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2021 Guide to Employment for Graduates: 6 Secrets to Finding Employment

Christa Reed

Content Creator

Freeze. There you are feeling pure bliss as you throw your cap in the air with all the other graduates you endured your four years of education with. You finally made it.

Later that day, you’re loading the last of your things into a U-Haul, and you are starting to feel the pressure of what’s next. Unlike some of your other peers, you didn’t land employment before you graduated, and now you feel like you’re just drifting in the wind.

The good news is that 53% of college graduates are either unemployed or working a job that doesn’t require a college degree. It takes the average college graduate at least 3-6 months to secure employment. This means that you are not alone. There are other graduates facing the same smack in face as you, and you are all seeking some guidance.

This guide is not meant to be an all-inclusive answer to every one of your problems. Bummer right? But the reality is that there is no one correct answer to the job searching process; however, this guide is written to help put you in the best possible situation to land good employment as a recent graduate. So, young graduate, get your pen and paper because we have some gems for you.

1. Networking

“Managers prefer to hire based on trusted referrals. That is why over 80% of jobs are never posted.”

In the age we live in, there are people with Master’s degrees who are almost as unemployed as recent graduates with Bachelor’s degrees. Based on the numbers, we can see that unemployment does not discriminate nor does it prioritize; however, networking does. Sometimes education and skills are not enough, and not creating a network that can vouch for your character and abilities could dampen your chances to find good employment right out of college. 

As mentioned in the video, hiring managers prioritize trust over competence. They want to make hiring decisions more efficiently, and they use referrals to do it. The TedTalk points out that referrals have a 50% shot of getting an interview, while non-referrals drop down to 3%, which shows how much utilizing your network can put you in a more successful position.

Take this LinkedIn post as an example. While it is important to point out that not every position is for you, and there might be something better, it is also important to address the elephant in the room.

“I later learned that person hired was a friend of my boss.” These situations happen all the time in the workplace. Your worth and value as a skilled and educated employee can be diminished just because of another person’s ability to network.

If this is something that happens to an internal candidate that has built a good reputation, what makes you think that it can’t happen to you as a recent graduate?

As a graduate searching for employment, networking should be one of the first things you invest your time and energy in. In the traditional sense, it is creating connections through face-to-face interactions at different events; however, over the years, it has evolved into so much more. These days networking means not only fostering connections through physical interactions, but it also means leveraging the digital world to your advantage to build meaningful relationships. 

Introduce People to Each Other

Admittedly, face-to-face interactions is probably one of best ways to form a connection, especially when you make a good impression. However, one way that just isn’t talked about enough is the ability to set yourself up to create connections just by introducing people to other people who can help them. In the overall scheme of things, many opportunities are likely going to come from 2nd or 3rd level contacts introduced by primary contacts. This not only makes you a more valuable piece of your network, but it also increases your goodwill, betters your reputation, makes other people more likely to do the same for you. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Networking With Social Anxiety– 4 Helpful Tips

Utilize Social Media

80% of Americans have a social networking profile.

One of the best ways to stay connected with your network is to utilize social media. If 80% of Americans have a social networking profile, that means you could potentially have social access to almost anyone, especially your associates.

Author and Speaker, Kelly Hoey, once said at a speaking engagement to think of social media as social spaces and then act accordingly. Use social media to stay connected, but remember your audience and the tone of the social site.

On each site that you are building a network on, there may need be a strategic approach. You’ll need to identify your community, and ensure that you share and post things that will spark interest and conversation.

For example, LinkedIn is a great place for sharing articles and personal experiences in the workplace. Twitter is more so the place to let a bit more of your personality show and keep up with current events. Instagram is where you can show the activities and things you are passionate about. Your voice on different social media sites can be different, depending on what you’re trying to portray to your potential network connections.

If you are going to approach social media as a networking tool, it is important that you are either all in or all out. Inactive social media pages will not help draw people to you, and it may even make reaching out a little bit harder. Make sure you are active and responsive.

Your Alumni Network

Last but not least, leverage your alumni network to your advantage. If you are a fresh graduate looking for employment, but you decided to move after college, then you obviously can’t physically attend alumni networking events. However, this is the time to put your digital and social skills to good use. 

