You’ve done it. You’ve gone to college, selected a major, committed yourself to long hours of studying, writing and testing, completed every class you needed to and got a degree. Now all you need to do is start working. Easier said than done.
Fortunately, many people have been in the same position as you and figured out the best ways to secure a job and start the path to a fulfilling career. They also made a few mistakes along the way that they’re willing to share with you so you don’t waste time repeating them.
GOBankingRates talked to career experts to get the most useful advice for what to do and what not to do when entering the workforce.
Do: Conduct Informational Interviews
When you’re looking to enter a new field, your most helpful resources are people with years of experience who are actively working in the field. One tip career experts recommend is reaching out to someone who’s worked at your dream company or position for a few years via LinkedIn and asking if they’d be open to doing an informational interview.
The point of this interview is to ask questions and get a better feel and understanding for what your future career might entail. Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com said the most important questions to ask are:
What is it like to work in this career on a daily basis?
What are the challenges of this role?
What does it take to be successful?
Don’t forget that this interview is also a chance for you to build rapport and show enthusiasm for the field. The person whose brain you’re picking today could become a contact, a reference or even a mentor.
Don’t: Pester Job Posters
Waiting for a company to get back to you about a job is anxiety-provoking, but too many follow ups about your job application can be seen as annoying and amateurish.
“Don’t try to call the office of the company that posted the job to get in touch, message job posters repeatedly on social media, or email their work emails to see if they received your application,” Case said.
Once you submit your application, the ball is in the hiring manager’s court. It might be tough, but your best bet after applying is to be patient. If there’s no response, it wasn’t meant to be.
Do: Write a Cover Letter
Job applications frequently note that cover letters are optional, but experts say you shouldn’t see them that way.
“Cover letters have a poor reputation for repeating what your resume already says, but don’t dismiss them completely. In fact, you’re doing it wrong if you use a cover letter to just regurgitate the skills stated on your CV,” advices Eduardo Perez, Founder of Musician Authority.
Especially at the beginning of your career, cover letters can do a lot to explain why you’re a good fit for the job even though you may lack experience. “Cover letters are an excellent opportunity to explain why you are the best candidate for the position. Choose which talents on your resume demonstrate this. Then, in your cover letter, tell a narrative about how you’ve put your skills to good use,” Perez explained.
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Don’t: Take the First Offer You Get
This isn’t to say that every first offer needs to be thrown out, but don’t feel like you have to take a job you’re not excited about out of fear nothing else will come along.
Barbara McMahan, president of Atticus Consulting, cautioned against accepting a job without fully understanding what it requires of you. “Don’t take the first position that is offered simply because you are craving a change. Take your time to make sure you know what you want,” she said.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate, either. Many first-time applicants think they have to take the first salary that’s proposed to them. Do your research on the average salary for the position you’ve been offered and be prepared to make an argument for why you should earn more. Companies can’t take away your offer if you negotiate; the worst they can say is “no” to your request.
Do: Know Your Values
Before you send out a million applications, take time to look inward and ask yourself what you need out of your job and how it can serve you. Otherwise, no position will ever feel right.
Consider making a list of what’s important to you as apply for jobs and then check the company’s values against your own as you go on interviews.
“It’s so important to be aligned with what’s most important to you,” McMahan said. “Are you motivated by solving complex problems that stump others? Are you looking for a role that provides a greater degree of stability? Understanding your non-negotiables is a huge step in ensuring you are making the right move.”
Don’t: Jeopardize Your Work-Life Balance For a Higher Income
No amount of money will ever make up for missing special life events. If a job sounds like it’s going to rule your days and nights, without time for vacation or simply to recharge, it’s better to pass, no matter how high the salary is.
Matt Weidle, the Business Development Manager at Buyer’s Guide, advised “We all have varying levels of what we’re prepared to give up for a higher wage, which is why knowing your limit before accepting an offer is critical. Before passing up other possibilities or abandoning your current job, talk to potential employers about your expectations and limitations to make sure you’re on the same page.”
Even your dream job might get trying sometimes, so make sure your future employer compensates you fairly for your work while still giving you time to breathe.
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Last updated: Aug. 13, 2021