9 tips to help you land your first job—and ace the interview

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9 tips to help you land your first job—and ace the interview
9 tips to help you land your first job—and ace the interview


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It’s that time of year again – students across the country are in the midst of the hunt for jobs and internships.

Hiring has slowed significantly during the Covid pandemic, making it really difficult for the graduates of the last few years. But the job market looks good for the class of 2022: Employers plan to hire 27 percent more new graduates from the class of 2022 than they did for the class of 2021, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And the total number of job openings in the US economy is more than 11 million, according to a recent Labor Department report.

“It’s looking great right now,” Patrick Madsen, executive director of the career center at UNC Charlotte, told local NBC affiliate WCNC in a recent interview. “There are more jobs than graduates across the country … I see a lot of students getting multiple offers.”

That being said, you need to be smart if you want to land your dream job. You need to do your research, network, come in prepared and be able to clearly tell the hiring manager not only why you want the job, but also what you bring to the table.

Here are some tips to help you find a job and ace the interview:

1. Use your college’s resources

Often the most overwhelming part of finding a job can be figuring out where to start looking. And the best way to start is to figure out what you already have. Most universities and colleges have career centers and these centers are there to help you. Resources like resume workshops, job search workshops, and even email newsletters detailing job openings can open the door to finding your next opportunity.

Most schools also offer career fairs — a fantastic way to explore (and be introduced to) many different companies at once.

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Kelly Barnett, director of the career development center at Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communication, said attending a career fair is a way for students to keep all their options open. It is good practice for younger students to attend and explore what opportunities there are for the future. And for older students, Barnett encourages them to keep an open mind even if their dream company isn’t visiting.

Barnett is in constant contact with both recruiters and alumni, and she says many students find it helpful to meet face-to-face with her and the other career counselors. The one-on-one meeting allows students to talk about the specific nuances of their situation, Barnett said, and in turn, she can make recommendations and facilitate connections based on each student’s past experiences and future goals.

2. Social media can be your friend

Fortunately, we live in an age where the Internet has endless resources. Websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Ziprecruiter can be great sources for finding jobs, but social media can be a great window into a company.

“It’s interesting to see what a company presents versus what their employees can say in an interview,” Barnett said.

Social media to some extent shows the values ​​and culture of the company. But Barnett also cautions that employers may also be looking at the pages of potential employees.

“Make sure your online footprint is something that’s attractive and professional, and that it’s the best version of you,” she said.

3. Only ask for advice

It is SO important to connect with alumni or current employees of the company you want to work for.

Barnett said that in most cases she’s seen, students have gotten their first job through networking, rather than simply cold applying online. She recommends connecting with people on LinkedIn and taking advantage of any alumni lists or groups your school may have.

But how do you keep the conversation casual and genuine? Barnett said the key is to ask for advice, not work.

“You can’t ask someone to do something for you,” she said. “Always come for advice stuff, like, ‘Do you have any advice on applying to the internship program?’ Or would you like to talk to me about your background and experience?”Make it about the individual first.”

She said that using this approach makes the contact feel like a whole person rather than a means to an end. It’s also much less burdensome to seek advice than work, especially when they may not know you and what you bring to the table.

4. Develop relationships

“I can’t stress personalization enough when it comes to networking,” Barnett said. “If you think about any relationships you’ve made in your life that you weren’t born into, you bonded over things you had in common.”

So whether you’re writing cover letters, interviewing or just asking questions, get to know the real person behind the email address. By developing real relationships, your job search will be more engaging, meaningful, and most likely more successful.

5. Your network is closer than it seems

Have you ever heard of Dunbar’s number? According to the theory, each person can maintain relationships with 150 people at once. In turn, your close connections have their own connections. This network creates unlimited networking opportunities!

Meredith Welborn, a senior creative at VaynerMedia in Los Angeles, uses the web to secure her work. The 2021 graduate of Southern Methodist University said that after touring the VaynerMedia office during a school field trip with her advertising program, she connected with the SMU alumni and their colleagues she met. When it came time to look for a job, she just reached out.

