How to Find a Job After College

March 8, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

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Background: I got an email from a friend/reader recently who is graduating college in a few months asking about careers. In the email this person was trying to find a meaningful job after college andย in his future job, not just do something that will give him a paycheck and some benefits.

Problem: He had a previous internship at a company that was fine but not very fulfilling. He is trying to weigh his options about what to do next and if he should try to do his own thing.

Question for You: What was your first job out of school and how different is that from what you are doing today? (I wrote about my first day on the job at Facebook here.)

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33 responses to “How to Find a Job After College

  1. Damon Billian Reply

    I think they should just figure out what career path appeals to them & focus their efforts on that. I also think working for a startup leads to valuable experience, including what makes entrepeneurs tick.

  2. Noah Kagan Reply

    I agree 100% Damon. I have gotten a million times more valuable learning experience in a startup then working in a big company. You hear a lot of young people say I will go work for Big Company X, learn a lot and then go do my own thing. I personally haven’t gotten too many skills from those places that are applicable elsewhere.

  3. Duane Reply

    Right out of college I worked for a medical device company. I got that job because while working at a retail computer software shop the boss had come in saying “Do you know where I’d hire someone to write some software?” and it was me that he’d asked. In other words I didn’t have to go find it or anything, I just basically took what fell in my lap.

    Current (15 years later) I work for a dotcom that focuses on education, specifically on helping to manage the process of kids applying to college. I left my old company specifically to come here because I like the model and really do think it’s a change the world sort of place.

    Advice : Get the wild and crazy stuff out of the way when you’re young. If you have a choice between passion and money now, take passion. I’m married with 3 kids and a hefty mortgage now and I watch exciting opportunities pass me by regularly because of the paycheck I have to bring in to make ends meet.

    Advice #2: If you do find yourself with more money than you know what to do with early on, invest it wisely and conservatively rather than simply bumping up your lifestyle. That way, 15 years later when you do want to take an exciting change the world job that means a decrease in pay, it won’t be out of the question because you’ll have something your savings to fall back on.


  4. udandi Reply

    out of college, I took a job I thought I would like but I was wrong, then I tried another, wrongo-dongo again and did this a few more times all the while shunning settling down until I was more sure of who I am and where I am going. I ended up making a detour into grad school for a new career – so far so good!

    No one but you can tell you what you’re going to like, where you should end up or how to get there, so pay attention to yourself and don’t get bogged down by the naysayers ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. DK Reply

    “Whether you are Jack Welch or the Dalai Lama, it is dangerous not to do what you love. If you don’t have a level of passion that drives your thinking about what you’re doing day in and day out, there will be others out there who are passionate who will overtake and outrun you. People who care will take the initiative away from those who are half-hearted. So loving what you do is a competitive imperative, not simply a nice thing to have.”

    Knowledge @ Wharton interviews Mark Thompson and Stewart Emery, co-authors along with Jerry Porras of Success Built to Last

  6. Wendy Reply

    a) I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do by my last year of college. I had a ton of classes doing UI/Usability projects, so I realized that I loved doing this day and night. Not everyone is this lucky, but I do suggest taking a look at your classes and think about which ones were most stimulating to you and if that’s applicable towards a specific job function you may be interested in.

    b) My first job out of school was as a User Interface Designer at an internet video start-up, so I did a lot more than just UI design – web (design & coding), print, marketing. Again, I was lucky. I realized that I work better when I wear multiple hats – it keeps my creative juices fresh since I have to think about different mediums. Advice: go for a job/company where the position isn’t dead set on ONE job function if you are unsure. Flexibly is nice and encourages people to dabble in every arena.

    c) I have been job hunting for the past 3 months and have found that I have commitment issues. I don’t want to go full time with a company if I haven’t tested the waters first (would you commit to a relationship after a first date? No. That’s my rationale here). Ask the company if you can do a 1 month contract-to-hire with them so you can both see if it’s a fit.

    I’m not sure what area you’re going into, but my advice works particularly well with the tech / start-up world. Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚ Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement speech is a good read when I’m feeling lost.

  7. Will Kern Reply

    @DK – right on, you need to do what you are passionate about. For me, that took a little bit of time, but it is never too late. I agree that doing something a little more risky right out of college is the right approach. You are at a crossroad in your life where you are pretty much free to do what you want, are not tied down to a lot of responsibilities, and for the most part only have to worry about taking care of yourself. This is the time to be risky, not when you are 15 years into your career, married with children, and have a huge mortgage to look after. That is when the security of a bigger company looks attractive (Oh did I just say security at a big company, my bad!).
    If you can take what you love to do and parlay that into a career, that is what you should be doing!

