Congratulations – you’ve graduated! You successfully made it through years of studying and hard work, and now comes the easy part... right?
Not quite. While this year’s graduates will likely face the best jobs market in years – even surpassing last year – finding a job right after graduating is often tricky when you have limited professional experience, and it’s even tougher if you don’t know what you want to do.
Luckily for December graduates, the job search game is a little different. Winter grads have a head start in their job search, which means you will face a smaller pool of competitors for jobs, and you’ll have more time to find a career path you want before the next wave of graduates emerges in the spring.
Here are 5 ways you can use this extra time post-graduation to your advantage:
1. Stay in touch with professors
Even if you have internships or volunteering experience, your professors are still your best source for references moving forward. After graduating, reach out to the professors who knew you best and ask for a reference… but don’t stop there. Touch base with them every two to three months, and keep them updated with what you’re doing.
Building long-lasting relationships with professors is an easy way to start developing your network. They may have contacts in the industry you want to work in, or they could simply have good advice for your job search.
2. Do your research
Whether you’re graduating early or finishing an extra semester, you’re still ahead of the Spring pack. Use this time to research industries and companies that pique your interest. Read Glassdoor reviews; look at the press different companies receive; and if possible, schedule informational interviews with current employees at those companies.
To find these people, go on LinkedIn and search for companies you admire – don’t be afraid to reach out and connect. Explain that you’re a recent graduate, and ask if they’d be willing to talk with you about their career path.
3. Use your advantage
If you’re a December graduate, you have several factors working to your advantage. To start, you’re not competing against the swarms of recent graduates who will be job-hunting in the spring and summer. You have a better chance of getting in-person interviews for the roles you want, and you’ll make a better impression than if you were just one of 25 recent graduates the company interviews that day.
Most managers have set their budgets for the new year, and they know how many people they can add to their teams. Use these factors to your advantage: apply for jobs you would normally consider a stretch in the spring or summer. If you graduated early, use it as a selling point and talk about what you did to finish ahead of schedule.
4. Go door knocking
Sales people go “door knocking” for business: they go door-to-door and pitch themselves and their product or service. If you’re feeling gutsy, get out there and do the same! Choose companies you know you want to work for, and drop off your resume and an application at the front desk.
Not many people attempt to door knock for their careers, especially not recent graduates… but it shows guts and initiative. A company will remember you if you show up at their front door to apply for a role.
5. Go to alumni events (or networking events)
Many graduates are intimidated by networking events or don’t fully understand how they work. Wherever you live after school, your university likely has an alumni chapter you can join. Connecting with older alumni is an easy and effective way to build a network early, and people are usually more willing to recommend fellow alums for roles at their companies.
Attending alumni events is also a low-stakes means for practicing your networking skills. At every event, try approaching someone new, giving your elevator pitch, and starting a conversation. It can be nerve-wracking at first, but it gets easier!
It’s possible to network with fell alumni even if you’re not in the same city – most colleges and universities have alumni groups on LinkedIn, and these communities are a great entry point for building your network online as well.