When you graduate it is frequently the case that you have a head full of ideas and a resume pretty thin on experience. Every employer wants to see experience, and you need to land a job so you can get experience. This chicken-and-egg situation can be challenging and disheartening. It may be tempting to let everyone you know you are willing to take any kind of job. Why limit your options right?
Not quite. The first task of looking for a job is to identify what work you really want to be doing. This may sound counter-intuitive, like you are limiting your options. The reality is your options are limited even if you don’t acknowledge it. There are things you just don’t have the training or the interest in doing. There are places you are not willing or able to move to and there are things which you would find ethically or physically impossible to do.
So given that the pool of available jobs is limited, make sure you are putting your effort into the right set of limited options. Get clear about what it is you want to be doing. Yes there may be things you are _willing_ to do, but this isn’t the point. If you are only willing to do it, you will be competing with someone who has identified this as exactly what they want to be doing. Not only will their desire bring a certain sparkle to their eye during the interview, all things being equal, employers want to hire the person who really wants to do the specific job they have to offer.
There is another reason to get clear on what you want to do. With this clarity you will take more risks, try harder and shine brighter on your resumé and in the interview. Even if there is someone better qualified, I’d rather hire someone who will be happy and work hard in the position.
It also makes it easier for you to focus your effort. Instead of looking for almost any job, in any company in any industry, focus on the specific position, industry or company you want to get hired into.This also makes it easier for people to help you. A friend may have many kinds of professional contacts but won’t know who to target unless you get specific with where you want to work.
You also might consider adding an “objective” to your resume, this will communicate to people what you would like to be doing. For anyone with thin experience, knowing what you want to do is more helpful than knowing what you have done.
When my brother went to college he was considering going to work for the college bookstore because he needed money. He was a talented artist and I told him that anyone could stack books. What he should do, was to intern at a design agency where he could hone his budding skills. He wouldn’t make much money, but at least it would be working toward something he wanted which was to be paid to draw things. He took my advice and took a low paying internship. Three months later they offered him a full time position which he had to turn down because he was still in school. He continued to work there part time, and was hired into a animator position at Dreamworks when he graduated. He is now working at Pixar in his dream job. All I did was encourage him to follow his passion.
If you are having trouble finding a job, internships might be a good way to get your foot in the door. They don’t pay much if at all, but doing something with your free time is better than doing nothing. With internships you can prove yourself and make the connections you need in order to get hired on into a regular position.
Getting in the door
Consider focusing on the industry, but being flexible with the role. Look for work which is basic but in an environment which will give you exposure to the people you will eventually want to work for in a more professional position. Answering the phones, or filing paperwork might put you in contact with people who will open bigger doors once they see your initiative.
Make your own position
You might need to be a little creative and courageous and make a position for yourself. When I was in college I was working at the local Starbucks and wasn’t really enjoying my job. I had noticed one of our irregular customers was a guy who I really enjoyed serving. He always had a smile, and good-humored personality. I didn’t know his name, all I knew is that he worked at the Sacramento Tree Foundation. I called them up and described his physical appearance and caffeine habit to the person who picked up the phone. They recognized who I was talking about and gave me his direct number.
I didn’t know what his particular job was, or if he needed help with anything. I called him up and told him I wanted to work for him. Surprisingly he asked if we could meet in a few days. We met and he told me he had been thinking about starting a tree-surgery service and my call had been what he needed to get serious. If I was interested in being his first employee he would start the company and hire me. I agreed and in a few weeks he bought a truck, some chain saws and ladders and I quit my coffee job.
I worked for him for two years before moving to San Francisco. Both of my younger brothers ended up working for him for the next few years, and he is still in business in Sacramento. Moral of the story? Don’t let what isn’t advertised stop you from asking for what you would like. Also… you don’t have to have all the answers. Just walking in the door and offering to work, is half the battle.