Preparing for the job market after graduation


SUMMARY: If you have not started to look for jobs during the winter break, do not stress out, the perfect time to do that is right now.

By Laureta Ramaj, Graduate Student, M.A. in Communication & Advocacy

Landing a job after graduation can be a daunting prospect for many students. If you have not started to look for jobs do not stress out; just get started! Starting is often the hardest threshold to cross. Here are some tips that can help you with this process.

Find your potential career path

Some graduates know their career path, while others are uncertain about the possibilities and which track is right for them. The JMU Career & Academic Planning (CAP) center provides students with the resources needed to a right direction. If you are feeling unsure about what you would like to do in the future, contact the career counselors at CAP. They will help you advance your skillsets and find positions or careers that pique your interest. Keep in mind that for most people, there isn’t a single correct career path, there are many good options. And know that most people change jobs and careers several times. So just pick one or more options that seem right for you now. Whatever you choose to do, will provide you with valuable experiences that will help you move to your next step in the future.

Decide where you would like to live

Do you want to live in a specific place, or a type of place (big city, small town, general vicinity, etc.)? Decide which geographic area you would like to live in so you can narrow down your search scope.

Research some target companies

Next, conduct research on the companies that do the type of work you would like to do and are located within the geographic areas you have chosen. CAP offers programs and resources that help you effectively conduct a job search. They help you research companies and also find advertisements for open positions by providing you with access to databases, such as Handshake, Vault, GoinGlobal that can facilitate your search. CAP staff love helping students find great careers.

Work on your documents

Your resume and cover letters are crucial tools to help you land a job. These documents should both be tailored to the companies to which you apply. They should make it very clear that you understand the nature of the company, the role of the position, and that you have the necessary skills to excel in their position and contribute to the success of their organization. CAP can help you develop excellent resumes and cover letters. You can schedule one-on-one appointments with CAP staff or attend their resume writing workshops which provide you with a step-by-step process on effective resume and cover-letter writing.

Keep organized

Searching for employment is a job itself. As you start to apply for positions, develop a system to keep organized. A spreadsheet can help you keep track of the companies you want to apply to, the materials that you need to submit, application deadlines, potential start dates, company responses to your inquires, and other important factors to the application process. Most students need to submit many applications, and hopefully you will receive several replies. It is important to keep things straight.

Build your network

Online or in person networking can be a powerful way to land a new job quickly.

  • Build your network with a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have one yet, CAP offers workshops on how to create an effective LinkedIn profile for networking.
  • Connect with professors in your program, professional associations, and former colleagues to build your network.
  • Attend professional conferences. Get to know people in your field and develop professional connections.
  • Follow the companies that work in your chosen career path.
  • Reach out to alumni, who are working in companies that interest you. Don’t be afraid to contact them and ask for information, advice or referrals. Alumni were once where you are now. They will be happy to share insights about how to step forward.

Prepare for your interview

Your documents, including your resume and cover letter, will help you land an interview. You need to showcase yourself well on paper. Once you are invited to participate in an interview, you will really have the opportunity to demonstrate how qualified you are for the position, and how well you will fit with the company and the role. 

Successful interviews require a lot of preparation on your part. You should know about the company and if possible, understand the role that you will play in the organization. Prepare to discuss your qualifications and who you are. Sell yourself, but don’t oversell. Be genuinely who you are. If the role is right for you, you should be able to be your natural self, and be appreciated for what you bring to the table. If you have not interviewed for many positions, it is important to practice interviewing. CAP offers opportunities for you to better your communication, project the right image and practice your interview skills.

Be kind to yourself

Job searching can be very stressful, it may take some time and quite a lot of patience before you land the sort of position that really want. Most people experience disappointments along the way. Don’t expect to land the perfect job quickly. Remember to take care of yourself during this time. Get enough sleep, exercise, maintain a healthy diet, read a book and do whatever helps you unwind and feel relaxed. Most importantly, maintain a good support system—family and friends who know you and care about you. Keep a positive attitude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

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Published: Friday, January 31, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, January 31, 2020

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