6 Tips for Young Job Applicants

Everyone knows how difficult that job market is right now, especially for young people who are just getting out of college.  Most college students are told that they can do anything they want and be anything they want.  Throughout college, they are on a path of self-discovery where they figure out their ideal path and career.  Little do most college students know that when they get out of college, what they figured out was their “ideal” job isn’t usually attainable for a number of years.

My Experience as a Young Job Applicant

When I graduated from college in May 2009, I went through this same process.  All throughout college, I spent time figuring out exactly what I wanted to do.  I studied anthropology and I knew that I wanted to do something big to change our country’s education system and make our world more equitable for racial and ethnic minorities.  Those are huge lofty goals, but in college, you really do believe that you can do anything.

So I graduated from college, spent a few months teaching English at an indigenous university in Nicaragua, and then came back to the United States unexpectedly, and I had to navigate the job market.

Things I Learned from being a Young Job Applicant

  1. Realize that you might not get your dream job:  This was a hard realization for me since I am such an idealist.  I wanted to do great work and make an impact on the world, and I was frustrated that it seemed like there weren’t opportunities to do so.  In the non-profit world, you still really have to prove yourself and your skills.  You also might need to settle for something to gain the experience that you need to be a successful at your “dream job.”
  2. You may want to take a temporary job while you are searching:  I’m sure you have heard that you are much more likely to be hired if you are currently employed.  The same reason why it is difficult for the unemployed to get work applies to first time job seekers.  I took a temporary fundraising job while I was planning to continue my job search.  Who knows you may end up liking the temporary job, and you might learn some great job skills in the process.
  3. Apply for anything you are qualified for and semi-interested in:  I was looking for work in the NYC metro area, so there were 40-50+ job openings daily in the non-profit sphere.  At first I was being very selective in what I applied for, and later I began to spread my net much wider.  When I started applying for a broader range of jobs, I started getting more interviews.
  4. Apply for jobs where you live or move to where you want to work:  With the economy how it is, employers really do have the pick of hundreds of applicants.  When they are weeding through applications, the first thing they are going to see is your address on the top of your resume.  If it says a location that is in another state, they are very likely going to push it aside, so they do not have to worry about relocation costs.  When we were first looking to move to the NYC metro area, we were applying for jobs from Michigan.  We weren’t hearing anything. When we finally bit the bullet and moved to NJ, we immediately started hearing back about job applications.
  5. You might need to work for less money now to gain the experience for a higher paying job later.  For example, I really wanted to break into the non-profit scene which can be very hard to do, especially if you do not have a lot of work experience.  Therefore, I took a position with AmeriCorps for one year which paid me 105% of the poverty line for my county.  At the end of my year of service, my organization hired me to work full time for them.  I am now making 4 times as much money as I did during my year of service.  Plus, I love my job!
  6. Don’t get discouraged.  It only takes one application.  It only takes one person to read something in your resume that stands out.  It only takes one.  Sometimes it is difficult after so many applications (I think I applied for over 100 before getting the AmeriCorps job) to believe that you will EVER get hired.  However, it only takes one.

What advice do you have for young job seekers?

featured image provide by bpsusf via flickr

16 Responses to 6 Tips for Young Job Applicants

  1. Emily Hunter says:

    These tips not only work for the young ones, but they work for older people who are trying to get back into the job market or get into the field. Thank you. :)

  2. Hank says:

    Great tips. I think that the hardest thing to come to terms with is that you most likely are not going to step into your dream job right away. It is often a hard pill to swallow in our instant gratification society.

    • 20sfinances says:

      I couldn’t agree more Hank. It’s a sobering reality.

    • This is a great point. I interviewed applicants for open positions and many of them were recent college grads. So many of them expected to be CEO within a year or were expecting $100K out of the gate. The real world doesn’t work like that. You need to first get your foot in the door and prove yourself. Once you do that, the promotions and pay increases will come.

  3. Michelle says:

    These are great tips. Some of my friends are being entirely too picking when it comes to finding a job and need to realize that the perfect thing will not jump out at them.

  4. jlcollinsnh says:

    Hi Mrs. 20s….

    You are spot on and in fact when I graduated way back in ’72 it was a similarly crappy economy. Plus I was an English Major. I used all of your tips and can vouch for them.

    May I add one more? Start a business.

    Since nobody would hire me, I started an ad agency with two partners. It’s not surprising that we failed as we had zero idea of what we were doing. What is surpassing is that we lasted for two years and it gave me something to put on my resume.

    Of course, for money I was also working on a landscaping crew. :)

    • 20sfinances says:

      Starting a business is a great idea. It may not help you pay the bills right away, but if you have an immediate profit, even if it’s small, it can help.

  5. These are great tips. I’d also include a word of caution to young, new grads who think continuing on to grad school is the key to getting a better job, etc. If not done correctly, graduate school can quickly become an expensive mistake. I wrote yesterday about how I got my Masters degree at Harvard for $500–my path of doing so wasn’t traditional, but I made sure to set myself up for success without going deep into debt!

    • Another downside of getting your master’s right after your bachelor’s is not having work experience. The company I worked for was leery of hiring people who got their master’s right away without having work experience. The company didn’t want to pay master degree salary to someone with no proven work history.

      My suggestion is to get a job, then have the company pay for your masters.

  6. I would add: Aim for a big company.

    Once you are in, it’s easier to find what you really like and move within the same company. Big company names also do well in your resume ;-).

    • 20sfinances says:

      That’s a great point TFB. Although, small companies do offer a nice benefit of being recognized. It seems like it would be easier to be lost in the crowd – that is, as long as someone isn’t you. 😉

  7. […] 20s Finances, Corey’s wife provides excellent tips for young job applicants. It’s a good refresher for me. I haven’t been a “young” job applicant in a […]

  8. These are good tips. The temporary work one is really good, and often overlooked. Sometimes, being able to show the initiative that you did something can provide an edge when looking for a permanent position. Plus, that experience might lead to more. I recall hearing of a few people, via friends, that came in the door as temps and ended up being senior level people in the company down the line.

  9. Yes its really tough out their in the job market. I guess you could say when the going gets tough the tough get going.

  10. Currently job searching! I am coming to the realization that I will not have my ideal hob with the ideal company. Hoping for the best still.

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