    Oh, and right out of college, I was a courier for Fedex. Can you say beep, beep, heres your package!


  8. SusanJones (SixGunSusie) Reply

    Pick whatever you want to do, any job, and I mean any, take your skill sets, be creative, taylor them to ‘fit’ then go and apply. You will get the job, trust me.
    Will you be out of your scope of experience? Yes.
    Will you be flying by the seat of your pants? Yes.
    Will you be getting by, only by the skin of your teeth? Yes.
    Will you make goo-goo bucks? Yes.
    Might you get fired? Yes.
    Will you have fun? Yes.
    Will you learn? Yes.

    How do I know? Been there done that.
    Would I do it again? Don’t need to, I’ve tons of experience under my belt now. But I might BS my way into lets say…the head of the UN or sumsuch, I haven’t done that job yet.

  9. Dennis Reply

    I’m pretty much in the same boat.

    I have a good job lined up after graduation with a good salary and awesome benefits.

    But I have a genuine interest in start-up companies… especially internet start-ups.

    I plan on learning some important skills in this new job and hopefully find an opportunity to join a start-up in the future.

  10. Shivani Reply

    I think if you definitely don’t think the company is good for you, try something else.

    But unlike everybody so far, I’m going to say that a big company isn’t necessarily the wrong way to go. I’m at a VERY large company, and have been for a little bit, i came here right out of college, and although I do agree you don’t get the same crazy intense learning experience that you would from a startup, you do get a different set of skills.

    One day, god willing, your startup is going to be huge and you need to know how to manage it, you need to know how to stick to one job function, and you need to know how to help foster it’s growth. you don’t get that at a startup…i’m not saying you can’t learn it as you go, but if you have a chance to learn it in a year or two at a big company, it’s probably not a bad option.

    Also, a job is seriously what you make of it. Some people can go to a big company and just become a cog in whatever machine has been working that way for ages, and others will join a big company and be the person that makes a difference. that’s just up to the person.

    One other thing, jobs at large companies aren’t usually all that time intensive, so it’s not like you can’t have other side hobbies.

    Like everybody else has been saying, it’s a personal decision and has a lot to do with your goals in life, i just thought i would throw in an opposing opinion.

  11. Gabe Reply

    My first job after college was as a freelance editor, everything from doctoral dissertations to a book on the semiconductor industry. I found out that there wasn’t much room for advancement in that job, on its own, and that I didn’t much enjoy making cosmetic changes to other people’s projects. However, I also learned that relationships were my biggest asset in moving from a position where I was underutilized to one where I was challenged and had room to grow. Now I’m a headhunter fo early-stage technology startups, and do a bit of grant writing for clean energy projects in my spare time. It’s been fun, rewarding, and most importantlt educational.

  12. Alaska Miller Reply

    I went to college for a semester and have yet to go back but I think whatever first job you have is going to suck. Period. Entry level always suck. Why fret it? A career isn’t made in a single cubicle or a single office or at a single company. A career is forged from a variety of things.

  13. Alaska Miller Reply

    I guess I should put in a point to my comment.

    My point is: get a job with the most cash possible and just buckwild with it. The transition from having no stress to a daily 9-5 or more grind is going to be hellish and money is definitely going to help you through all that.

    After a few years of that reassess what’s going on and ask this question, albeit in a different form, again.

  14. Jason Reply

    Wait.. we were supposed to get jobs AFTER college. We weren’t suppose to start companies and bootstrap startups in college? Oops, looks like I scewed up ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Stephen Pitts Reply

    This is very interesting, I am about to graduate and am looking at the market for opportunities. I am not in my twenties anymore, but I am looking for what is available. I have a lot of experience in the world, even have a decent (by this, I mean that it pays the bills and I enjoy it sometimes) job.

    I went into the military after high school, then I stopped school to open a business, couple of years later, my twenties were over.

    Any tips for someone with a lot of experience and just getting a degree at 31?

  16. Eduardo Marisca Reply

    I agree with most people here, definitely focus on something that makes you passionate. Figuring out what that is, though, might be harder than it should be.

    I would certainly recommend working at a startup over a big company, just because you’ll be doing so many more things at once it’s like trying everything at a buffet. A cousin of mine, law student, actually ditched a high-profile law firm to work with a one-man startup doing everything. Less pay, more hours, no benefits. His reason? He actually got to do and learn EVERYTHING, not the one little area he would’ve had to devote himself to otherwise.

