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    22 Things New Grads Should Know Before You Start Job Hunting — According To An Expert

    From cover letters to where to even start looking, we've got you.

    Finding your first job is one of life’s big events, but it doesn't have to be a source of stress.

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    In fact, resources like LinkedIn’s Grad’s Guide to Getting Hired make the process a million times easier. They dive deep into which jobs, industries, and cities are hiring, and highlight which skills employers are looking for (and how you can get them). 

    Though the last year has been pretty unpredictable, there are some indications that 2021 might actually be a pretty good time to enter the workforce.

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    According to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies are planning to hire 7.2% more new graduates than they did in 2020. And an April 2021 report from the US Department of Labor reported a nonfarm payroll employment increase of 266,000 in April, following increases of 770,000 in March and 536,000 in February.

    To help you land a job, we worked with LinkedIn Career Expert Blair Heitmann to provide you with some newbie-specific job hunting advice.

    1. Start by cleaning up (and in some cases, expanding) your online presence.

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    If you're looking for a job, your best bet is often to change all your social media profiles to "private" (unless your following is relevant to your work, of course). And while you're at it, you might also want to give your professional profile some love.

    "Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile, as it’s often the first place hiring managers turn to when looking to learn more about you and your experience," said Heitmann. 

    "Your profile photo is your virtual handshake, and a simple way for your friends, colleagues, and former classmates to recognize and discover you on LinkedIn... Think of your summary as your elevator pitch and a virtual introduction — it’s a great place to summarize your background and what you’re looking for... For better chances of recruiters discovering you on LinkedIn, include your key strengths and accomplishments in the experience section of your profile."

    2. And start growing your professional network now.

    Screenshot of a LinkedIn profile
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    How are you supposed to have a "professional network," you ask? You're more connected than you think.

    "New grads and current students often have a wider network than they think — fellow classmates, friends, former coaches and professors, and old coworkers from campus jobs," said Heitmann. 

    Add people on LinkedIn, and reach out to fellow classmates to stay top of mind. "You’re four times more likely to get hired through your community on LinkedIn, so investing in professional relationships is key," said Heitmann.

    3. Create your résumé, and have a few versions ready to go.

    Screenshot of a sample resume
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    Many colleges have career centers that are dedicated to helping you find a job. They can help you clean up your résumé and write cover letters, and may be able to connect you with a network of graduates who pursued a similar career path.

    If you don't have access to a campus career center, don't fret; there are tons of online resources to help get your résumé in great shape (including LinkedIn's Resume Makeover course and Monster's free library of résumé-writing tips, which includes profession-specific guidance).

    Either way, you'll want to have a few versions of your résumé on hand (different ones for different industries or job titles), so you're ready to go when opportunity knocks. 

    4. Create job and company-specific cover letters.

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    "Cover letters are a great way to show off your personality and anything that’s not on your résumé," said Heitmann. Your cover letter can help you express your passion for a company's mission or explain any employment gaps in your résumé.

    Heitmann says more and more companies are asking for video cover letters, but we only recommend breaking out the ring light and wrangling your best friend if a video submission is specifically requested in the job posting. (And even then, you might want to be cautious about bias.)

    5. Be open to a wide range of opportunities, but keep your search targeted around your skills, knowledge, and experience.

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    "Resist the urge to apply to every job under the sun," said Heitmann. "Recruiters are seeing an influx of people applying for roles that aren’t a fit, or to multiple roles at different levels at the same company, which makes it clear you’re just applying to everything and seeing what sticks. Instead, target your search, and be prepared to articulate why you’re a good fit based on the skills you have."

    While you don't want to be that guy or gal, Heitmann said you also don't want to "box yourself into only one type of job or a role in a particular industry." 

    So be flexible and open-minded when searching for jobs, but be intentional about what you apply for.

    6. Keep in mind that your first job probably won't be your dream job, and that's okay.

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    You might have big aspirations to work for Google, NASA, or Reddit out of college, but you also need to be realistic. 

    "Think of your career as a journey, with this first job being a first step in the right direction rather than a final destination," said Heitmann. "Getting your foot in the door and gaining experience, even with a role or company that might not be your dream job, can be a bridge to a more fitting job in the future."

    7. Look for companies that are doing a lot of hiring right now.

    Screenshot of the number of job openings at Google
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    When a company has multiple job postings, that means they're looking to bring on several new team members. This bodes well for you because a) hiring equates to company growth, and b) if you're not a fit for one job, they may recommend that you apply for another.

    Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard College and author of The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right, told LinkedIn that, "You want to find yourself in a company that's growing like crazy and therefore hiring like crazy, and you can say the same thing about companies, industries, and cities.”

    8. Check out industries that are hiring lots of entry-level workers.

    Screenshot of industries hiring now
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    LinkedIn's Grad's Guide recognized five industries for their sheer number of entry-level job postings: transportation & logistics, healthcare, software & IT services, retail, and consumer goods. 

    Available jobs in these industries range from movers, cooks, and cashiers to software engineers, customer service specialists, and speech language pathologists. Oh, the options.

    9. And take note of which entry-level job titles are on the up and up.

    Entry-level job titles that are hiring now
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    The Grad's Guide also highlighted job titles showing strong gains in 2021. The list includes software engineering specialist, virtual assistant, online specialist (content writer, social media specialist, marketing coordinator, etc.), data entry operator, and wellness specialist, among others.

    10. As you search for jobs, drill down by what's important to you.

    Screenshot of some of LinkedIn's filtering options
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    Take a moment and think about what you want out of a job. Do you need to secure a certain salary to pay off student loans? Are you looking to get in with an established company or a startup? Are you open to moving, or would you rather work from home?

