How to Get Your First Job (as a Recent Graduate)




Introduction: How to Get Your First Job (as a Recent Graduate)

Having finally achieved that often dreamed about goal, getting my first real job, I thought I'd share a little bit about my experiences and what worked for me.  With the economy being what it is, especially here in Michigan, tension runs high for graduating seniors.  I know it did for me.  Following is the culmination of pieces of advice and tips I garnered along the way, as well as a few things that just worked for me.  Most of the advice is generic, and can be applied to most degrees, but towards the end I included a few tips specific to my fellow Computer Science graduates.

The following was originally published on my site at:

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Yourself on Paper

This may be obvious, but you need to write a great resume and cover letter.  This needs to be a long process, and in some cases it may even be a little painful.  Like any important document, both of these need to be proofread by your most trusted advisers.  For me, each version of my resume initially took two to three weeks of proof-reading before I finally had a framework that I was ready to use and easily modify. 

I also like to write these types of things in waves.  I'd write the first version, and the next day review it myself.  With the second version I'd review it myself and then send it out to my first group of reviewers.  These were my friendly career service councillors, friends, and family that had the best grammar and patience for my emails.  At this stage, it's important to keep in mind your reviewers backgrounds.  Some of them may be great at grammar but know nothing about your field.  In my case, most of my friends that were reviewing had degrees in journalism and screen writing, but often misunderstood the technical parts of my resume.  It's important to make sure you understand where their advice is coming from and in some cases know which parts to heed and which to ignore. 

The next round of reviews came from professional relationships.  Site's like LinkedIn help a lot for this kind of stuff.  There were a handful of family friends and former colleagues who I knew had an industry perspective to bring to the documents.  This is the part that can sometimes be painful.  There may be things that you include that they think are completely irrelevant.  It may seem odd, but at this point these documents start to feel very personal.  For example, I had a few people suggest I take my Associate Degree off of my resume.  It took some time, but I eventually understood exactly where they were coming from.  In the end, I chose to keep this section.  However, the criticism offered by my reviewers showed me how employers would read my resume and taught me how I wanted to sell myself to them.  This sections inclusion was thought out and I knew exactly how I wanted to present the information in an interview situation.  As always take this criticism for what it's intended, friendly advise that you sought out.

Step 2: Use Your Local Resources

The first place to start is most definitely the Career Services Department - or equivalent - at your school.  As my resume evolved from my initial search for internships my junior year, to my career search my senior year, the councilors at school were a great resource.  They can do much more than just talk about your resume however.

These departments put on many events such as Professional Dress classes, Interview Practice, and Job Fairs.  I went to all of these.  Even if you don't think you need a particular class, just attending can be a great way to stay informed about other events, meet like-minded people with more great advice, and build relationships with the councilors who are in positions to send your resume to potential employers.

There are also professional organizations with great resources.   I personally loved my student membership to the Association of Computing Machinery for all of its advice and articles.  The Engineering Society of Detroit also puts on an annual job fair, however my experience was incredibly negative at this event.  Especially in this economy these job fairs are incredibly busy and crowded with people with much more experienced than a recent graduate. 

This illustrates the value of your schools local job fair.  The companies in attendance are looking for college graduates, and the only people you have to compete with are the same classmates you've been competing with all along.  It's a more comfortable experience, and probably more rewarding.

Step 3: Yourself in Pixels

A great piece of advice, for any profession, is to make a professional website.  With employers using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to help them wade through resumes it's important to actively manage your online presence.  I handled this, by partitioning my social networks appropriately.
  • Facebook is used solely for socializing, and it's privacy settings are set to reflect this; 
  • Twitter, is an informal way to keep up with other young professionals, follow technologist, and post statuses about technology projects I'm working on.  I like to think of twitter as a casual professional area, and that's partially because of the culture of the site; 
  • LinkedIn is used solely for professional connections;
  • My website is a place to post more in-depth thoughts and write ups about projects that I'm working on; 
  • And all of these accounts are tied to each other, giving potential employers a deeper look at who I am, in a way that I can manage appropriately. 
Especially as a technologist, my website has worked to my advantage in many ways.  Some people may not believe it, but I've had recruiters question me about projects I've posted on the site that I hadn't even mentioned in the interview.  My beer advisor project seemed to be a favorite among the local recruiters, and was a great way to talk about a technical project to non-technical interviewers.

