Entry Level Grad Insight: Tips for Before and After Graduation

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When someone enters college, they often think a degree assures a job and career path upon graduation. For many, that is not the case. Some students are confused about what steps need to be taken in college and after graduation to find the right role. This is why we’ve listed out steps to stand out and talked with recent grads and job search experts about how to set yourself apart in the job market.

Before graduation


First things first, review your resume. When applying for internships and jobs, employers don’t need to see every part of your high school or college experience. List experience, volunteer work and skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Make sure that your resume stands out by using power verbs, such as on Indeed. Power verbs will make you stand out compared to applicants who are using the terms “leadership” or “management” instead of power verbs such as “empowered,” “augmented” or “cultivated.” Companies often have automated systems that filter out resumes before you qualify for an interview, so make sure you use power verbs as well as specific verbiage from the job description. Avoid jargon that may not be applicable.

Not only do you need power verbs, but your resume requires a clear, readable format. After you’ve created your resume, ask yourself: Where do my eyes go first? Your resume should have a clear flow, from the top with your name, to your skills, experience, volunteer work and more. Bold, underline and italicize words, and use bullet points to break up the text, allowing the reader to better process the information. Keep your resume to one page and test out different formats to utilize the entire space.

More resume questions? Our recent blog can help you out.


Many students don’t know that the job search process starts months before getting a job. First, getting an internship the summer before your senior year of college is extremely helpful when building your resume. Not only that, but you gain useful real-life experience in a job field. According to The Conversation, “Students who have done an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed in the first years after college and earn 6% more than students who did not.” Additionally, about 70% of employers offer their interns full-time jobs. Internships are a great opportunity to create meaningful connections with people who have experience in various industries.

If you have missed the pre-graduation internship phase, getting an internship after college is still beneficial. According to Chegg, 31% of internships begin after graduation. Recent grad and Associate Creative/Digital Recruiter, Mandy Hay states, “Internships can be a great first step to figuring out what you want to do. They’re less of a commitment, so if you figure out after completing an internship that you don’t want to do that thing, you can move on and try something different. On the other hand, if you complete an internship and find that it’s something you really enjoyed, there are often lots of opportunities that can grow out of it.”

Horizontal Sales Director, Nick Bata, talked about what helped him stand out on Horizontal’s podcast, the 10-Minute Talent Show. In part 2 of his podcast, “The Job Market Outlook for Q3 and Q4,” Bata said, “An internship helps a lot. I marketed myself heavily to get an internship on Wall Street with Merrill Lynch in Manhattan by being pushy and persistent.”


Once you are confident about your resume and nearing graduation, it is time to start your job search. Horizontal’s Director of Talent, Emily Rickson, dives into the job search timeline. Rickson states, “Start your job search 3-4 months before graduation. Get all your job offers and weigh your options. You should be lined up with a job a month or two before graduating.” You can start your job search on platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed, or you can reach out to staffing firms such as Horizontal. By working with an experienced recruiter, you will have personal help with interviewing, updating your resume and finding a job that truly aligns with what you are searching for.

What if I don’t know what I want to do?

Some majors, like business management, can be applicable in numerous industries. The first thing to note is that your first job after college doesn’t have to be your forever job. According to Zippia.com, on average, men hold 12.5 jobs in their lifetime, and women hold an average of 12.1 jobs during their lifetime.

This doesn’t mean to jump from job to job. Longevity does help you gain better experience and makes you look reliable when applying for other jobs. Bata touches on this in his podcast episode when he says, “It used to be perceived as people were job hoppers. That’s out the window right now but at some point, that will change. The market dynamics will change, unemployment will be higher and employers will question if a person has loyalty or if they’re thinking the grass is always greener. Moving around is okay, but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. The grass isn’t always greener.”

In the long run, your first job post-graduation is a great opportunity to learn what you like and don’t like. Associate Functional Recruiter, Casey Machajewski, says “Figure out what fulfills you, and use that to guide you. Don’t be so narrow-minded on the job you want because fulfillment can come in many different forms.”

I’ve done all of the steps above. Why am I still falling short in this booming market?

If you’re still struggling to find a job, Machajewski adds, “Don’t be afraid to try something new, whether that be your approach to find your desired job or maybe even a similar job to create more opportunities for yourself.”

When answering this, Bata explains that, “Networking and using LinkedIn is a great tool. Connect with alumni, set up informational interviews and offer to work for free to get a foot in the door. Showing initiative and gumption can go a long way!”

Hay echoed Bata’s response when saying, “One of the things I learned early on in college was that connections are everything! Go to job fairs, connect with alumni from your college on LinkedIn and start conversations with people that you look up to or who are doing what you want to be doing. Building those connections and building your online presence and brand will get you noticed and hopefully lead to great opportunities.”

Adding value

While it is important to be employed, don’t settle. Know your worth and be sure that you are truly happy accepting a job. Committing 40 hours a week to a job is a big deal! Make sure you know what your non-negotiables are. For Hay and Machajewski, their non-negotiables revolved around company culture.

Hay stated, “I focused a lot on company culture during the job search. To me, company culture comes down to the people and the values. I want to feel comfortable being myself at work and being surrounded by genuine and like-minded people. I also want to feel like the work I’m doing is fulfilling in some way, and that the company’s values align with my own beliefs.”

Machajewski said, “I needed a job that served others but also could serve me in the process. A culture that cares about more than just the company’s success.”

No matter what, transitioning from college to a full-time job is a commitment. Make sure that you take time for yourself and keep up with some of the hobbies that you enjoy. Hay recommends to “figure out a routine that allows you to prioritize your health and your relationships. Diving headfirst into a new job because you want to impress your boss but neglecting your own needs is not the way to go. Carve out some time for yourself, your friends and your family within your busy new schedule.”

For Machajewski, it’s about relationships. “Find friends within in your office/job or in the same situations (new to careers). Make sure to create that work life balance and surround yourself with people who bring the best out in you.”

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