“With a strong job market, this year’s graduates have an opportunity to take advantage of the altered employment landscape created by the pandemic,” Wren says. “The transition into virtual and remote work has opened geographic possibilities.”

Wren, who also serves as the center’s director of advising and career communities and has more than 15 years of experience in career education, offers advice on landing a job after college.

1. Invest in relationships.

Use virtual collaboration tools such as the University’s Meliora Collective and its Linkedin page to connect with alumni, recruiters, peers, faculty, friends and family members.

“Be authentic,” Wren says. “Show a genuine interest in who they are and in their professional journey. Your investment of time and attention can lead to opportunities, leads, referrals, ideas, and introductions.”

As you network, don’t underestimate the power of a personal touch, such as a face-to-face meeting, phone call, or handwritten thank-you note. Those who want to get a job should dedicate at least 25 percent of their search efforts to relationship-building, making sure to track touch points and progress.

2. Target and refine your story.

As your audience changes, so should the messaging in your resume, cover letter, networking outreach, and interviewing responses. “Your goal when trying to get a job is to make it easy for prospective employers to connect the dots between your skills, experiences, accomplishments, and the value you could bring to that organization,” says Wren.

Have your elevator pitch—the 60-second version of who you are and what you’re looking for—ready. Similarly, keeping an updated LinkedIn profile with example projects illustrating your interests and skills is another great way to tell your story to prospective employers. For some creative and programming fields, an online portfolio showcasing your work communicates your expertise and experience beyond what can be conveyed through other mediums. Not sure how to get started with your online portfolio? Check out the Greene Center’s guide to developing a portfolio.

3. Use job boards strategically.

Become a savvy navigator of the ubiquitous online application portals. Use distinct keywords, filter by geographic areas, and increase your efficiency by setting up saved searches. Wren also recommends identifying specialized job boards for your area of focus and capitalizing on the resources of professional associations. Track your applications—including positions, links, and potential relationships to invest in.

In addition, be open and curious when it comes to job titles, industries, or locations. Your first job after graduation might require you to move or to get your foot in the door with an adjacent industry.

4. Keep building skills.

Throughout your search, keep honing and developing the skills employers seek. These include technical as well as “success” skills, according to Wren. For example, programming and office suite skills can be just as important as communication, critical problem-solving, and team work to future employers.

Short-term virtual employer projects (offered through platforms such as Forage and ProMazo) or online courses (through LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, for example) are useful ways to build skills, gain experience, and test out your interests. And don’t forget about more traditional approaches such as volunteering and extracurricular engagements.

5. Don’t compare your journey to others.

Try not to be too stressed about finding a job after college. After all, no two paths are the same—especially given the continued fallout from the pandemic. Maybe your friend already has a job, and you haven’t even started your search. Whatever the case, you’re not alone. So, get started, recognizing that you don’t need to know everything to get the ball rolling.

One more thing …

Check in with the career advisors at the Greene Center for a personalized connection to opportunities and resources—even after you’ve graduated. The center serves students from their first year on and helps young alumni for up to five years after graduation.


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