A college degree is supposed to open the door to well-paying jobs. So why is it so difficult to land a job after graduation?
The underemployment rate remains high among college graduates today. In fact, a recent Gallup poll suggests that nearly 14 percent of adults are working in jobs that don’t let them use their education or skills.
It’s easy to get discouraged if you’re an international relations expert struggling to make ends meet with a part-time barista job, but there’s plenty you can do to break into your dream career.
How to find a better job
To find out more, I spoke with career coaches around the country and got firsthand stories from graduates who broke free of their subpar jobs. Here’s how you can find a better job.
1. Identify and leverage your marketable skills
Most college graduates don’t have the privilege of remaining jobless until the right opportunity comes along. Instead, they take what they can get, even if it’s not related to their major or career goals.
But even a random role can help you develop marketable skills, says Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, owner of Feather Communications.
“It’s important to focus on transferable skill-building — no matter the job you currently work in on a daily basis,” she says. “For example, if you have consistent client contact, you can then focus on relationship-building, communication skills, and collaboration abilities.”
Brian Weed, CEO of GradStaff, agrees that job-seekers should highlight the soft skills they’ve developed through their current roles. If you work in retail, Weed says to emphasize your skills in customer service, sales, and merchandising.
“[If you’ve done administrative work,] show a prospective employer you’re committed to detail-oriented results and adding value to a business at any level,” Weed adds.
You might think that serving coffee won’t help you get a job in marketing. But even if a job seems unrelated, it’s still valuable work experience. Identify the soft skills you’ve learned and prepare to discuss how they would transfer well into your next position.
2. Highlight your college achievements
If you’re a recent graduate, it’s a perfect time to talk about your college achievements. Did you volunteer at a community organization? Take on a leadership role in a student group? What about an internship or a research project with a professor?
Take a close look at your college experience. Locate instances where you contributed to your community, acted as a leader, or took initiative. “All of these roles helped develop important transferable skills you should market to prospective employers,” Weed says.
Plus, employers will be impressed by your ability to think critically and learn from your experiences. “Not only will they take note of your initiative, they will also notice your ability to harness what you’ve learned from all of your work experience — and they’ll be looking for you to bring those skills to their company,” adds Weed.
3. Ramp up your resume and LinkedIn profile
Once you’ve identified your major skills, place them front and center on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Martha Schmitz, a senior advisor at The Mentat, encourages job-seekers to play up their competencies and pair them with hard evidence.
“Rather than asserting that you are ‘outcome-oriented,’ demonstrate specifically when and how you brought about certain outcomes,” she explains. “Where possible, use numbers to back up your assertions.”
Your resume and LinkedIn profile are powerful tools in the job hunt. Spend time designing them in a purposeful and strategic way. If possible, customize your resume to a target job. If you’re applying for different jobs, submit different resumes to each one.
4. Network, network, and network
An incredible 85 percent of jobs are filled by networking, according to LinkedIn. When it comes to getting hired, who you know matters. Not only can a personal connection help you get an interview, but you may hear about a position before it’s even advertised.
Larissa Hildebrandt learned about the importance of networking firsthand. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and six internships, she could only find work as a part-time cinema box office cashier. By reaching out to her network, she was able to land her first full-time job in customer support.
Since then, Hildebrandt, now a marketer and blogger at Budget Undercover, has relied on connections to secure other jobs in her field.
“I invested a lot of time in attending networking events and even networking with other teams within my company,” she says. “It paid off tenfold, and I enjoyed myself at the events. You can even network online by joining awesome local Facebook groups for like-minded professionals.”
5. Go above and beyond in your current role
It’s easy to feel bored if you’re underemployed, but there might be a lot to learn in your current role. Augustin Kennady knows this feeling well. He struggled to find work after graduating summa cum laude from Columbia University in 2013.
Kennady encourages the underemployed to dive in. “[There are likely] key contributors who have more on their plate than they can realistically handle,” he says. “Ask to assist them, even if it means putting in work beyond your job description. This is your chance to show that you are worthy of consideration for a higher internal opportunity.”
This advice worked for Kennady, as he moved from Warehouse Associate to Media Relations Director at ShipMonk in just two years.
Even if you have no chance or interest in advancing in your current workplace, you’ll benefit from your proactive behavior. “It will put you in the habit of taking pride in your work, so that when the opportunity presents itself, you will already know how to perform at a high level,” notes Kennady.
6. Adopt a positive mindset
It’s easy to spiral into negativity when you’re struggling in your job search. It’s especially tough if you don’t know how to find a better job, but a positive mindset can go a long way.
“Don’t wallow,” Kennady says. “If you are underemployed, the worst thing you can do is focus on the fact that you are underemployed. Discontent fosters discontent, and if you sour your workplace you will soon find yourself unemployed.”
Dawn Mitchell, Chief Executive Advisor at The Corporate Couch, also says to drop the “underemployed” label. “[It] has a subtle energetic psychological negativity attached that can cause you to feel drained,” she says. “Refuse to wear it and know that your unique experience is strategically preparing you for your next move.”
Even if you’re feeling frustrated, challenge yourself to adopt a positive mindset. By staying optimistic, you can make real progress toward your professional goals.
Are you getting ready for your next job interview? Learn how to ace these 7 common interview questions.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
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3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.49% effective March 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.50% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.81% – 8.79%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.55% – 7.12%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|