Looking for Work? Here’s How to Land Your First Job

Updating your resume and filling out cover letters is almost never fun, but it can be especially difficult and daunting when you are trying to get your first “real” job. Even if you held part-time jobs in high school before graduation or you had an internship in college, finding a full-time, professional job can be difficult.

When you have to compete with other people, many of whom may already have work experience, it can be difficult to make yourself stand out from the competition. You first will need to find the job you desire, and then you will have to figure out how to get it. Your resume and cover letter are two of the best tools you can use, but there are other things that can help you land that first job, too. You can succeed if you take the necessary steps to find and get your first job.

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1. Start looking

The first step to landing a professional job is to find one that you actually want. You can and should search local and national job boards, but many jobs are also filled by word of mouth. This means that you should use as many contacts as you can. If you went to college and you have a degree in a specific field, ask family, friends, and any other contacts you have if they have heard of a job in your field.

Another valuable resource is your college career center, which should be available to help you find a job and also help you even after you graduate. If you are looking for your first job out of high school, you may not have a career center, but you should still look around, ask around, and if necessary, contact a staffing agency.

2. Get your resume ready

In order to apply for most professional or full-time jobs, you will need a cover letter and a resume. If you’ve never written a resume before, there are several things you should include, but make sure that you highlight any related work or other experience that you have (a part-time job, work study, internship, etc.).

One of the easiest ways to make sure you have everything pertinent is to use a worksheet that will help you, like this one from Career Kids – but make sure you are using it as a guide of what to include only, and not a comprehensive list, and that your formatting and style are appropriate. While this tool is helpful, it may not be everything you need or the style you want for your own resume.

Remember to cater everything on your resume to the specific type of job that you want. When you are finished, have a friend, family member, or if possible, an industry contact, look over it.

3. Write a stellar cover letter

Even if the job posting doesn’t explicitly require a cover letter, it is always a good idea to include one along with your resume. Cover letters give potential employers a brief peek into your personality and your experience, and they give you a chance to show how your experience and skills fit the position you are applying for in a more in-depth way than your resume.

Remember to be concise, highlight your skills, and customize your letter to the company and the job. Also, remember to proofread your letter — and ask someone else to, as well — don’t talk too much about yourself, and also try to find out the name of the person reviewing the applications if possible.

4. Ace the interview

The process of finding and applying for your first job can be difficult, and you may have to apply to many jobs before you get an actual interview. However, once you are offered an interview, that meeting is a chance for you to really shine. Each time you interview, the process will hopefully become a little easier and a little less stressful, but you never know how many interviews you are going to get, so each is important.

In order to ace your interview, make an effort to be confident and feel powerful, have a strong handshake and make a great first impression, and have questions for the interviewer prepared ahead of time. Also be sure that you have thoroughly researched the company beforehand so that you will be able to accurately and effectively answer questions, as well as to show that you took the initiative to learn about the place you want to work.

5. Highlight your skills

Your skills are one of the most important aspects of you as an overall potential employee, and it’s important to highlight the skills that you have that put you above the competition. If you are coming straight from high school, you may have gained specific skills through classes, extracurricular activities, or part-time jobs. If you are coming from college, you may have gained skills in a similar fashion, but you will also have a degree that potentially directly relates to the jobs you are applying for. You can highlight your skills in your resume, cover letter, and definitely at your interview.

Deciding which skills to highlight can be difficult. In October 2013, IDC released a survey analyzing necessary skills for future jobs. According to the study, the top necessary skills for all U.S. occupations included oral and written communication skills, being detail oriented, and knowing Microsoft Office, followed by several other skills. Your best bet is to highlight the important skills you possess, but then give specific examples in your interview (simply saying you are detail oriented won’t impress most employers.)

Finding and landing a first job can be difficult and stressful, but if you prioritize these five suggestions and make sure that you individualize each cover letter, resume, and skill set to the specific job you want, you will be off to a great start.

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