Graduation always feels right around the corner, and the scramble to find an amazing job opportunity with that newly earned degree comes at you fast. You’ve spent hours perfecting your resume, editing your cover letters and checking your email for interview offer—but how do you choose which job to actually accept? Dreams of your perfect job have been building in your head with every study session and hard exam you’ve taken during your undergraduate career—you couldn’t possibly settle for anything less than that, right?
Be realistic and assess your dream job
Now there’s nothing wrong with having high goals and expectations for your first job post-grad, but it’s important to remember to be realistic. According to the Director of External Relations at Hofstra University, Darlene Johnson, a typical job search lasts six to 12 months, and finding your ultimate dream job during that period might be tough in a competitive market and a general lack of experience in your desired field. The key to finding the right job is assessing the overall view of your dream job and being willing to make adjustments as needed.
“While you might have an idea of the ‘perfect job,’ be open to other possibilities,” Johnson explains. “Your first job is a time to learn as much as possible and that first job may teach you what you need to pursue other opportunities.”
Search for your right-now dream job, not your long-term one
I know what you’re thinking. It can’t be your dream job if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. But that’s not exactly true. Instead of looking for your long-term dream job right after college, sometimes it’s better to look for your after-graduation dream job instead. Who knew there could be so many different types of dream jobs?
“A dream job is many different things to many different people,” Johnson says. “For some, earning a certain salary can make a job a dream job, for others it’s the opportunity to help people in the community. The key is knowing what makes a job a dream job for you. Take stock of your own values and what would make you happy to go to work each day.”
Experiment with internships to find what you love
Despite a lack of experience, there is one big benefit to being a new college grad: you have unlimited options for where your career can take you. Being able to experiment with different internships while in college can set you up for success when trying to narrow down your potential job opportunities. In fact, Andrew Hindes, president of The In-House Writer, a Los Angeles-based training and marketing copywriting company, believes internships play a huge role in landing a great job after college.
“First of all, they give students a chance to try out different occupations, industries and companies,” Hindes says. “They also give them a big leg up in the job search once they graduate, because they not only have some experience, but if they apply to a company where they have interned—assuming all went well—it puts them ahead of other people applying because they are a known commodity.”
While internships are a great way to start making connections outside of those that are strictly college-affiliated, they also allow you to tiptoe into a real-world setting within your desired industry. They allow you to see first-hand what your future career could be – which can help you either eliminate certain areas from your job hunt or narrow down desirable aspects of certain jobs. Having multiple internships before going on a big post-grad job hunt can ultimately lead to knowing exactly what you want in your career, making it even easier to find a job you love – maybe even your dream job.
“The more you know about yourself and the jobs available to you, the greater chance that you will find yourself in a dream job,” Johnson says.
Find a job with potential promotions
Despite never wanting to feel like we’re settling for a job that isn’t quite the so-called “perfect” one, sometimes it seems like the only option. Maybe your perfect dream job isn’t out there yet, or maybe you just aren’t quite qualified for it yet – but that’s okay. There’s plenty of time to start at a lower position and work your way up the ladder. Instead of looking at it like accepting a job that is less prestigious than you’d like, think of it as a stepping-stone to achieving that dream job in the future.
“While I would not suggest that a student settle, I would always suggest that a student keep an open mind and look at all aspects of a position,” Johnson says. “The position offered may not be considered a dream job, but it may give the recent graduate the opportunity to learn and grow within her field, thus making landing that dream job within reach after on.”
Never doubt yourself and what you can achieve
However, sometimes the matter isn’t even about aiming too high in regards to which jobs we think we are willing to apply for – it’s actually the opposite. Many graduating women are too afraid of rejection, so they never even send in their applications, which is a problem CEO and Founder of The Brand Girls Rachael Bozsik deals with often. Her company works on making college clients view their professional selves in a different light by transforming the way they think about themselves and their professional potential.
“Many college women feel as if their dream job is out of reach,” Bozsik says. “Whether it is working as a neurosurgeon or working at Vogue, and will only apply to a position when they feel they are 100 percent qualified.” She believes this can be an applicant’s first mistake caused by a lack of professional confidence. “In order to land your dream job, you must truly know who you are and why you are a valuable asset to a company over the thousands of other applicants,” she explains.
Evaluating yourself and your personal goals is extremely important during the hunt for your dream job, and so is the evaluation of your future job. Sometimes the definition of your dream job needs to be adjusted to fit what you’re needing right now, not what you need/want long-term.
“You need to also think about the full picture: an awesome job that challenges you and excites you, wonderful, smart colleagues and a boss who has your back, working for a company that values and recognizes – and also rewards – its hard-working, diligent employees – these are all equally important factors,” Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster says.
Be willing to work for it
Your first job out of college doesn’t have to be your forever job, but it shouldn’t be a complete waste of your time either. Salemi believes everyone deserves to work at whatever their dream job should be, as long as they are willing to put in the work for it.
“Be relentless in the pursuit but don’t pass up opportunities for the really great jobs that are out there, especially when you’re just starting out,” Salemi advises. “It took me years to land in my dream job – my current role of empowering people and sharing my insights from my recruiting days – so if you don’t find it in your twenties, keep pursuing rewarding, challenging, fun work along the way. And take it from me, you’re going to be okay.”
You should never feel like you need to give up on your dream job, especially if you’re a motivated college student. Instead of setting your sights on one particular position, try making a list of the general aspects you want your new job to have. For example, if you want a company with great values, search for companies that put those shared values first. As long as you keep your options open, you’ll be working at your dream job as your first post-grad job in no time.