    On sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, you can search for a specific job title, and then drill down by things like location, salary, and experience level. Most sites also have a "remote" filter.

    11. Keep in mind that now is a good time to find a remote job if that’s your thing.

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    "Over the last year, we’ve seen the percent of US remote jobs on LinkedIn increase fivefold, increasing from 1.8% in May 2020 to 9.6% in May 2021, and we’ve seen a steady rise of remote jobs across all levels since January 2021," said Heitmann.

    And certain industries — think media and communications, software and IT services, hardware and networking, wellness and fitness, and corporate services — have even more remote jobs than other industries, according to LinkedIn. You can search for remote jobs on most major job sites, and there are also sites dedicated to WFH roles you can check out, like We Work Remotely.

    12. Depending on where you live now, finding a job might be easier if you're willing to move.

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    If you're open to relocating, you might have an easier time landing your first job. 

    "The top cities with the most entry-level jobs include urban hotspots like NYC, DC, Chicago, LA, and Dallas," said Heitmann. "LinkedIn also looked at the fastest-growing regions for entry-level jobs, and found that the Morgantown and Wheeling regions of West Virginia and Ohio, the Tampa Bay area in Florida, and multiple spots in Texas, including the San Angelo, Waco, and Austin areas, are prime locations for new grads."

    13. Read up on the skills companies are looking for, and see how you line up.

    Screenshot of valuable skills including time management, content marketing, project management, and data analysis
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    In the Grad's Guide, LinkedIn identified the most in-demand skills for new grads — analytical skills, project management, customer service, marketing, and time management.

    Heitmann suggested keeping an open mind when evaluating your skill level in these areas. "For example, if you worked at a restaurant in college, you likely gained skills in communication and time management. If you helped seniors make vaccine appointments during the pandemic, or made masks, you should highlight these activities as examples of skills like creativity, leadership, problem-solving, and taking initiative." 

    14. Need to brush up on those in-demand skills? Check out a free course.

    Screenshot of a free online communication course
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    Believe it or not there are free (yes, FREE) courses that will give you a leg up on some of these soft skills. For examle, you can take a free Marketing in a Digital World class through Illinois University or Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization with the University of California, Irvine.

    15. And if a job doesn't exactly fit your training or degree, think about how your skills match up.

    Screenshot of skills and what industries need them
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    Just because your training or degree doesn't perfectly align with a growing industry or job title, that doesn't mean you aren't a good applicant. Skills are transferable; for example, many industries need people with communication and business skills.

    "Don’t let your degree define you, and instead think through the transferable skills you do have that could make you a great fit for one of the in-demand industries or roles," said Heitmann.

    16. When you see a job you want, submit your application as soon as possible.

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    "Our data shows you’re four times more likely to be hired for a position if you apply in the first 10 minutes," said Heitmann. 

    Just another reason to have that résumé and cover letter on lock. All you'll have to do is adjust the salutation on your cover letter, make a few tweaks to your résumé, and send off your application.

    That being said, don't get flustered and make a hasty mistake. It's all too easy to miss a typo or attach the wrong cover letter.

    17. After you apply, look to see if you know anyone who works at the company. If so, send them an email or message.

    Screenshot of available jobs and connections who work there
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    Remember, it's all about who you know. If you're applying for a job via LinkedIn, you'll be able to see if you know someone who works at the company you're applying to. If you do, take a few minutes to reach out to them directly, letting them know you applied for a job. They might be willing to put in a good word or personally forward your résumé and cover letter onto the hiring manager.

    For all you know, that connection might push your application to the top of the pile.

    18. When you get an interview, show up prepared.

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    You might want to recruit your roommate, mom, or BFF to help you practice for your interview. Yes, really.

    Heitmann said that "practicing can really help you to appear confident and interested in the role. You want to make sure you’re running through responses to potential questions and thinking about the best ways to highlight your experience through your answers."

    For virtual interviews, she suggests spending some time practicing on camera so you can get a sense for how you come across and feel confident in your ability to use the technology — you don't want to accidentally share your screen or mute yourself mid interview.

    19. And come with thoughtful questions that will help you decide if the job is right for you.

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    "It’s not just about you answering questions; this is also your opportunity to interview the interviewer," said Heitmann.

    In addition to explaining why you're a good fit for the job, you also want to figure out if the job is right for you. Asking questions like "How will you measure success in this role?" will tell you what your actual day-to-day focus will be.

    20. Whether you interview in person or online, always dress for success.

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    This should go without saying, but you don't want to show up to an interview (either in-person or online) looking like a disaster. 

    Heitmann notes, "While things are a bit more casual at the moment with many still at home and virtually interviewing, you should still dress fully, and professionally, the same way you would if you were interviewing in person. What you wear largely depends on your industry, though you can lean more formal if in doubt."

    21. And don’t underestimate the power of a follow-up email (or a thank you note).

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    Follow-up is key. Heitmann said, "I recommend a short, clear, and professional email asking about the timing and process for the remainder of the hiring process." This will give the company the chance to clue you into how quickly they're looking to hire and when you should know if you got the gig.

    In that email, you should also thank your interviewer for taking the time to chat. Or, for a personal, old-school touch, drop a physical thank you note in the mail.

    22. And no matter what, try not to let rejections get you down.

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    Job hunting can take some time; chances are you won't get the first job you apply for, and that's okay! Just because your first several or several dozen applications and interviews didn't pan out doesn't mean that you'll never find something. And remember: Your worth isn't determined by your job.

    To keep you inspired (and shooting for the stars), check out which companies are making waves for their treatment of team members — from generous salaries to flexible time off. Companies like Fortune publish annual roundups of the best companies to work for.

    What other tips have you learned during your current or past job hunts? Sound off below!

    And for more on money and careers, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.