The Job Search: Transitioning from College to the Workforce

In today’s blog, one of our summer interns who recently graduated from college shares her tips for youth about preparing for life after college.

Whether you are about to start your last year of college or technical school or just recently graduated, you are most likely preparing to embark on a new era of your life. Having just recently graduated myself, I have some tips to share from my personal experience that may help you to prepare to enter the job market.

Start Your Job Search Early  

If you can, start the job search before you graduate. Start looking online using the various job search websites, such as America’s Job Bank, which provides links to each state’s job bank website. I know it seems stressful to find time between finishing your studies and juggling all your other activities, but even if you sit down for five minutes to generate a list of potential job placements and application due-dates each week, you’ll feel less stressed in the long-run. The hiring process could take months from the time you submit your application and resume, so it is always best to be prepared. Attend a career conference or fair if your school offers one. Even if you aren’t interested in the company, introduce yourself. It is a great way to get your resume out there and begin networking.

Consider All Options

If you haven’t already settled down, this could be the perfect chance for you to branch out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. Don’t limit your job search to the area where you currently live. Apply for that job across the country or overseas. You never know where life could take you so explore various possibilities. Some employers may even reimburse for moving expenses, so do your research.

Create a Solid Resume

Attend a resume workshop at your college, if available, before graduation or take advantage of your school’s career services, which may include resume-building skills. If these aren’t an option for you at least have someone give your resume an once-over. An extra set of eyes may spot that spelling error you didn’t. If you’re not sure how to get started, you can find resume writing tips and templates online.

Take Advantage of Internship Opportunities

If you’re unsure of which direction you want to pursue after graduation, look into internship opportunities. I chose to go this route and found it to be the best way to really find where I fit in the workforce without committing to a long-term job. Even if you discover that the office job you always wanted isn’t for you, internships are a great resume booster and you can take advantage of these opportunities even before graduation.

Get Involved in Your Community…Yes, Even After College!

Whether you like it or not, colleges push community service requirements for a reason. Community involvement impacts the hiring process and it may even lead to networking opportunities down the road, so start getting involved now even if you haven’t graduated. If you are like my roommate, who completed the minimum number of community service hours only because it was a graduation requirement, find one organization you really have an interest in and get involved. This will look much better on a resume than volunteering at multiple organizations for only brief periods of time. You can search for local volunteer opportunities using the website,

Network, Network, Network

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my internship this summer, it’s that it really is about who you know. Networking is essential to both obtaining and maintaining a job. That woman you met a conference or that man you initiated a conversation with in line for coffee this morning could very well lead to a new job opportunity or aid in your quest for information on a work-related subject at a later point in time. It really is a small world and you never know who you may meet so invest in business cards if you can and make a point to always have a couple in your wallet. Also keep your contacts from college as well. Maybe that person you sat next to in psychology class for the last four years will prove to be of some assistance in the future. On that note, it may also be a good idea to get in touch with your school’s alumni association. There may be someone in the area that has experience in the field you are pursuing and will be able to give you some tips for starting out or even offer suggestions on where to apply.

Beware of How Social Networking Sites May Impact Your Job Search

If you are a part of a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, make sure that your profile is employer-friendly. Even if you have strong security settings, be aware that employers may still be able to access your account and be mindful of what you make accessible on the web. Those pictures of you at the bars with your college roommates may give a prospective employer an unfavorable impression of you. At the same time, joining a professional social networking site, such as LinkedIn, can be a great way to market your experience and skills to potential employers. To learn more about do’s and don’ts for social networking, including considerations for cyber disclosure, read the blog, Social Networking: Controlling Your Online Reputation & Cyber Disclosure.

If You Have a Disability…Some Additional Tips

Contact your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). In some states this agency is called the Rehabilitation Services Administration.  This is a great resource for people with disabilities in terms of obtaining counseling and services in regards to employment. In fact, it was through these services that I applied for my current internship. You can find a list of all the contact information for each DVR in the U.S. according to state on the Job Accommodation Network’s website.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the federal government you may want to consider taking advantage of Schedule A Hiring Authority, which allows qualified job candidates with disabilities to bypass the lengthy competitive hiring process for federal jobs. Read the “ABC’s of Schedule A” to learn more about this process.

Something to consider as you apply for jobs is whether and when to disclose your disability. The publication, “The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities” and the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s fact sheet on youth and disclosure in employment situations both provide guidance to help you in making your decision.

Related Resources:

By Judy Dickinson, American Association of People with Disabilities Intern at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development.

About NCWD Youth

NCWD/Youth works to ensure that transition age youth are provided full access to high quality services in integrated settings to gain education, employment, and independent living.
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