Graduating With No Experience? No Problem!

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You’ve just spent the last four years reading, partying, studying, partying, writing essays, going on dates, writing exams and partying.

Suddenly, it’s over, you’re done school and an uncertain future is staring you right in the face.

If you’re like most arts students, you have given little thought to what you are going to do as the all-mighty career while in school. You’ve had a faraway idea in the back of your head about joining the “real world” for a little while now, but have been too busy finishing to really give it very much time or thought.

Arts programs at most universities are not set-up to prepare graduating students for the workforce in comparison to programs in the sciences, engineering, or even business courses. You’re kind of on your own, but you know what? That’s okay. You’re smart, resourceful, and you think outside the box unlike those other straight-laced disciplines. That’s your advantage, so use it well.

So where do you start? Here are a few steps to help get you started:


Take Your Time and Think Really Hard About What You Want to Do

This is an amazing opportunity for you to take a breather and really make sure that you enjoy your job. If you don’t know what you want to do yet, take your time, keep your part time university job, and relax for a little bit before taking the plunge. Talk to lots of different people in different fields, intern, get a better idea of what it’s actually like out there. So many people hate their jobs but feel trapped because they’ve been on their career path so long, they can’t back out now. I hate to say I told you so, but maybe if they thought about it more before they rushed into a job right after school, they would be happier. Just saying. The average time it takes a person to find a real job is about three to six months. Chill out and whatever you do try not to be discouraged.


Think Outside the Box

While you’re doing all your thinking and time-taking, brainstorm about yourself and be creative about it. Write down things you like doing for fun, your interests, your passions. Imagine your ideal environment (Desk in an office or outdoors?), your work values (Salary expectations? Teamwork or individual? Structured or laid back?), and your own personality traits. Think about all your experiences in life, whether they be school related or not and see where they might benefit you in the workplace. The sky is really the limit here because you have a fresh palette to work with, so take advantage of it and realize that you can really do anything. I’m serious. I guess it’s a little clichéd and simplistic to say “imagine what you would want do everyday for free, and just do that!” but it’s not that far off.


Research

Once you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what you want to do, the next step is to find out what’s out there and how to get there. You’re just starting out, so chances are you’re not going to end up with your final dream career on your first hire. However, you will be able to find something closely related and that will eventually lead to the FINAL DESTINATION (A.K.A. a job) once you put in your time and gain experience.

  • YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD CAREER CENTRE: Take advantage of your career centre’s resources. It’s their job and they really love it. Trust me, they are so great and geeky about job hunts. They’ve also got books, endless resources, and ideas. They are really helpful in terms of helping you write your resume, cover letters, and just giving ideas and inspiration to keep you pumped and on track in your search. If you don’t have a good career centre, there are an abundance of amazing resources at the library and online. Read a lot about resume, cover letter writing, interviews, and all that good stuff. The end result is a great application that you can be confident about.
  • MILK THOSE CONTACTS: Talk to people around you: maybe you have an aunt in the industry you want to work in, maybe one of your parents friends’ knows somebody who might have some useful info for you, email your favourite professor and ask if they know anybody. Spread the word about your job search and talk to everyone you know about your potential career because maybe they can hook you up with somebody or something helpful. You’ve got sources handed to you that might really benefit you, not to use them would be missing out.
  • GO TO THE SOURCE: Create a list of companies you want to work for through directories (even the yellow pages is helpful), business section of the newspaper, or industry publications, and read about them like crazy. Once you have identified your targets, contact them to learn from them. This is essential to impress them with your knowledge and enthusiasm about the company and let them know you are interested. Even if your meetings don’t lead to jobs, you learn an incredible amount about the industry and what you want to do, they remember you for the future, and they might recommend you to someone else… and hey, best case scenario they give you job.
  • JOB BOARDS: This is probably the least helpful and over-used, but you should still do it. Troll through the job boards, see what is out there, and apply. The most helpful part of this would be seeing the job descriptions and general trends in openings, but this is your lowest priority. 80% of job openings are not posted and people with experience will tell you that the only way to get a job is through your networking and contacts. Believe them. You likely won’t hear back from any of your posted job applications because these positions are inundated with so many resumes it’s almost arbitrary and often they have an internal candidate at the ready or they will hire someone through their own contacts. Also, if you’re applying into a black hole all the time it can be discouraging, and getting discouraged is the worst. Still, apply for these jobs, just don’t let that be your only method, because you will be disappointed.


Have No Fear

Yes, looking for a job fresh out of school is terrifying. It’s completely different than anything you’ve ever done. You have to put yourself out there with a brave face to be judged and possibly rejected. I feel you, I’ve been there, but don’t think of it that way. You are awesome, capable, and the company you want to work for would be LUCKY to have your experience, skills, smarts, and enthusiasm working for them. Own that. Seriously, believe that and become that because that’s true and your meetings and applications will only benefit from that confidence.

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About the author

Lauren Friese is the founder of TalentEgg.ca. She graduated from Queen's University in 2005 with a degree in economics and had no idea how to make a successful transition into the workforce. She ended up at the LSE in London, England, and after earning an MSc in economic history, used Milkround.com – a British graduate recruitment website – to find a great entry-level role in consulting in London. She thought Milkround was fantastic, and that it was a service sorely lacking in Canada. And so the idea for TalentEgg was hatched!