The 7 Steps for College Grads to Get a Job

Jobs. Every College Graduate wants one. They study hard for years, sacrifice to make ends meet, graduate with student loan debt, and still don’t have a job lined up at graduation. What can they do?

Well, there are lots of articles out there that provide tips. But how many tips can you read? I read tips about losing weight and building muscle from time to time. Not one article has helped me lose weight or gain muscle – no matter how many times I read it! Apparently, I actually have to take action. So I decided to skip past the tips and actually give college graduates – and current students – action steps they can take today to get a job.

These steps are guaranteed to work, or your money back – not from your college, but from what you paid to read this free article 🙂

Why You Can’t Get a Job


If you are applying for jobs the traditional way, then you have very little chance of success. That is why so many college students graduate, move home, and work a part-time retail job. Which sounds a lot like the life they had before college – but now with student loan payments. The good news is that more employers are hiring. According to this article from the Washing Post, there are nearly 5.5 million job openings. Then why doesn’t the traditional way of applying for jobs work well? Because there are too many others doing the same thing – looking for jobs the same way.

Think about the person reviewing job applications. They are overworked. They are also short by one staff member – which is why they are hiring in the first place. So now they are overworked with their job and with the open position as well. On top of that they are handed 100 – 150 resumes from people all applying for the same position – and maybe you are in that pile. This person has no time to go through 100 resumes! So they quickly look for excuses to toss people form the pile. They want to narrow it down to 5 or 10 people in the next couple of hours – so each resume gets about 30 seconds.

  • This person put a period at the end of the first two bullet points but not the third one? They clearly don’t pay attention to detail… REJECTED
  • This person’s paragraphs don’t align the same…REJECTED
  • This person’s Job Objective looks rather generic and not specific to this position…REJECTED

If you are lucky, you might make it through that process. But imagine if two of the best tennis players were on the tennis court… and 100 other people joined them and started hitting tennis balls everywhere. There is no way you can see who actually is any good at tennis! That is what happens with job applications as well.

Instead of being 1 out of 100 where you barely have a 5% chance of making it through. You want to be 1 of 1. How do you become 1 of 1? That brings us to the 7 steps.

7 Steps to Get a Job


1. Determine What You Want to Do

You have to narrow down what it is you want to do. Maybe you already know exactly what you want to do. Great move to the next step. If not, then start narrowing it down. Do you want to work with computers? Do you want to travel? Do you like non-profits? Do you like college campuses? Do you like sales? Figure out the types of jobs that fit who you are. You can use your college’s career services office for some assistance here. Also, do a little research to see what types of jobs are out there. Most people can only name about a dozen job positions, but there are actually thousands of possibilities.

2. Determine Where You Want to Live

Are  you planning to stay in your college town? Go back to your home town? Anywhere on the coast? One of the major cities? It is important to determine the three or four places you really want to live (or maybe you know exactly where). Now you may want to literally draw a circle on a map to see the area(s) you are going to look for a job.

3. Decide Which is Most Important

Now, determine if there are any jobs doing what you want in the places you want to live. If you want to be a surf board wax technician but you want to live in Arizona, then you are unlikely to find a job. If there are no jobs in the area you want to live then you have to decide… Change the area you want to live – or change what type of job you want.

4. Determine Who Has The Jobs

Once that is straightened out, find out which employers actually hire people to do those jobs. Not in general, but specifically. Inside your circles you need to identify which companies actually hire ‘Cat Behavior Consultants’ – or whatever it is you want to do. You need to know the names of the companies that have these positions so you can do a little research.

5. Find The Right People to Connect With

Now it’s time to use your network. Yes, this could include mom and dad, but it goes way beyond parents. You have a network… you are just completing college! You have professors, and staff. You have career counselors and club presidents. There are many companies that work directly with the college. In addition, you may be part or community activities or organizations. And if face-to-face is not your thing… bring in LinkedIn.

NetworkWith LinkedIn you can identify exactly who works for what organization – and maybe even in what department. Then you can see who you know that is connected to someone they know so you can reach out and be introduced. How do you do it? Search LinkedIn for a particular company name and invite one or more people to connect. No matter what level of the organization they are in, they are likely connected to other members of their organization. So keep connecting throughout the organization until you find the right department.

If you cannot get to the specific company then search for their industry organizations. Every industry has at least one if not several organizations. Start there. Connect with someone in the industry organization or a certification organization. The keep connecting to their connections until you find people in one of the areas that you identified where you want to live. You can probably connect to the right person within one or two weeks using this method.

6. Reach Out

Now you know who you want to connect with in person, but how do you do it? Contact them or contact someone you know who knows someone they know. Tell them you are a recent graduate (or graduating soon) and you are really interested in working for ABC company or better yet, you are really interested in becoming a ‘Creativity Analyst’ – or again, whatever job you actually want. Offer to meet them for coffee, breakfast, or lunch so you can ask them questions. Most people are eager and willing to help out someone who is just starting out. It makes them feel good that they are somewhere in life that someone else aspires to be.

You may have to work this for a while. Continue to find people to speak with that do the things you want to do and try to get an “in.” At some point one of the will tell you that their company is looking for someone and they would be glad to take your resume. This is critical since so many new hires now come from personal recommendations.

7. Follow Up

Don’t just let it go. Be sure to post comments on LinkedIn if someone in your area of interest posts an article or a nugget of wisdom. Be active in the community – which is what networking is all about. Follow up after a few weeks to again thank the person who met you for coffee, or answered your emails, or took your phone call. End it with, if they have any other advice or suggestions or if they know of anyone that is looking for a proactive recent graduate such as yourself you would really appreciate if they keep you in mind. Make your last statement something along the lines of, “And if there is anything I can do to help you or your organization please don’t hesitate to ask. I maintain a lot of contacts and am always looking for ways to help others.”

The Graduate's Guide to Life and Money

Bonus Step: Share Your Success Story!

We know this approach works. It’s how our students find their jobs. It’s how we got our jobs! So please, once you get the job using these methods – along with any other methods – share your story with us so we can help others as well.

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Bill Pratt

Bill is an Assistant Professor of Business at Piedmont Virginia Community College. He speaks on topics related to personal finance on college campuses across the country and is the author of multiple books on personal finance. He left the financial industry to focus on helping people become personally and financially successful. He lives in Charlottesville, VA with his wife and their three pets.

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