  1. Attend virtual alumni events and school career fairs.
  2. Utilize LinkedIn to connect with other alumni through school networks.
  3. Create an Introview account and display videos explaining who you are, what school you attended, and activities you’re interested in. Then share those videos on other major platforms.

2. Be Open to an Internship

I am going to say something that you probably do not want to hear…


Many graduates believe that the first step to adulthood after college is employment, but it is important to remember that internships are employment, too. They are not exclusive to teenagers or college students. They are for everyone at different levels in their early careers.

Unpaid Internships

We were all thinking it, so I am just going to say it. Unpaid internships are definitely a shaky topic considering you likely left university as a struggling college student and now you are entering employment as a struggling intern.

Even as the world evolves and paid internships are taking over the landscape, Compare Camp presented some statistical analysis that mentions that around 43% of internships are still unpaid. In addition, less than 44% of graduates with an unpaid internship receive job offers upon completion. In contrast, 66% of their paid counterparts receive one or more job offers upon completion of the internship.

Not only is your future worth considering when you take an unpaid internship, it is also important to consider the likely-hood of other issues that you may face such as sexual harrassment, a large amount of “grunt work”, and experiences that don’t really help build your skills or repertoire.

The opportunity cost of taking an upaid internship can be over $12,000, so as a graduate searching for employment, it is important to do your research before accepting an unpaid position.

  1. Seek out previous interns and ask them about their experience. If you can’t find people, try to find written reviews.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer how he or she plans to help you develop into an employable person with improved skill. You could also ask for a job/intern description.
  3. Try to negotiate basic expenses such as travel, lunch, or even accommodation expenses.

RELATED ARTICLE: Should You Take an Unpaid Internship?

Paid Internships

After reading about the dark side of internships, paid internships sound so much better, right? There actually are so many benefits to having a paid internship out of college that greatly outweighs the bad. 

Having a paid internship makes you more competitive in the job market because you won’t just be a graduate anymore. You now have work experience. 70% of companies offer interns full-time jobs, and 80% of students accept those offers.

The pay for interns is also going up. In major companies, there are interns who are raking in over $6,000 per month. Spanning across companies and businesses across the US, the retention rate for interns after one year of work is 71.4% in contrast to 42.2% for people who have not worked an internship. In addition, those who work internships report their salaries to be 9-12% higher than people who do not work internships.

Imagine having the ability to test what you’ve learned and put it up against what you like to do. You get the opportunity to exercise your degree, while also taking time to figure out if that is what you enjoy, and you get to do this on somebody else’s dime. Then if you decide you like what you are doing, you are presented with opportunities to be in a better position than some of your peers who got entry-level employment right out of college.

3. Don’t Wait Until Your First Interview to Start Preparing

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

When you were in college, you didn’t show up to a test that you truly cared about without studying (unless you’re a genius). As a graduate, the same applies to doing interviews. The only difference is one test won’t largely affect your future, but landing your dream job will.

So the question is: How far in advance should I start interview prep?

If you haven’t already started, my answer to that is right now. Though many people don’t say it, the interview is more than just your face-to-face interaction with the hiring manager or employer. The interview process begins with your resume, cover letter templates, your list of measurable accomplishments, and your list of common interview questions.

All of these things, if crafted and rehearsed with detail, can help make your first interview a success. So make sure you take the time to perfect the small things so that you not only have a chance to interview, but you are able to expound on yourself, your accomplishments, and skills more easily.

Another interview prep tip is to ensure that you have all the tools you may need for an interview. Right now, the employment world is in a weird stage of face-to-face interactions versus virtual interactions. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure you are prepared for both.

Preparing for an in-person interview is usually centered around us practicing our interview questions and choosing appropriate interview clothing. We also need to acknowledge that there are more opportunities to show awareness and interest for the job that is displayed in preparation. Check out the Balance Career’s guide to preparing for an interview to learn more.

On the other hand, if there is a possibility that you will have to do a video interview, make sure you check out these tips in advance. There is nothing worse than scheduling a virtual interview, and you don’t have the technological capabilities to perform it. Along with making sure your technology is up to date with whatever software you’ll be using, you’ll also need to make sure you know how to work it.

