How to Land Your First Job?

You should start long before you graduate

I often get the question from university students and recent graduates on how to get the first job. Every employer asks for work experience without which you won’t get a job. But without a job, you can’t get experience. It’s a vicious circle. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.

I will try to explain below how you can build up experience, little by little, and prepare yourself for the job or career you want. It will also show you how every experience counts, whether related or unrelated to your field of study. You can start with any type of job at any age. At every step, you will learn to take responsibility, earn respect, and become independent, at the same time preparing yourself for your career.

An Australian story

I will share a story of how a teenager in Australia took many different steps to find her first job. Each time she had a better outcome than before.

Volunteering

She was in school in Sydney. The curriculum had a mandatory requirement that every student should do some volunteering in Year 10/10th Grade. She started contacting different organizations, and after many attempts, found an opening for a volunteer at an archeological site.

First paid job

Finding paid work was not easy, and she had to search hard for an opportunity. After many weeks of dropping CVs, she finally got a chance at a McDonald's outlet. Her first task was to mop the floor and wipe the tables every time a customer left. Gradually she got other roles as well.

University life

After starting university, she found a volunteering job under a blind pro bono lawyer after a lot of effort. She and a few other students helped this lawyer in preparing cases for the District Court. While this role was unpaid, she took it seriously, at the same time pursuing the works of her double-degree program. She continued it diligently for three years and earned a lot of life and career experience.

The 4th year of the university program had an industry internship requirement for which she decided to find another job to diversify her experience. She was able to manage her full-time studies and two part-time jobs for that term of university. It was excellent training in time management and discipline. She was also working for her university’s law society magazine as an editor that involved networking and interaction with experienced people in her industry.

Preparing for a full-time job

By the beginning of the 5th and final year, she started applying for Australian Federal Government jobs. Meanwhile, the internship employer, happy with her work, offered a part-time paid role, and a full-time position on completion of her studies.

She completed her final exam in November 2018, but before that received the offer of the Federal Government job she was after.

Other events

There are several smaller but no less significant events during this period, all of which gave her valuable life experience. I think two things had the most significant role in this story; her focus on standing on her own feet, and the strict financial discipline she went through.

How to go about it in your situation

Every country is unique, but you may apply the same principle regardless. The fundamental rule is: don’t only study, always find something else to do alongside, without neglecting your studies. Try to become independent. Be sincere in whatever you do. No one can guarantee your success, but the points below may help you find the first job and build your career.

The first job will rarely be the dream role, and you should be prepared to spend time in less desirable jobs while looking to move upwards from there.

You should also expect not to get a paid role immediately. Offer to intern or volunteer for free for a few weeks to build experience.

Take responsibility at home

The first thing to learn is to take responsibility. Whatever you do, take the responsibility seriously and complete the task diligently. Others should find you to be a dependable person. It’s good to start this at home or within the extended family. It can be anything — tutoring your younger siblings or cousins, or doing some household chores such as shopping, washing, ironing, watering the plants, or taking care of the cows, or cleaning a car. Carrying out such tasks will prepare you for the next step outside the family.

The next step — outside the family

Venture out with such works as tutoring the neighborhood kids, forming a social club, or carrying out some charity activities. It will give you valuable experience in socializing, networking, and financial management. Besides, you will enjoy it every time you achieve something, such as winning a contest or managing an event.

Get out of the comfort zone

Find a job in a restaurant or a supermarket. Such works are hard and will require strict discipline. If you can manage such a situation, you will survive in any workplace. Many of you are tutoring to support yourself. However, only tutoring won’t give you the diversified experience that the industry needs. Diverse work experience will significantly improve your confidence and self-esteem. You will also find that providing value to the employer and earning money in exchange could be very hard. It is a life lesson.

University projects

If you are doing a project in the university, select a topic relevant to the industry. Ask for suggestions from your seniors who are already working in different sectors.

University projects are a simple way to be more creative and think outside the box. They are also an excellent opportunity to learn something from students with more industry experience or people already working in the industry.

Manage personal finances

Learn how to manage personal expenses with a fixed amount of money. If there are any savings, put it aside; it will help you during any volunteering or unpaid work you might be doing. Some of you may be supporting your family, and such savings will be helpful for that as well.

Present yourself well

Keep your CV up to date. Add all the jobs you have done, regardless of small or large, paid or unpaid, charity, or social work. But also note that your CV or resume should be within two pages. Tailor it to each position you apply for.

Improve your communication skills. Learn how to express an idea most effectively with the correct language. Read contemporary literature and news magazines and practice speaking and writing.

If you are already a graduate but still looking for a job

For you, the best time for you to act is now because you can’t go back in time to do the things I have discussed above. Ask any employer to allow you to get experience and accept whatever salary it may or may not offer. Consider it as volunteering but give the best value to the employer. At the same time, you will also be helping yourself by being diligent about your work. If you can prove your worth, you will get better offers pretty soon.

No job is too small. Regardless of the degree or field of study, you can even start by collecting shopping lists from your neighbors, getting their provisions from the markets, and delivering them at their doors. They will be happy to pay you a delivery charge and some commission, and that will be your income.

What skills do the employers want?

It depends on the nature of the employer and its business. However, most employers like their recruits to be proactive, self-learners, and excellent communicators. All these qualities need some time to develop. Working outside your studies, such as those I have discussed above, will help you a lot. If you are outstanding, employers will offer you a position even before you graduate. But that will need hard work and sincerity.

Bottom line

There is no single formula for success. But one thing is sure; real-life experience is a must. Deliberately seek for it based on the opportunities you have around you.

Start today. Good luck!

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