“I really value this experience,” she said of SMU’s networking opportunities. “You have to be willing to work hard, but I think it all depends on who you know.”

So, check out what networking opportunities your school has to offer, reach out and conduct informational interviews to make connections, and stay in touch to develop those meaningful relationships.

6. How to ace the interview

Congratulations! You have an interview. Now go and do your research!

Never go into an interview blind – be prepared and know exactly what role you’re interviewing for, what the company does and what your questions are.

Determine what they are looking for. Whether you’ve arranged informational interviews with people in the role or researched the job description – show that you have the skills and qualities they want by drawing on your past experience. Know what makes you unique and why they should hire you. What would you bring to their team?

Ramit Sethi, personal finance coach and bestselling author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” has three tips for interview success: 1) Make it clear that you’ve researched the company when answering questions. 2) Prepare answers to highly predictable questions. Knowing your CV, objectives, strengths and weaknesses and reason for applying should be easy to answer and think about beforehand. 3) Make sure you ‘get your key messages across’. Show the employer everything you want them to know about you.

7. Know what you bring to the table

You have to know what you bring to the table and be able to articulate it. But depending on the type of company, different skills and qualities may be required for each interview. So, don’t go in with a cookie-cutter approach to every interview. Tailor your cover letter, resume, and talking points to that specific company and position.

Zebedayo Masongo is the founder of The Grnwood, a media platform highlighting black supremacy and black creatives (named after the community in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was decimated in the 1920s), and he is currently interviewing potential interns. He said that as a startup founder, he has some very specific needs to grow his business and may be looking for something other than an established corporation, for example. As students search for jobs and ask interview questions, Masongo makes a great point about different company cultures.

Zebedayo Masongo, Syracuse law student and founder of The Grnwood.

Source: Zebedayo Masongo

“I think in a bigger, more established company, they already have systems in place,” Masongo said. “I don’t have the systems that the bigger companies have. So with this first group that I’m bringing in, that’s me creating a culture that bigger companies have already established.”

If you are looking for a job with more research and trial and error, then a startup might be a great solution. Masongo said he wants the new hires to be self-reliant and value learning throughout the process.

8. You are more than your resume

You’ve always heard the age-old advice to “be yourself.” When it comes to job hunting, this is really true!

“I think sometimes resumes and reports are a poor reflection of someone’s true work ethic,” Masongo said. He reasons that while resumes are a great way to showcase your past experience, he’d prefer to see a portfolio or what you’ve accomplished at work, as well as get to know you during the interview.

Welborn said she was also advised to let her personality come through in the interview. “If you’re trying to be something you’re not, they’re going to see through that, and that’s not in the best interest of you or the company,” she said.

“There is a bigger story,” Masongo continued. “I think that often a resume becomes a snapshot and we miss the bigger picture of who someone is and what they can contribute to a team.”

9. Change your mindset

Job hunting doesn’t have to be a chore. This is an exciting time in your life to find opportunities that inspire you. No one else is answering now. You decide what you want to do, where you want to work and how to achieve it. You never know where your career will take you! So go there with motivation and determination to find the right job in the right company in the right city for you.

And if the door you knock on doesn’t open, just walk out and keep knocking on the next door and the next one. Many times a door you didn’t expect presents an even more exciting opportunity than the one you originally wanted!

Dream big, use all available resources, practice meaningful communication and prepare for your interviews. Your options will be endless!

College Money 101″ is a guide written by students to help the Class of 2022 learn about the big money issues they’ll face in life—from student loans to budgeting and getting their first apartment—and make smart money decisions. And even if you’re still in school, you can start using this guide right now so you’re financially savvy when you graduate and start your adult life on a great financial path. Katie Hopsicker is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program at Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communications. She was a spring 2022 intern for CNBC’s talent development team. The guide was edited by Cindy Perman.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.


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