Graduation is an interesting and confusing milestone for many students. While the world of professional opportunities seems vast and enchanting, the big question remains, specially after you’ve been let down by the college placement team. How can a graduating student get that first job after college without experience? If you are (or will be) in this situation, Zuber Memon has some tips to help.
How to get the first job after college without experience
by Zuber Memon
Welcome to my first blog!
Over a million graduates are passing out of Indian colleges every year – engineering, to take a specific example (and because I’m an engineer too!) – but we have an alarming situation when it comes to securing decent jobs for these people – those first jobs you’ve always dreamed of since you stepped inside the front door of your institution!
Colleges continue to promote traditional learning methods, while the job market fluctuates like a stock exchange. Amid lack of training for good ‘employable’ skills, a huge number of students are ending up without a job despite putting in sheer hard work and rigor over a 4-year undergraduate education.
Long story short – the right people are not getting a deserved shot at the right jobs they could excel at!
If you are reading this, I can imagine you are one of the 22-year old recent college grads who could not get much out of your college’s placement support system & now contemplating future options – civil services, higher studies, MBA…so on…the list is endless.
However, it is generally the case that you are opting for these out of desperation, and your primary aim would ‘still’ be to secure a job and get a few years of good work experience under your belt before your next step. There might also be issues like college debt & personal/family obligations which make getting the job the need of the hour.
But you don’t know where to go. Having virtually exhausted your options, you don’t know what to do next!!!
Anyway, this post isn’t about whom to blame for the situation, but rather to throw some light on steps that can be taken in case you have been hit by this storm.
Right here, I’m sharing some tips and a few ‘how-to-go about it’ style recommendations which might help the cause! These are based on my personal experiences &numerous interactions with college grads I’ve mentored.
1. Take the first and most important call (you will take in your 20s) !
In simple words, decide “what works for me” & “what’s not cool for me” !
To illustrate, say you had an Electrical/Mechanical major in your UG engineering. Now it’s a known fact that IT jobs are easy to come, even for people with non-software engineering majors.
In that case, it becomes a personal choice for an individual – whether he/she wants to specialize and continue working on her major – or – decide to generalize and go for the easy-coming jobs, no matter what the work content. Whatever the case, the choice must be made; and the earlier the better!
Having spoken to many grads over the years, I observe that this fundamental thing is unclear in their minds. So, I’d stress upon getting this out of the way first and foremost.
2. Landscape the sort of job profiles you would ‘now’ want to consider!
In slight contrast with point 1, you need to decide how much you can flex yourself within your domain.What I mean is you need to let go the necessity to have ‘one specific’ job type. That is bound to open more opportunities for you!
For instance, instead of “Software Engineer” or “Design Engineer”, you could begin with “Test Engineer” job or “Back-end developer”. A truth from the job world is that every job is what you make it, nothing comes on a platter.
So even if you are doing a test engineer’s job for an electrical system, you can put some effort to learn how the system is designed or what a full-stack web developer does.
After all, it’s about getting a ‘decent start’ and building a great career ‘along the way’ 🙂
3. Up-skilling your ‘core’
By your final year, you are aware of the key skills you have for your job prospects (level of expertise may vary from amateur to expert). Consider reinforcing these skills with courses, side-projects or by applying them hands-on at competitions/hackathons. If nothing works (which is unlikely), try your hand at freelancing.
Yes, it is important to diversify and learn about several things. But having a core skill set will help you better position yourself for a job application.
There must at least a 200-300 people you’ve met in your 4 years of college, besides your close friends and faculty. They might have been one-time conversations, but still worth exploring for opportunities. A personal contact is 10X better than an application you will put up on an online job portal.
Through networks in academia, you can land research assistant positions (very unheard of in India, but such RA roles do exist). Through your alumni network, you might land up an internship at a firm or even a role at an early-stage startup, which again offer a good learning curve.
Few institutes do a good job at consolidating their alumni database. But in today’s connected world of social media, you don’t need to rely on them to locate your college seniors. Make that switch from FB to LinkedIn 🙂
In short,your work will get you recognition in your workplace, but your network will take you places!
5. Be willing to consider internships (even with a lesser pay!)
Adding to the argument in point 2, a good start to your learning curve is utmost important at this point. So be willing to take up a job with a salary that is a bit lesser* than what a campus placement would have gotten you. Anyways, it’s the first step and you might learn ‘core technical’ stuff at this job which will get you better opportunities later.
The Test Engineer example I gave above is of a close friend who initially took up a 3-month internship with a stipend, but eventually landed a full-time job at the same solar technology development firm. A year or two down the line, he will have solid experience that can land him offers at top-tier renewable tech company.
*Any entry-level job requires about 5-6 core work hours (we all know that 🙂 ), which still gives you some free time. So, you might want to take up online freelancing work if you need those extra bucks to hang out with your friends!
6. Invest in building an online profile & work portfolio
An extremely important thing we underestimate is the investment we can make in building a good profile. Be it your LinkedIn profile or an online design portfolio, spend few weeks building and get feedback from peers/friends. Make it easier for the recruiter to spot your ‘employable’ skills 🙂
Apply these steps and you’ll ‘own’ your chances of landing that first job after college – rather than solely depending on your institute’s placement cell or hiring agencies.
In my next blog, I will share what to do if – despite your best efforts – you land up in a situation where you cannot find/take up a job at all !?!
Stay tuned to find out, if there is a way out 🙂
Author Bio – Zuber Memon is a technology professional building solutions for affordable healthcare via crowdsourcing and open innovation models. He is also an adjunct faculty and mentor, with a keen interest in early-career mentoring and emerging trends in education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and his personal blog.