Landing Your First Job as a College Graduate
Recent graduates are often anxious to put their knowledge and skills to good use in the real world. Landing a job in your chosen field is an important step in your career. As you embark on your first job search, here are some things to consider before accepting a new position.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for a 2019 graduate was $55,280. Pay rates for entry-level jobs vary by field, with management consulting currently ranked highest. Salaries may also be adjusted based on location due to cost of living changes. You need to make more money to afford housing in New York than you would in a smaller, Midwest city. If you receive a job offer and the compensation seems outside of a typical range, try to understand why. Nonprofits or smaller companies may pay less than large corporations, but they might offer you a more challenging position, better hours, or unique benefits.
Your commute to work each day is another important consideration. Long, daily commutes can become tiresome if you're not willing or able to move closer to your job. However, if an exceptional job opportunity arises, you may choose to tolerate a longer commute to get your foot in the door at a great employer.
The actual work you'll be doing is also important. Prior to interviewing, read the job description thoroughly. You may receive an offer from a company specializing in your preferred line of work, but the position may not center around the responsibilities you may have anticipated. If this is the case, make sure you understand your expected career progression and how you'll move up within the company.
Do your research on the organization you'll be working for prior to accepting a position. Read recent news stories or the company's annual report, if one is available. Organizational culture may be an important consideration, as well as financial health. You don't want to start a job only to find out that the company is struggling for profits, or expects to lay off workers, which forces you to start your job search again.
Sample Interview Questions
Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions. This is your chance to find out more specific details which will help you understand if the job is a good match for you. Here are some items to consider asking about:
- Work Hours / Work Environment: Try to ask questions to help you get a feel for what it's like to work for the company. Some companies expect everyone to be in the office between nine and five; others offer flex time or work from home options, as long as the work gets done.
- Career Advancement: No one expects to be in the same position forever, and it's helpful to know what opportunities are available when you're ready to progress from entry level.
- Travel: If travel is important to you — whether it's something you view as desirable or would prefer not to do — ask about the percentage of time you'll be on the road.
- Specific Responsibilities: You may want to ask about the hiring manager's expectations for the position, including the daily workload and deadlines. Your goal is to get a feel for the typical workday in the department.
Although your first job is important, it won't necessarily make or break your career. For many college graduates, the first job can simply be a starting point to help you find out what you truly want to do. An entry level position builds your resume, which in turn gives you experience that helps you further your career and step up to a more lucrative position.