The single biggest advantage of creating your own site is that it gives you some control over what employers find when they google your name.  Do you really want them to find a comment on a blog you wrote in early college about the advantages of mixing certain alcohol?  Centralizing your online identity into a site you control is one way of minimizing this.  That, and set your privacy settings appropriately on the sites you use.

Step 4: Job Boards

There are two sites I used aggressively, and, and one I used later on that proved to be a valuable resource, Craigslist.  Dice is geared specifically toward Technical Positions, however it was my experience that they were higher level positions and weren't looking for recent graduates.  Every once in a while I would get a response to a submission I'd make, but I never received a cold call from recruiters scouring Dice.  With Monster, however, I received many cold calls from recruiters, and overall the jobs tended to be a better fit for where I was in my career.

Later on in my search someone suggested I use Craigslist.  I was suspicious of this at first, but I actually had some very good opportunities arise from it.  I uploaded a resume to each city I thought I'd like to live in, removed all sensitive information, and within a few days I was receiving emails from potential employers.  Some were worthwhile, and some not so much, but regardless I think it's a powerful tool I could have made more use of.

Step 5: A Few Notes on Timing

With graduation in December, I started my job search in early September.  I couldn't wait to get my name out there and begin the interviews.  This experience was incredibly disheartening, since no one really wanted to talk to me until I was days away from graduation.  In fact, I didn't receive many replies until the middle of November.  Some of my early September submission were held until December.  While this isn't always the case, recruiters seem have immediate needs for positions. 

Many large companies do have recent graduate programs.  Whenever possible, find these, as they will setup to accommodate someone like yourself much better in the interview and application process.

Timing was something I had no perspective on going into my job search.  Looking back on it, I would still start, aggressively, in September.  However, if I could have known to expect the delay in responses I could have saved a lot of str

Step 6: The Technical Interview

This one goes out to all of the Software Engineers out there.  One thing that is taught in school, but not used much (in assignments), is object orientation.  My first phone interview was with a company in New York.  Within two minutes, the interviewer had started asking very technical questions about object orientation.  Being that this was my first real interview, I drew a complete blank, and subsequently embarrassed myself.  But it was after this interview that I sat back down with my old software engineering books and made sure I was ready for the next time. 

It's really weird doing technical interviews over the phone the first time.  If you're like me, you know how to do what you need to do in code, but maybe can't articulate it on the spot when you aren't expecting it.  This is something I had to get over, and you probably will too.

In general, I found that the technical questions were pretty high-level, and, once you get comfortable with them, they weren't too bad.  If you haven't done a technical interview yet, I would recommend making sure you can do the following:

  • Be able to do simple worst-case Big-O analysis on a piece of code;
  • Know simple data structures (linked-list, hash table, etc), what they're good for in comparison to each other, and the worst-case run times of simple operations on them;
  • And know a little bit about algorithms, how recursive algorithms work, etc.
All of that being said, everyones technical interview will be different depending on the position and your background.  These, however, were the types of questions I encountered.

Step 7: Persistance and Luck

All of the previous steps mean nothing without persistence. 

"Luck is the residue of design" - John Milton

These were just some of my experiences, but they may be useful for others in the future.  I hope they are to you, and best of luck in your job hunting.

Be the First to Share


    • Indoor Plants Challenge

      Indoor Plants Challenge
    • Trash to Treasure Contest

      Trash to Treasure Contest
    • Sculpting Challenge

      Sculpting Challenge

    12 Discussions


    4 years ago

    In my opinion, "Cracking careers fairs" is also an interesting tip for a recent graduate. What is the best strategy for making a great impression at a career fair? Career Fairs are a tricky battlefield. There hundreds of opponents in the room all trying to get the attention of the recruiters. This fantastic article itemises the tactics you should use to win over company representatives and also notes the innovative ideas you think may work in fact why they will repel the recruiter.



