Why You’ll Need More Than a Diploma to Land Your First Job

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Competition is good. 

Three words that have helped shape America. The same combination of words makes getting a job offer as difficult in 2017 for recent grads as it has ever been.  The job market is competitive for all ages, in all disciplines. As a result, more qualified employees are interviewing for entry-level jobs. What does that mean for entry-level applicants coming straight from Frisbee on the quad?  It’s pretty simple. If you walk into an interview with just your newly printed diploma and a smile you’ll likely walk out with them as well.

For new grads the task at hand has become having more to offer than just a diploma – the same diploma 1.8 million twenty-somethings will walk away with this year. The planning stages for how to market yourself during college for the job market after college should happen in advance, but if it hasn’t happened yet, now is as good a time as ever to start making and following a plan.

Your first action plan: 

Get Real World Experience

One of the most overlooked opportunities for college students is the internship. In addition to letting you test-drive a career and get your foot in the door of a company, internships provide real world experience. During interviews, you’ll be poked and prodded with questions to determine how you might fit in with an organization. The ability to show with tangible examples that you already have fit in with an organization outside the classroom will help tremendously.

So start now. Search out internships offered in partnership with your school, find organizations that have internship programs, and even look at relevant work-study jobs. Job shadowing is even a start. Don’t be afraid to not get paid for your work. You’re building something much more important than a minimum wage salary. You’re constructing a real world resume and skills.

Sell Yourself Beyond Your Resume

Get your personal anecdotes ready. Resumes are created to get you through the interview door. Oftentimes, that’s about all they’re good for. In some interviews, you’ll be asked questions based on your resume, but in general, the interview will follow a setup that is standard to the company you’ve applied to.

The most powerful aspect of the interview is the opportunity it affords you to sell yourself. This is where top candidates shine and many of the unprepared falter. Questions about tough bosses, difficult situations, and your biggest flaws and accomplishments will be asked. They’re generally cut from the same interview question cloth and get similar answers from less skilled interviewees.

Your job is to prepare and practice short personal anecdotes from your coursework, internships, and work experience. These stories will tell the tale of the employee you want to be viewed as. Too many entry-level interviews include the inexperienced telling the experienced about all of their abilities. The good candidate won’t tell anyone what she’s good at. She’ll show it with applicable skills presented in tactile, real world experience.

This part of the interview will leave hiring managers with the impression that you can slide into the position and the company with relative ease and help accomplish things immediately. It depicts a capable young person who can pick up information and use it correctly. It makes you the capable millennial candidate rather than the participation trophy one so many Gen-Xers complain about.

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