General Education

Make the Most Out of Your First Autumn After College

Make the Most Out of Your First Autumn After College
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Molly Pennington, PhD profile
Molly Pennington, PhD October 7, 2014

It can be tough to figure out what to do when all of your friends go back to school after the summer. Find out what you can do to make your post-graduate year better.

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Your graduation cap might start to collect dust before you find your first job as a newly-minted college graduate.

Some of your friends might still be in school while others may have had a job lined up before commencement. You're stuck twiddling your thumbs during the first autumn (since kindergarten) that you're not a student. Don't panic. You will find work. This is a stressful time, but it's also the beginning of your career. The best policy is to take action. That doesn't mean just polishing your resume and sending it out to a few companies with posted ads.

It means making your search for employment your full-time job until you have a real one. Here are four action steps you can take to insure you find the right position as a post-grad.

Use social media to your advantage

Make sure your online footprint is pristine and professional. Clean up your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, and Google yourself to see what potential employers will encounter if they see your social media profiles. You want your social media presence to highlight your accomplishments and professional aspirations. Create your own website, or use Google+ to create an online portfolio. You can post your resume and link to any worthy feats or achievements.

Many students have projects they created as undergraduates that are appropriate to use in a portfolio. Don't post a test copy with an “A" on the top, but if you created a project or poster or something original that shows off your skills, show it off to potential employers.

You can also post writing samples if you have papers that are particularly well-written or show sophisticated arguments or research. When I was a professor, many of my students created online portfolios, websites, and presentations for final projects that exhibited critical thinking, design, and other skills that highlighted their talents. Create an online repository somewhere, even if it's your Facebook, that features the skills and capabilities you have that relate to your desired industry.

Network like mad

Join professional groups and communities. Make use of social media, acquaintances, former professors, your Greek life buddies, your parents' friends, and anyone else who might have an "in."

Don't keep your job hunt a secret. Let everyone know you're looking and able. You never know who can put you in the right place at the right time.

When one of my former students wrote me out of the blue about his lackluster job search, I remembered that the guy across the street worked in my student's chosen profession. I didn't know my neighbor well, though our sons played together. Still, I asked him if there was anything open at his company. "Not specifically," he said, but he was happy to have my student interview anyway.

When I was looking for my first writing gigs, my dad forwarded my resume to a bunch of his colleagues. At first, I was mortified. Then, I got a call from a magazine (my dad's colleague forwarded my info to an editor he knew there) that needed a writer with my exact expertise — a connection I never would have made on my own.

People like to help. You might as well be one of the ones who gets the help.

Don't just polish your resume, create multiple versions that sparkle

This is not the age of "classic" resumes or even conventional ones. Most serious job seekers tailor their resume and their cover letters for each individual position. You should have a "master" resume that you work from, but you need to put in the work of updating it often and modifying it for different jobs and industries. Keep in mind that the resume is a document that is often browsed by an HR staffer who is potentially skimming hundreds of others alongside yours.

Make your resume interesting and easy-on-the-eyes. Don't overload it with minutiae. Use keywords and save the intensive details for your interview. If you're applying for a creative industry, you can show off with an innovative resume. Your resume, along with your online presence, is the first impression you create for employers.

Take "small" jobs and volunteer until the right position shows up

Whatever you do, don't sit on your parents' couch and mope until the offers start to roll in. Instead, roll up your sleeves and work (even part-time) until you find the long-term position you want. Every job has dignity. Don't worry if you're overqualified. If you have a college degree, that comes with the territory these days.

That doesn't mean that you can't keep some change in your pocket and still get some valuable experience at the same time. If you're working in food service, retail, or garbage pick-up, create a dynamic line on your resume about transferrable skills in sales and marketing, customer service, or urban infrastructure.

You should also find time to volunteer{: target= "_blank"}. It's good for your soul (however you define that) and it's great for your resume. It can also lead to full-time work. You never know who you'll meet or help out.


Abel, J., Deitz, R., & Su, Y. (2014). Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs? Federal Reserve Bank of New York Current Issues in Economics and Finance, 20(1). Retrieved September 28, 2014, from

Kecskes, A. (n.d.). 9 Words to Dump from Your Resume And the Hot 9 to Include. Retrieved September 28, 2014 from

Weiner, J. (2014, September 5). Why Sally can’t get a good job with her college degree. Retrieved September 28, 2014 from the Washington Post.


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