    5 years ago

    Thanks for the advice


    6 years ago on Introduction

    You give some great advice on refining your resume (on paper and in pixels) and applying to jobs through a traditional route, like job boards. I really liked your section on getting reviews/feedback from contacts on LinkedIn. I'd also recommend taking people out in your industry to "coffee" and asking them about their careers. This does 2 things: 1. it builds your network and 2. it gives you inside information on what to include in your resume.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    great general advice, I am a recent (graduated in may), double major (business and sociology), can agree with everything you’ve said, recently found a job that equated to my degree i.e. not cashiering at Safeway etc, not to belittle those jobs, but I got alota college debt to get my degree, anyways, I found for job searches, since I did not have a technical degree like you seem to have, craigslist to be the best, I got the most responses and interviews through that site, monster and others have millions of pyramid door to door salesmen who make themselves look like something they are not.
    If someone is reading this for help finding jobs, my business department head told us the class of 09 to start searching for jobs in September (graduating in may), and usually people don’t start till a month or 2 before graduation, and usually he recommended an average of 200 apps sent out to find a good job, for us he told us 500, no joke.
    there were some articles, I can find the links if need be stating that the average graduate having a job within a year of graduating has switched in the most recent years from 70-80% employed to around that percent being unemployed. I'm sure the numbers were exaggerated.
    in my opinion in these tough times for jobs, the major advice for graduates,  hopefully this changes by end of this school year, is be willing to take less than you want pay/benefits for a job with good experience, and an in to a good company that can lead to more down the road. second you will hear this 2 million times and maybe like me just blow it off as yea I got friends and alota relatives blah blah, but really, network, it is the best way to get a job in the hard times, all my friends with jobs or getting jobs have gotten their resume handed in to the ceo or hr by a friend or connection that works in the sounds small but it helps...alot
    third if you have the time, money w/e, if need be take part time contract work, or an internship, if it fills the empty space, keep looking for something better, but what will you say if in a year you find your dream job, you are lucky enough to get an interview, and they ask you so what have you been doing for the past year? I know it’s true but, the excuse of "its the economy" is getting old already.

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Some really interesting points have been made in this discussion. I just wanted to add that I came across a really good company that offer advice and stuff. They're called GRB and I signed up to them at fresher's fair and their website is really useful for interview/cv hints and tips, and recent employment news, as well as looking for internships or grad jobs.
    Have a look for yourselves, and good luck everyone!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    it sounds like you are very frustrated with the job search. I think you need to find several experts who specialize in advice for you.  Game Avatar HD. In bad economic times, jobs are scarce. When you are fresh out of college and have no professional experience, the only way to land a job is to know someone who can give you one or introduce you for a job


    9 years ago on Step 4

    I've found that lots of tech companies post interesting job ads on Craigslist. I personally found some good work that way. What's true with a lot of smaller gigs though (website dev, etc) is that they often get taken by somebody else.

    So I've built a website that helps me track craigslist and other classifieds sites using text messages.

    How it works: search for work that's relevant to your skills, copy/paste resulting link into my app, and done! You'll now receive SMS text messages whenever new ads matching your search are posted.

    Check it out, let me know what you think: Greg's Pulse

    cheers, grigory.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    While your Instructable is obviously aimed at the recent graduate, It shows a lot of wisdom that even people who are looking for a more 'experienced' position would do well to pay attention to.  Very Nice Writeup.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    great article!
    One good site for journalism peeps is
    I haven't been having luck landing a job, but I'm hoping it's true about persistence.
    Good luck, everyone!
    Our inability to find a job is not necessarily a bad reflection of ourselves, but more likely on this sh*tty economy!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Bribery has always worked throughout history. Promise to give the person in charge of hiring 10-20 percent (or more) of what you make for an XYZ amount of time, and once hired honor that agreement. (Instead, straight out handing them a stack of cash works as well.) And before anyone squawks about legality remember this, in the world of business there is no law as long as you don't get caught. Keep it hushhush and it never happened. This has been a unwritten rule of business since the beginning of time and will never change so long as human greed is what promotes people to produce.
    It's a sad state of affairs to have to resort to this but you are talking about your livelihood and the possibility of keeping yourself fed and a roof over your head. There are too few jobs out there and too many monkeys lining up to get them. I have seen this done many times in the past and it usually works like a charm. Everyone has their price. It is up to you to figure out what that price may be and pay it promptly and covertly.

    This may sarcasm or it may not be. Think about it.