8 tips from University of Utah’s career experts to help students land their first job out of college

Sponsored: Finding that first job after graduation can be daunting, but with these tips from University of Utah’s career experts, soon-to-be college graduates can be on the road to success!

(Adobe Stock | University of Utah, sponsored) 8 tips from University of Utah’s career experts to help students land their first job out of college.

Getting that first job out of college can be overwhelming—students spend years working hard to earn their degree and now, the rubber meets the road. It can be scary, but the good news is that a little strategic preparation can go a long way.

Experts from the Career & Professional Development Center at the University of Utah (the U) are happy to help by offering graduating students key tips for landing their first job with a degree in hand. In fact, the U has more career resources available than ever before thanks to the Career Success Presidential Initiative that was launched last fall with the intent to encompass more purposeful collaboration with employers and personalized coaching for students.

Career coachers are embedded throughout various colleges and programs and are trained to help students explore career options, self-brand on online platforms, find internships, write impact-oriented resumes, prepare for interviews and negotiate salaries. Students can also pop in to the Career Center for a resume or cover letter review Monday through Friday, 8:00-5 p.m.

Mary Arola is the assistant director of marketing at the Career Center, where she worked for five years as a career coach. “The first thing I recommend is starting as early as possible!” Arola says. “With all the excitement and events around graduation, it’s difficult to find time to devote to job searching and can add stress to what should be an exciting and celebratory time.”

The best way to work within time constraints is for students to visit their career coach early and often, says Katie Abby, special advisor to the president for the Career Success Presidential Initiative and assistant dean of Business Career Services at the David Eccles School of Business.

“It’s like the old adage, ‘How does one eat an elephant?’ If time is committed to professional development and internship and career search consistently, it is far less overwhelming,” says Abby.

Here are 8 tips for landing the first job out of college from the U’s career services experts:

  1. Inventory personal skills and strengths. What are the applicant’s skills? What examples do they have that illustrate their competence? Students are encouraged to write down the details of their successes and failures, and to use those in reinforcing their answers to questions.

  2. Tailor resume and cover letter to each job. Employers can tell when an applicant has sent the same documents to hundreds of jobs. Candidates who do this are likely to be the first ones cut from the application process.

  3. Network, network, network. Networking still has some of the biggest ROI when it comes to learning about job openings, landing interviews and getting offers. Managers feel more comfortable hiring someone who comes with trusted recommendations. Family and friends can help graduating students in their job search by sharing their personal and professional networks, and LinkedIn is still a very helpful networking tool.

  4. Get to know the company before the interview. It’s important for candidates to do their due diligence to get to know a prospective employer, and that means more than just a quick Google search. Review the organization’s website, social media channels, and even customer reviews to understand what they do, what they value, challenges they are facing, and what their culture is like.

  5. Practice storytelling. Applicants should know their stories well in advance of interviews because it’s challenging to think of a story in the moment. Instead of telling an employer, “I’m a strong team player,” applicants are encouraged to say, “I’m a strong team player, and here is an example of a time that I led a team on a specific project with specific outcomes.” Candidates should anticipate the types of stories that will resonate for each job.

  6. Think from the employer’s perspective. Applicants should avoid making it all about them. Employers want to know what the applicant brings to the table for the company and candidates should be ready to tell them.

  7. Don’t worry about having every qualification. New graduates tend to undervalue their experience and will often avoid applying for jobs if they don’t match every single qualification—which usually represent the “ideal candidate” but often not who they actually hire. Applicants should focus on meeting most of the qualifications, or at least the required ones, rather than all of them.

  8. Take advantage of alumni connections. Alumni are often very eager to give back by mentoring students. The U has nearly 300,000 alumni around the world. To help students tap into this network, the Office of Alumni Relations has developed a networking site called Forever Utah that connects students with alumni in their profession of interest and indicates which alums are willing to help. The responses on this platform are quick and timely and have led to many rewarding connections.