4. Don’t Take Your Interviews for Granted

As a recent graduate, you just finished your first interview and you are feeling on top of the moon about your performance and your ability to answer the difficult questions that were thrown at you.

Not to burst your bubble, but you more than likely weren’t the only person interviewed for that position, and it is possible that you weren’t the only one to ace the interview. So let’s take it back old school for a second. What are a few ways to ensure that you are remembered and helps leave a good impression? It all starts with the intention to follow-up after your job interview.

At the end of your first interview, don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager or employer when they plan to make a decision. This gives you a waiting time frame to not only ease your anxiety, but to also plan how you will follow-up with them.

Don’t forget to say thank you!

The first way of following up is a good old personalized thank you card. Typically only one out of twenty candidates send a thank you note after the interview, so doing this will help improve your reputation. Ensure that the thank you card is concise, uses names, and reflects upon something from the interview. This is not a time to try to squeeze in more interesting things about yourself. It is solely a time to say thank you.

As time goes on, there should be no other reason to check in with the hiring manager or employer until the follow-up date they gave you. The only exception is if you have recieved another job offer or have changed your mind about the job. When the follow-up date approaches or passes, and you still have not heard from the hiring manager, it is okay to reach out to see if they have made a decision.

At the end of the day, don’t take a good interview for granted. Continue to show some agency and show the person interviewing you that you are interested.

5. Make Sure Your Social Media is Clean

I have two words for you.

Cancel. Culture.

Cancel Culture Image From Ellen New

Cancel culture has gained steam as people are becoming comfortable with calling each other out on things that are deemed unacceptable by society. As a graduate seeking employment, you don’t have much of a work reputation yet. It is very possible that your first impression to the real world is ruined by social media.

Social media has dominated a large part of your life. I mean, we do live in an age ruled by it. One Google search of your name could bring a stranger to your Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook page in seconds.

It will always be important to ensure that your social media page displays your personality and your life, but it is also important to realize that your social media account could exclude you from jobs or even interviews. 

We have seen it all before. Someone makes a racist comment and ruins their chances at getting into grad school. Someone tweets a politically charged statement, and gets kicked out of their professional network. Someone “trashes” their boss and ends up getting fired the next day.

Some say “Oh my social media is private. Employers can’t see it”. Not only are private profiles sometimes a red flag, but remember that networking thing we talked about earlier? You never know who in your network knows the employer or hiring manager and is willing to share your social media with them. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

We have all heard the way cancel culture has ruined people’s careers and altered their futures. Don’t be one of those people. Make sure you find a healthy balance between expressing yourself and being professional.

6. Create a Video Resume

Create a Professional Profile

As the world is becoming more and more digitized, it is important to not get left behind. It is known that having paper and digital resumes are A MUST, but how often do words tell your story the way you want to tell it? Creating a video resume is one way to ensure that you get to relay your story with emotion and creativity. It allows hiring managers and employers to see a side of you that they would not get to see if they were looking at a sheet of paper. 

Another advantage to having a video resume is the fact that video resumes are still novel. Job searching has become a robotic process of submitting resumes and cover letters over and over again. Job searching is definitely a job in itself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get creative with your process. Creativity usually attracts more attention than the usual way of doing things.

As we talk about video resumes, it is also important not to neglect the basics. If your research and career path leads you to create a video resume, make sure that it is high quality. It is also necessary to note that not every company accepts video resumes, so it is to your advantage to ensure your resume and cover letters are top-notch quality for every job you apply to.

RELATED ARTICLES: Video Resume: Tips, Examples, and Templates to Land the Job


At the end of the day when you’ve loaded the last of your things into the U-Haul truck, and you’re on your journey to adulthood, it is important to remember that you are not alone. With the pandemic, many adults and other graduates are feeling some of the same pressure to find employment that you are feeling. No one has all the answers, and sometimes it’s better that way. That means you can create your own path to success. Now is the time to create a network built on trust and real relationships to help each other.

Visit JobSearcher so you can stay up to date on job and internship postings from your favorite companies! Happy job searching!

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