Launching your first job search is both exciting and bewildering. You’re eager to impress potential employers with your newly gotten experience and degree, but you’re afraid that you might botch it. Here are some common job-search mistakes that trip up many new grads — and tips for avoiding them.
Mistake No. 1: Neglecting your network
Although online searches, campus career centers and career fairs all have their place, harness the power of professional networking when searching for your first job. Consider joining your school’s alumni network or a relevant professional association in your industry. Talk to as many people as you can — neighbors, parents’ friends, members of your house of worship — about your career goals, especially if they’re in the same or similar industries.
Mistake No. 2: Being sloppy or too clever
If you’re serious about the job search, you will not only carefully edit your résumé and cover letter, but you’ll ask someone else to take a look, too. Read your documents out loud to make sure they sound professional; this is also an excellent way to catch mistakes. Often, one typo can get your application tossed off the short list.
It also doesn’t pay to be cute or clever. Yes, your application materials might stand out that way, but not always in a good way. See Robert Half’s “Resumania” column for other good advice and best practices.
Mistake No. 3: Sending out generic documents
When you come across that cool job post, don’t make the rookie mistake of sending out a one-size-fits-all application. If you want to land your first job, you have to do your homework.
Start by clicking through the company’s website. Search for recent news articles. You may also want to like their Facebook page and follow their Twitter feed. Then, tailor your résumé and cover letter to show how your skills and experience mesh with the job description, as well as the firm’s corporate goals and culture.
Mistake No. 4: Being careless about your online persona
Just as you conduct a Web search on the people that you’re interested in dating, potential employers will do a search on you. If you haven’t already, sign up with LinkedIn, upload a professional-looking profile photo and write a polished summary.
You also need to comb through all your other online profiles and social media posts, and scrub what you don’t want hiring managers to see. Even though you may have set all the right privacy settings in the beginning, we all know how frequently they can change. It wouldn’t hurt to give everything a thorough once-over as you start searching for your first job.
Mistake No. 5: Showing immaturity
After sending out personalized application materials, you’ll start hearing back from a few companies. Don’t give them reasons to doubt their judgment with unprofessional phone or email manners. That could cost you your first job opportunity.
Start by getting rid of the quirky or brusque voicemail message. Instead, record a pleasant and neutral one that’s appropriate for a job search.
Don’t forget to give your email the same treatment by having an address that is a variation of your full name — not a nickname, your hobby, an alternate persona or something worse. And if you have a quote or cute graphic automatically appended to the end of each email you send, you’ll want to delete that or change it to just your contact information.
Mistake No. 6: Being unprepared for interviews
You got a call for an interview, but you can’t just show up and expect to ace it. Now is the time to study. Anticipate the possible questions and rehearse the answers. Practice with someone to make sure your delivery is smooth, confident and on point. Realize that the interviewer may throw you oddball questions like, “If you could be any animal, which one would you be?”
Also keep in mind that many preliminary interviews are now done by phone — and that not all hiring managers will set up appointments before calling. Be prepared for job-related calls out of the blue. And when they do call, try to find a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted.
You may wonder how to get a first job when there’s so much competition for so few openings. By avoiding these common job-search mistakes, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success and a long, fulfilling career.