Networking

Hey, Grads: It’s the Best Job Market in Years

How to capitalize on potentially having your pick of the litter. 

Class of 2019, you’re in luck. Unlike your brethren of a decade ago, you’re graduating during one of the most robust job markets ever. In the past three years, the unemployment rate has fallen from 5% to 3.8%. Which ultimately means you may be able to be more selective, since the number of job openings has also reached record highs, and have a bit more control over when you say yes to a job. Indeed, a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that more college seniors turned down jobs than in previous years.

Experts say it’s worse to take the wrong job—just to have a job—out of fear that you’ll end up without one.

Of course, it’s important to remember that while being picky in the job process will serve you well, you don’t want to come off as cocky. After all, only 19% of college graduates say their first job was “as expected,” according to a survey from Kununu, an employer review platform. That’s why it’s crucial you ask the right questions when interviewing to make sure “this is the right organization for you,” says David Ginchansky, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Below, some tips on how to find the best first job for you.

Don’t take the first offer.

Economists have found that starting salaries early in your career can shape how well you do financially throughout your life. In fact, the Federal Reserve discovered that most growth in your salary occurs during the first decade of work. That’s why you want to make sure you start off at the highest rate possible.

While most entry-level positions have very defined salary ranges, you can do your research to ensure you’re getting paid the market rate for the novice level in your field.  One way to leave the door open for forthcoming opportunities when an offer seems near is to inform the other places you interviewed—and liked—that you’re in the final stages at another business. “If people really want you, they will expedite the process,” Ginchansky says. Of course, it’s a tricky art; speak too soon, and you could be left with nothing. But it’s worth a shot if you think you have the leverage.

Go old-school.

Want a way to make sure you stand out from the crowd? After an interview, send an email thanking the person that interviewed you for the position. Then follow up with snail mail, too.

“Let’s say the hiring manager has interviewed 12 or 20 or 60 people for this job,” Denise Dudley, author of the book Work It!: Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted, told Fortune. “If your name pops up in front of him or her twice afterward, instead of just once or not at all, you’re far more likely to be remembered.” 

While it’s uncomfortable using in-person tactics, like going to networking events or talking to potential mentors over coffee, it will help create connections that are memorable and, therefore, more powerful. Remember: the jobs you’re applying for could have hundreds of respondents. Stand out by getting off the screen and in front of someone. 

Focus on the company culture.

Interviewing is not only a matter of convincing the employer that you’re the right candidate—but it’s also a way to make sure that the job and the company works for you. That’s easy to forget when you’re just starting out and grasping for a gig. But it’s far more important to make sure you can stand the people you work with than just taking the job for a paycheck. That’s where getting to the company culture comes in.

One way to get a sense of the company culture is by asking the hiring manager for examples of how employees interact and how the company ensures camaraderie. Seek specifics about volunteering efforts and activities, both inside and outside of the office. If karaoke Thursdays aren’t your thing, then at least you know about it going in. Another option is to talk with current and former employees to see how they feel (or felt) about their jobs. Ask them specifically what they wish they knew about the company before joining, Ginchansky says.

Try to silence the panicked voice in your head.

As a college senior, there’s going to be anxiety about starting your career off right. But experts say it’s worse to take the wrong job—just to have a job—out of fear that you’ll end up without one. It’s typical for a job search to take three to six months, or longer if what you’re looking for is more niche. “If you find yourself stressing out, recognize you’re not alone,” Ginchansky says. And remind yourself that to land a job at a place that’s a good fit takes some time.

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