As the calendar moves quickly toward late June, we are trending toward the tail end of the college graduation season, which is an incredibly exciting time. To those newly-minted graduates, congratulations on a major life accomplishment! All your hard work has been rewarded in the form of your college degree.
For those graduates who are likely wondering now what, this is a rather logical and important rhetorical question that every young adult will ask themselves at this critical juncture.
Whether you are 21 or 22 and right out of school, or perhaps took a different path to enjoy some different work or life experiences before making a career change, the process of looking for a full-time professional job, interviewing, evaluating your options—the next big step of entering the workforce—can be a daunting experience. After all, this is hugely important process given its importance on your overall path of life. But with the proper preparation and perspective, it can also be very exhilarating.
The great news for recent grads is that the U.S. unemployment rate is at 3.7 percent overall—a 50 year low. Even better for aspiring tech and IT professionals is that unemployment rate in these fields is 2.4 percent; believe it or not, in cybersecurity, unemployment is a zero percent. For job seekers, it has arguably never been a better time.
Despite these positives with our economy, there is nothing more valuable than experience and insights, so here are eight tips for aspiring IT professionals as you start this career journey.
Take Some Time with Your Job Hunt
Often there is pressure (from parents, from peers, from mounting concerns about student loan debt, and other reasons) for graduates to jump right into the workforce or to take the first offer that is presented. If possible, take some time to decompress, enjoy the summer weather, travel, pick up a hobby, or perhaps volunteer. Of course, these activities can—and probably should—all be done in concert with the job search. Career expertsnote that such a move can be positive for one’s mental or physical health and can be viewed positively by hiring managers.
Aim High, Remain Grounded
As you consider the industries and fields and jobs that interest you and match with your field(s) of study, take a broad perspective on where you might want to land. Treat your job search like your college search: Have a category for “reach companies, “safety nets” or “wild cards.”
Don’t expect that every company you apply to or interview with will make an offer, but don’t rule anything out, either. Do think about your comfort zone and possibly stretching outside of it. This might be the time to at least try a job interview with that “household name” company that everyone would love working for. And finally, remember, your first position is just that: An initial step to something else down the line if things are not an ideal fit.
Your studies and classroom experience are hugely valuable, as is work experience. But prospective employers today want to know what you bring to the table beyond your résumé and GPA. Clearly articulate your technical skills (such as coding) an dsoft skills such as interpersonal communication, leadership, collaboration and teamwork. During a job interview, be sure to talk up certifications you may have attained and pursue new ones continuously.
Ask intelligent questions during the job interview process to gather as much insight as possible. Be respectful, but also take the opportunity to “interview” the hiring manager or HR professional at the organizations you are interested in.
This might sound like a “no brainer,” but it isn’t always put into practice. With the web at your fingertips, do your homework on perspective companies, see who you know who’s employed there (or was previously). Examine corporate social media channels, the online press room, and/or Glassdoor profiles to truly know all you can about how the company is run and how it treats employees and customers.
Become fluent on LinkedIn. It is an incredible tool that allows you to see alums from your college, where they are now, and where they’ve worked in the past—get out and contact them about jobs and opportunities. Use trade journals and blogs to become more educated on tech topics that affect us all, such as privacy, security, and 5G.
Be (A Bit) Selfish
This is your job search and your future. Look for a program/company that is dedicated to your career development. Try to network to leverage a connection: Someone you know directly or through a connection at companies of interest. Ask for introductions and always follow up an application. Your chances of a response increase tenfold when you contact a Recruiter, HR professional or hiring manager directly.
Think Short Term and Long Term
When possible, determine if you and your perspective hiring manager will work well together; look for intangibles, and ask about his/her career progression. Also, think hard about company culture, mentorship programs, opportunities for advancement, new skills development, the opportunity to have an impact, and so on. These are all critical aspects to that first job.
Molly Kreis is Director of Recruiting for Carousel Industries.