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Ten If-Then Rules for Getting a Job After College

You’ve turned your tassel, framed your degree … and now it’s time to get serious about finding your first job after college. Here are ten “if-then” rules to help you.

1. If you want to find a job, then go where the jobs are.

The hottest opportunities for college grads right now are in STEM-related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). So make it easy on yourself by directing your job-search energy toward those industries. This is as true for creatives like writers and designers, and business types like marketers and managers, as it is for techies and nerds.

2. If you want to catch the most opportunities, then cast the widest net.

The more people who know that you're looking for a job, the greater your odds of finding one. So mine your alma mater’s career resource center and alumni network, your current employer or internship, job search sites, employment and placement agencies, job fairs, print and broadcast media, networking events, and industry events where companies will be. Most important, make a list of everyone you know, and everyone your family members and friends know, and send everyone on the list an introductory letter and your resume.

3. If you send out a resume with a typo, then you’ve screwed yourself.

Your resume has one job only: to impress an interviewer enough to invite you in for an interview. So a typo on your resume that communicates a lack of attention to detail will stop your search dead in its tracks. Demonstrate respect for yourself and your reader by making your resume letter perfect.

4. If you don’t know what the company does, then don’t bother going on the interview.

Career counselors agree that one of the worst questions you can ask at an interview is, “What does this company do?” So invest a few minutes researching the company and its industry before you go on the interview. Your interest and preparation will favorably impress every interviewer.

5. If you want to make the best first impression, then treat the receptionist with respect.

Once you enter a company’s space, everyone you interact with could have input into whether or not you’re hired. So treat everyone you meet with utmost respect and professionalism. Remember, it’s not uncommon for decision-makers to ask the receptionist how each candidate behaved when they first arrived and while they were waiting in the reception area.

6. If you expect an immediate decision, then you’re going to be disappointed.

There’s a host of internal steps in the hiring process that you will not be privy to, and these steps take real time. So while it can happen that you are hired on the spot, it’s much more likely that you’re going to have wait days, weeks, or even a month or more before you get a response after an interview (and you may never hear back at all from a company that’s not going to hire you). Manage your expectations, curb your impatience, and keep going on interviews until you get an offer.

7. If you act like the world owes you a job, then it will refuse to give you one.

The people in your own personal support system may think that you’re wonderful and brilliant and that the world should applaud and reward you, but no one else, especially a prospective employer, is obligated to feel the same. So embrace the balance of earning and deserving, accept that you’re going to have to start at square one, and be humble. An attitude of entitlement is one of the most common reasons hiring decision-makers cite for not hiring a candidate.

8. If you think you definitely got the job, then you haven’t met the boss’s nephew.

There are multiple unknown variables that impact a hiring decision. So even if you aced the interview and are the most qualified candidate, if the boss’s nephew needs a job, then he’s the one getting hired. It will serve you well to accept the way the world works, quit your whining about what’s fair and what isn’t, and keep putting your best foot forward.

9. If you think you don’t have a job yet, then remember that getting a job IS your job.

To accomplish your self-assignment of finding a job, you have to be diligent and productive every day. So approach your job search as if it were your present job. This means using every day to research new opportunities, submit applications, send out resumes, attend networking events, go on interviews, follow up, and keep a detailed record of everything you do.

10. If you maintain the highest standards, then your value will ultimately be recognized.

Everything you do bears your signature and represents you. So always invest your highest self and your best effort in your job search. Be persistent, keep the faith, and ultimately someone will recognize your value and offer you a position.

Barbara Dershowitz, M.Ed., CAGS, CMP, is a professional change management specialist and career counselor in private practice on Long Island. Visit Barbara at


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