Top 10 Mistakes That Career Counselors See New Grads Making

by Suzanne Taylor

New Grad

Graduating college is often as scary as it is exciting – if not more. Finishing your studies is a relief but entering the “real world” can be daunting, and starting a career is one of the top reasons that this transition is so intimidating. Here are the top 10 mistakes that career counselors see new grads making:

1) Being Too Picky

Your first job is not going to be your forever job. Most people work for at least 40 years, while they only hold each individual job for 1-3 years. So, apply to jobs that check most boxes or ones that can help you build skills for future dream jobs.

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Most entry-level positions will give you experience and teach you what you like and don’t like so you can refine your next job search.

2) Failing to Network

Any networking is better than no networking. While it’s best to network throughout college, starting now is your next best option.

College students and new grads put off networking for a variety of reasons – it’s too intimidating, they don’t know how, or they think they’re “too late.” It’s time to throw away all of those excuses. Networking is a skill, so just like any other skills, you will get better with practice. The first few times that you connect with a professional via email, phone, or LinkedIn may feel awkward, but the more you do it, the better you will become.

Networking is particularly important as a new grad because professionals are usually more willing to help out someone just starting their career versus a seasoned employee. Take advantage of people’s kindness, and if they don’t respond, don’t take it personally and just move on.

3) Neglecting Your Resume

Now that college is over, your resume is one of the most important documents you will ever submit. Creating a resume is much more than just checking a box on an application – it will largely determine whether you are considered for a position or not. Thus, you should spend hours crafting, curating, editing, and proofreading your resume to ensure it demonstrates your qualifications for the jobs you’re applying to.

If you still have access to your university’s career services, make sure that you have them critique your resume. You may also consider hiring a professional resume writer, or at the very least asking a trusted professional (whether that’s a relative, friend, or supervisor) to review it and provide feedback.

This also brings us to our next mistake that new grads make…

4) Using Generic Resumes

Recruiters can spot a Microsoft Word resume template from a mile away, and they can also tell if you haven’t taken the time to tailor your resume to the position.

Templates can hurt you because you risk blending in with other candidates who used the same one. To avoid this, try reviewing WorkBloom’s numerous resume samples, borrowing ideas from different ones, and creating your own resume that meets your unique profile.

It doesn’t need to be fancy. Most large companies use ATS screening software, and resumes with columns, tables, shapes, and/or images often get discarded before making it to a human. This same software also scans resumes for keywords, which is why it’s important to tailor your resume for each job. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Is it worth it? If you want a job… especially when competing with thousands of other new grads with similar backgrounds.

5) Letting an Employer Take Advantage of You

While we advise being open-minded during your first post-grad job search, we also don’t recommend settling for a bad job. Some employers with terrible compensation structures, untenable work hours, or outright scams will unfortunately prey on eager grads.

Trust your gut during the hiring process. If you get weird feelings about the job at any point, it’s a really good choice to walk away. You don’t want to end up in a pyramid scheme or in a shady business!

6) Ignoring Benefits

As a new grad, it’s easy to get fixated on job salary and ignore employee benefits like health insurance, paid time off (PTO), retirement contributions, and more. Because benefits vary so much from company to company, jobs with different salaries can actually net you the same amount of money.

Additionally, perks like PTO, work hours, or remote work options have both monetary and time value (e.g. less commuting or a higher hourly rate). Make sure to review the full benefits package before committing to one particular job.

7) Not Knowing Your Strengths

Self-assessment can be difficult, but you need to know why an employer should hire you and be able to articulate it. Knowing your strengths will not only help you if asked about it in a job interview, but it can also inform what you write about in your cover letter or how you approach networking.

If you’re not sure what makes you stand apart or what your strengths are, try asking a supervisor, coach, or other professional who has worked closely with you.

8) Lacking Professional Etiquette

You’ve likely spent most of your life learning appropriate school etiquette, but many people are never taught how to conduct themselves in a professional setting. Beyond the common etiquette taboos (i.e. attire, chewing gum), new grads are more likely to have trouble communicating professionally after being raised in a digital world.

Any email communication about a job should be written and formatted professionally. Phones and tablets should be out of sight and silenced during an interview or meeting. These small touches indicate that you care about the job and respect the employer, and it indicates that you will continue to act professionally as an employee.

9) Failing to Research Employers

Researching employers is beneficial throughout the job process, enabling you to identify which ones do and don’t seem like a good fit. Many new grads focus their search on recognizable company names while overlooking lesser-known or smaller corporations. You want to do your research before applying so that you don’t waste your (or the company’s) time applying somewhere you wouldn’t want to ultimately work.

Additionally, you must research a company before you have any sort of conversation with the employer. It will become clear through your comments, responses, and questions in an interview whether you know what the company does. A good rule of thumb is to avoid comments or questions that you could find the answer to online, because that will show you haven’t done your research.

10) Taking Things Personally

The job search can be emotionally difficult, especially for first timers. For every open position, an employer gets dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of applicants, and it’s rarely, if ever, personal if you aren’t selected for an interview. Remember that if you don’t get chosen, it just means the employer identified other candidates as a better fit, which you can do little about.

This doesn’t mean you can get complacent. Continue to fine-tune your resume, evaluate what types of jobs you’re applying for, and practice interviewing skills, particularly if you notice a pattern of rejection (i.e. make it to the first interview but never further). However, your first major job search is the perfect opportunity to start developing the thicker skin you will need in the professional world.

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