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When you’re a student approaching graduation or recently graduated, the thought of what happens next can be like looking at the sun.

It’s painful, and you question whether you’re actually hireable post-grad. But whether you look at it or not, the work world is still there calling your name.

Job searching is nobody’s favourite task, and The Permission Paradox is a real phenomenon—you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. But there are ways around it. With a little clever maneuvering and some elbow grease, you can have a leg up among your fellow graduates and be one of the first hired.

Charina Cruz is a Career Coach at RED Academy. She’s headhunted people from all around the world, advised entrepreneurs and companies on the growth of their business, and even won awards for her career coaching. We get the low down on what it takes to become hireable post-grad. Charina shares insider tips to help you bridge that daunting gap between school and work.

 

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1. Volunteer

One of the biggest Catch 22s of trying to find work after graduation is the fact most jobs want someone with experience. But how to get the experience if no one will take a chance on you?

One answer: volunteer with a charity or non-profit. “There are numerous organizations that would appreciate someone to offer help in the field that you need experience in,” Charina says. “It’s amazing how many opportunities are available and how many doors open through volunteering.”  Offer to run their social media sites, manage their website or work at their events. Whatever your field of expertise, chances are there’s a non-profit that would be happy to use your services.

It’s a win-win-win situation. You help an organization in need. You get awesome-looking experience on your resume. And you boost your happiness levels just by doing good for others.

 

2. Start your own project

Even if you’re flipping burgers by day, you can be building up your resume by night with a project of your own.

If it’s web development you want to get into, start by trying to build your own site in your own time. Or start a blog, vlog or podcast that keeps you steeped in your field of interest and forces you to stay on your toes.

The benefit is a double-whammy, Charina says. “Passion projects give employers an idea of how valuable you are as a potential hire,” she counsels. “It’s also a great way to use and teach yourself new skills and showcase your level of interest in your chosen field.”

 

3. Be Social

There’s a reason Social Media Manager is an actual job. Keeping up on social media can be a lot of work. But, Charina says, getting on top of your social media is worth it.

“Your online presence can often be the difference between calling you for an interview or skipping your application,” she points out. “Building a strong personal and professional brand can help you not only in the beginning of but throughout your whole career.”

Start using it to engage in your field of interest. Share posts and other media to show that you’re occupied by your field, even if it’s not your occupation just yet.

Your online presence can also be the reason your application is tossed out when you were otherwise looking like a good candidate. So even if social media isn’t your thing, make sure your profiles are up to date—especially LinkedIn. Sift through photos of you and make sure potential employers won’t see anything off-putting.

 

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4. Network

Networking can sound like a cliche buzzword. But if you reframe it as making friendly connections and building community, it’s easy to see where the opportunities come from. “Nothing beats the value of making powerful connections, and the best way to do that is face to face,” Cherina says positively. “Once someone meets you and understands what you have to offer, all it takes is a trusted recommendation to HR or the Hiring Manager for an interview to be scheduled.”

So how to make these connections? Well first off, that’s what meetups are for. “There are hundreds of meetups in every city,” Charina says. “It’s a great place to learn new skills and also make those valuable connections.” Do some Google searching, or use Facebook events to find meetups in your area.

Another way to build your community? Foster the connections you already have. Take an acquaintance out for coffee and mention the field you’re looking to work in. Start a club that brings together people in similar fields. By building up your network and talking about your specialty, you can become the go-to person in their minds when that field comes up.

 

5. Freelance

As you’re building that network, keep your mind open to freelance work. “Even if full time employment is your goal, gig work is a fantastic stepping stone,” Charina advises. “This is one of the best ways to build your skills, portfolio and gain relevant experience. It also becomes your shining example of how you can get the job done when asked during an interview.”

In the beginning, freelancing could mean lending your services to a friend for a nominal fee. Or you could join a service like Upwork to get the freelance work flowing.

The goal is to keep your gears well-oiled, even if it means sacrificing your free time for it. Hey, getting a full time job in your field of work so you can quit flipping burgers is worth it, right?

 

6. Take on an internship

Another way to keep the momentum and build the list of experience on your resume is to nab an internship.

It doesn’t matter how old you are—an internship is a great chance to learn how you function in the workplace, discover what strengths stand out amongst team members, and speed your growth. Plus, it builds your network in a big way.

And although you shouldn’t go into an internship expecting employment to come out of it, it does happen. “If you show the company just how invaluable your work is and how well you fit in, you’re an easy hire,” Charina explains. “Essentially, you’ve already passed the orientation and probationary phase and it becomes just a matter of shifting you into a Full-time Permanent role.”

So if it comes down to choosing between a full time retail job and interning at a company in your field of interest for nominal pay, keep in mind the magical powers of an internship.

 

7. Get creative in your application

So you don’t have the full list of required skills to apply for a role. But perhaps your drive, soft skills, or passion for the company make up for that. Make sure your application is seen so you can land an interview and demonstrate your unique fit. So, how to stand out if not through your breathtaking skills and experience?

“Try sending a video, writing a blog post, building a web page or sending an html email with your application,” Charina says. “Take the time and tailor your application to the job, adding your own flair. Show them what you’re capable of and make them curious about you.”

 

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8. Search out start-ups

You’re more than just your job title—and nobody knows that better than a startup company. “There are so many tech startups popping up all over that need ‘all hands on deck’,” Charina elaborates. “A lot of these companies are looking for attitude and drive rather than just ‘tech skills’.”

So if you’re willing to run the social media while also doing website maintenance, make sure you make that clear when reaching out to startups. Leverage all your skills. And don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting in person, or a tour when scoping out some of these companies—even if they haven’t posted any job openings in your field.

“You never know when your specific array of skills will fill some holes in their team,” Charina says. “New roles are created in startups all the time.”

 

9. Keep Learning

“Success is about always learning and growing. The power of learning is huge,” Charina encourages. “Teach yourself—or better yet, seek out schooling that offers real learning and real projects to work on.”

Not only will it build up your skills, but it can also grow your network. And it’s a great way to diversify what you have to offer.

Full-time courses have the best value. It immerses you for the fastest growth, and demands your full attention. But if you don’t have the time or money for full-time, a part-time course may still do the trick. To get the full value for part-time, though, you’ll need to put the work in—and ideally have some transferable skills. 

Bridging the gap between post-secondary and the work world can be a scary leap. But by applying these tricks, you just might find the ball begins rolling more easily than you thought.

 

How we can help

Find out how we can help you make the leap from an unhireable post-grad to working in a new exciting field. Talk to one of our career advisors today.

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