    Another thing you shouldn’t overlook is networking. Remember it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Make you sure you keep in touch with everyone from your school if you were to ever need to contact them for anything later on. Secondly, working at a startup doing more than what you’re probably being paid for, will most likely put you in touch with people from all walks of life, and quite probably like-minded people who you can work with in the future.

    Bottom line: broad, flexible skillset, and wide, diverse social network. Get those too and starting your own gig should be much, much easier.

    Good luck.

  17. veronica Reply

    well, when i graduated last year, i spammmed out my resume to every available position i found that i thought was even remotely interesting. then, i chose a position that i thought was the most interesting and where i felt i could gain the most experience, disregarding the slightly lower pay than the financial analyst positions.

    ***based on the interviews for the financial analyst positions, i’ve come to the conclusion that most ALL financial analysts are terribly dull…hopefully there aren’t any reading this ๐Ÿ˜›

    …ended up at an online ad agency…and now in seo. this job veers a bit closer to something i could devote a part of my life to. though, i feel you’d have to have at least 5 to 6 jobs to actually know how you can narrow down what type of industry and position you’d want.

    good luck!

  18. engtech Reply

    Do as many crazy and risky things as you can before you have a wife/kids/house. While you might be ok with living off of corn flakes for few months and couch surfing if a venture goes back, good luck trying to bring a family through it.

    You have the rest of your life to play things safe.

    That being said, one of the biggest advantages to not starting out on your own is mentorship. It’s very easy to work yourself silly but not get very far — but the sad truth is that most “safe” career pursuits are severely limited when it comes to mentor prospects.

  19. sri Reply

    Honestly, what u do after graduation is based on luck. Right place at the right time. There is no 1 right way. It is like saying, when i meet a girl, what should I do?

    Some people tell jokes, some people whisper sweet nothings in their ears, some will tell them that they are on a secret mission to Russia and tonight is their last night in the US…..

    My first job out of college was a sales guy selling fax and copier machines. I did not sell shit for 2 months and quit the day i was told to get out by someone (i was going from business to business). My salary was $19,000. For this kinda salary, I was told to wear a suit everyday and drive around 100 miles everyday. Do i regret it? NO. It was a freaking awesome experience. Taught me all about how people are. When you mean jack shit to them, they will treat u like shit. Gave me the desire to go back to grad school and get a better degree. This world is full of shit heads. Trust very few people. As Noah once said about me, I am one angry reader because people DO NOT WALK THE TALK.

  20. Thomas Holmes Reply

    I think in this day and age we have so much opportunity – we can do whatever we want – we just need to put our imagination to play on what exactly that is.

    To find what it is, look to what totally absorbs you, what feels like you’re really flowing. Perhaps thats only something small now but could over time by encouraged into something substantial. a trickle to a stream to a river.

    Perhaps it doesn’t fit into a typical ‘career path’. Define your own path.

    That’s what i’m trying to do with my art.

  21. Paul Reply

    I thought I was going to get a job at Accenture after college and after feeling super-confident about my final rounds, I thought I had it in the bag. I ended up getting rejected and was scrambling to find ANYTHING so that I didn’t graduate without having an offer in the bag.

    I ended up “settling” for a small online retailer in San Francisco called Drivespeed Designs (now and what originally was going to be a 3 month summer internship, ended up being a 2 year career that eventually led me to becoming a Product Manager and spearheading the opening of our Bangalore, India operations.

    So, just because you don’t get the ideal job out of college, it is really up to you to blaze your own path because what may seem like a bad situation may actually be a blessing in disguise.

    And many thanks to Accenture as being rejected by them was the best thing to happen to me.

  22. Jason H. Reply

    “I think in this day and age we have so much opportunity – we can do whatever we want – we just need to put our imagination to play on what exactly that is.”

    Right on, Thomas ๐Ÿ™‚

    here is another one of my favorite quotes:

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircled the world.” ~ Alber Einstein.

  23. Thomas Holmes Reply

    That’s a great one Jason!

    There is often a tendency to believe just what is known but just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    so that means there is a whole lot of things beyond our knowledge and the way to access them is through openness, curiosity, exploration, imagination…

    besides it makes the world a whole lot more exciting!

  24. ashley Reply

    I’m fixing to graduate in Enterprise Management which is owning and running a small business and is made up of a bunch of random classes stuck together. I’ve decided after an internship that business bores me to tears. I’m considering going to grad school in interior design because I like to decorate. Bottom line. Anyone think this is just ridiculous? I’m scared I’ll get there and hate it. Oh the growing pains.