Getting your first job out of college is extremely difficult and frustrating. But, its up to you to differentiate yourself from other candidates and stand out in a crowd of hungry job seekers.

Being a recent-college graduate, I have discovered there is a new-graduate paradox.

No employer will hire you without experience, but you can’t get experience without getting hired. Well that’s just wonderful since I myself am a recent college graduate and have worked during college in retail, but have yet to get a “real” full-time job relevant to my economics degree.

During my job search, I have discovered that entry-level doesn’t mean having a college degree and little experience.

Entry level really means at least 1 to 2 years prior relevant work experience when you read the whole description. How many college graduates really have at least 1 year relevant work experience to the jobs they seek out?

Entry-level jobs no longer mean what they used to. Employers are taking advantage of the current economic downturn and adding new requirements (additional experience) to entry-level jobs. Two years ago, it seemed that there was a high demand for entry-level workers right out of college. There was a huge market for recent graduates. Employers hired many full-time employees straight out of college. Two years ago the economy was improving and unemployment was low. But then the housing bubble burst, the financial markets began to fail and for those of us graduating in 2009 into the present got screwed over.

Reasons for the New-Graduate Paradox:

  • High unemployment. The combination of layoffs, financial market crashes and foreclosures flood the job market with experienced workers that are unemployed or looking for a higher paying job. Recent graduates have little chance of getting hired when the market is full with workers who have racked up many years of experience. Basically there is less demand for young unexperienced workers in today’s job market.
  • Employers think experts get the job done. Employers don’t want to “take a chance” on new and creative minds.

Solutions:

  • Employers should take advantage of unexperienced workers. New-graduates are willing to work longer hours for less money than experienced workers. Employees that have many years of experience racked up also have bills to pay, mortgages, kids and additional responsibilities that demand higher incomes. Recent-graduates have student loans, but little variable costs. Employers should hire recent graduates because they are enthusiastic about starting their career, will bring new insights to the job and will accept less in compensation.
  • Get an internship. Even though internships typically don’t typically last longer than 6 months, it will give you some great on-the-job experience and show that you are worth the money. Be indispensable and turn your internship into a full-time paid position. If you show your ambition, hard work ethic and creative ideas during your internship, chances are they won’t let you go.
  • Volunteer. You won’t get paid, but you will get some hands on experience and add skills to your resume. Plus, your ambition and dedication to work for free shows you are a self-starter and will be a valuable employee.
  • Blog or make your own website. Show off your writing skills and get blogging. Sharing your ideas and creating a discussion is a great way to use the skills you learned in college. Don’t let all those years in school go to waste. Keep up your professional writing skills and blog in your spare time. If you are more of a technical person, make your own website to include in your portfolio. Don’t know what type of website to design? Advertise your skills on Twitter or social networking sites and start a contest to design a free website for some very lucky person and build your portfolio.
  • Have a business degree? Make a mock business plan. After graduation you can either use what you learned during all those years or lose it. My advice: use your writing, analytical and creative skills to draft a business plan for an existing business or one you create yourself. This is a great way to show your ambition and take action. Employers will love your ambition and self-motivation. Who knows? Maybe showing them who you are and what you are capable of will get you a job. It could happen, so go for it!

My Journey:

Since there’s this new-graduate paradox, I am currently on the job search looking for the right opportunity to come my way. So I’m taking my own advice. I started a blog. I volunteer as a data ninja with People for Puget Sound (environmental non-profit) and I’m applying for internships to gain hands-on experience. I’m also in brainstorming ideas for my business plan. Wish me luck!

Hope this post helpedĀ  and inspired those recent college and unemployed graduates out there.

What’s your story? How did you land your first job? Any other advice for recent college grads to gain experience? Comments and discussion are always welcome!

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