The holiday season is a wonderful and magical time. It’s a time for making lasting memories, and a wonderful time for spending time with loved ones. Can it be a magical time for landing your first real job? Yes!  From personal experience, I am most grateful for my new job during this holiday season at Catapult PR in Boulder, one of the top B2B high-tech PR agencies.

Some of you may have been wondering why PR was in parenthesis in the title of this blog. Here goes: simply put, I wasn’t actively searching for a job in the PR industry. I wanted a job that focused on digital marketing exclusively, but didn’t realize just how interconnected the PR world and what I wanted to do ultimately were.

The road to employment was a long and arduous one. Oftentimes with more downs than ups. Staying focused when the chips seemed to be the lowest was absolutely key during the job hunt.

Taking from my experience, I’ve put together a helpful list for those on the first-time job hunt. I hope these four tips can help you land that elusive job this holiday season!

1) Don’t Limit Your Scope

One thing I heard pretty frequently during my job search was that oftentimes people end up getting a job in a field that had little to do with their major.

When I first interviewed with Catapult I was really unsure of what I was getting myself into. I understood the broad function of PR and marketing services provided, but was uncertain about what role my skills would ultimately play at the company. I was worried that having my mind set on getting a job focused exclusively on digital marketing might limit the value my educational capabilities could bring. What I found, however, was that a job I was not necessarily looking for turned out to be an excellent fit. Having a background in marketing gave me a unique perspective on just how vital PR is to the success of a company.

Many of the strategies and principles that my marketing professors taught me relate directly to the practices I now use with Catapult in a PR capacity. The ability to strategically think about what kind of content should be created, and where it will be engaged with most effectively is a distinct crossover between what I learned and what I now do at Catapult.

In addition, I now realize that all forms of marketing are converging, and my digital marketing skills and knowledge are very applicable within the PR construct. The ability to efficiently navigate and operate numerous social media platforms, and amplify relevant content is key. The best practices for posting and creating engagement on each of those platforms was another key skill that I now utilize. As I delve deeper into the PR world I expect this will be just a fraction of the crossover between my major and the PR world.

While narrowing my sites on a job centered on digital marketing, I may have missed out on a wonderful company like Catapult and lost the opportunity to actually use the skills I gained with my degree.

Tip: Don’t limit yourself on the possibility of landing a job outside of your major. You may not realize how much it may actually relate to what you studied.

2) Leverage the Experience You DO Have

The age-old ingredient that almost everyone I know has followed to land their first job is to have as much relevant experience in the desired field of work. This recipe has obviously stood the test of time, and will likely continue to hold up.

However, as times begin to change and jobs become scarce, this ingredient may not always produce the results that you ultimately desire. For instance, during the course of my job-hunting journey, I applied solely to jobs that related directly to my major.

I was applying to jobs with titles such as: marketing coordinator, digital marketing analyst, digital marketer, etc. Although I could have had more relevant experience (couldn’t everyone applying for their first job?) with more internships, I felt that my resume and experience could stand up to the duties and responsibilities that were required of someone with one of the aforementioned jobs.

Yet, as weeks turned months, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to land a job that would utilize even just a few of the skills that I had learned in college. During most of this process, I was working at a restaurant near my house to stay busy and save up some money.

What I began to learn, while simultaneously applying for jobs and working at this restaurant, was that experience is a very broad term. Sure, you probably won’t become a brain surgeon by playing basketball for 10 years, but working as part of a team and understanding the role you play toward a greater purpose is invaluable experience. The experience you gain in almost any job you work can be utilized in some form or another to a future job.

Tip: Finding real-world and relevant connections to the experience you DO have can go a long way in leveraging what benefits you can provide a potential employer.  

3) Maintain and Establish Contacts

Another age-old ingredient tossed around a lot to the unemployed college graduate is that, “it’s all about who you know, not what you know.”

This ingredient is undeniably true but often leaves many wondering what they have been studying and working for if it ultimately doesn’t matter when applying for jobs. As someone who can attest to this feeling, I must say that the connections made with fellow classmates and teachers along the way create the base for a vast network of professionals and future professionals.

I had professors reaching out to me after graduation to help edit my resume and aid in my job hunt. Even some of my previous classmates were on the lookout for openings within their own companies and within their industries.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an even more sophisticated community to get that child a job. In the end, I received word from a family friend that he had a potential job opening at a company with a fit similar to what I was looking for in a job. It ended up working out extremely well!

Tip: It is critical not to burn bridges along your journey to employment. You never know when you may need that person’s help or guidance when you’re looking for a job.

4) Finding a Job Is Your Job

The last ingredient in the recipe for landing your first job is about your process and routine. When you are actively searching for a job, you’re given a lot of advice, solicited or not, and it can be overwhelming. People tell you a million different things in a million different ways.

But, there may be some great advice hidden beneath the clutter of suggestion. The hidden wisdom I found at the bottom of my cluster was, “finding a job is your job.” This piece of advice resonated with me because while at times you feel a little lost or unsure, this is the time to create a system of accountability; to ensure that I was doing everything I could to put myself in the right position to land a job.

Waking up early in the morning, going to a place of work like a coffee shop or a library and having a list of items to accomplish, kept me in check and on track during this entire process.

In addition to establishing accountability for myself, this process made the transition into actually having a job and more responsibility exceptionally easier.

Tip: Creating a routine and establishing personal accountability will not only help you land a job, but will keep you motivated and ready to face any challenge a new job may present.

The recipe for landing your first job involves a variety of ingredients that will likely be different for every individual. For me, not limiting my scope and being able to leverage the experience I DID have at the time made me confident in my abilities to fulfill the duties of any job I applied for. Maintaining and establishing contacts let me know that there was always someone willing and able to help me along the way towards employment. Finally, holding myself accountable and establishing a way to prove that I could accomplish goals and projects on a daily basis kept me sharp and ready to tackle the challenges that would accompany a new job.

Most importantly though, it’s absolutely essential to keep a positive and open-minded approach. I might not have landed this job if I was down-trodden and negative. In the end, sometimes you can have all the right experience and work ethic and not land a certain job. But then again, the next job you apply for could just happen to be the right job opening, at the right company, at the right time, to land your first job.

I hope these ingredients create the recipe that helps you land that “first job” that leverages what you learned in college and expands your horizons as you embark on your career path.

Happy Holidays!

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