Real Grads. Real Advice. Real Stories. Real World ‘What I Wish I’d Known About Job-Hunting’

Quintessential Careers conducts ongoing research into the job-search experience of new college graduates as they enter “The Real World.” Go to the Real World Home Page.

The experience of discovering key facts about job-hunting — truisms that you can’t believe you never knew and no one ever taught you — is an almost universal new-grad experience. Here, recent grads give you the benefit of what they wish they’d known — so that you can be sure you obtain that knowledge before you graduate.

“I wish I would’ve known that you have to send A LOT of resumes in order to start getting call-backs.”
— TV production grad

“I wish a senior-level class would have been offered that dealt with such practical matters as creating a resume, writing cover letters, applying for jobs, business etiquette, appropriate business attire, etc.”
— philosophy and religion grad

“For starters, [I wish I had known not to] take the first offer ever when talking about salaries. Secondly, all the stuff you learned in college is worth just about as much as the paper your diploma is printed on.”
— biology grad

“I’ve never heard of salary negotiation before. Every time somebody has offered me a job, I’ve taken it.”
— Anonymous

“I had taken an effective negotiations class, so when it came to negotiating my salary, it was relatively easy. The key was staying on top of what I objectively felt I was worth.”
— Anonymous

“I wish I had known that the job market would be so difficult when I graduated. Many companies recruit on campus at my university, and I wish I had taken advantage of those opportunities. At the time I chose to pass up many of those opportunities, but thinking back, I think I should have considered many of them more seriously and given myself more options. I feel like once you’re out of college, it’s difficult to get into the job-hunt because at school they automatically inundate you with so many opportunities.”
— anthropology grad

“I wish there were more information on writing resumes and cover letters without the help of a resume service.”
— Anonymous

“There are many things I wish I knew about prior to job-hunting. For example, what employers are really looking for in an employee. They seem to want a lot of experience, and when I graduated I hardly had any experience in my field. I had theory knowledge mostly, but the employers wanted work experience. And it was very very hard finding an employer who would take a chance on me.”
— electronic engineering technology grad

“I wish that I would have started looking early.”
— Anonymous

“I did not want to start working right away, but now I wish I had. Still looking to land a good job.”
— geography grad

“I wish I had started sooner, if for no other reason than to meet a variety of people from a variety of companies to help my networking along.”
— marketing and Japanese grad

“I wish I knew who to call when looking for a job, or, more specifically, perhaps, I wish I knew what I am doing wrong.”
— Anonymous

“I wish I knew how invaluable my education was so that I had more confidence in interviews. The first job was hard to land, but after that, the confidence increases and negotiating salary and getting other jobs becomes easier and easier.”
— English grad

“I wish I had taken more internships!”
— Anonymous

“There are several things I wish I had known. First that job-hunting is a full-time job and that there are no miracles. I wish I had a savings account of significance and a lot more resources and time. Everything about a job search takes money, from resume paper to travel expenses. Landing a job that not only fits what you are looking for the long term and is stable is extremely difficult. I have had to accept things with no permanence or stability just to have experience on my resume. I’m still working on the salary-negotiation skills. When you’re broke, any salary is great.”
— Jo Smith, psychology grad

“Not to expect to find a job that you will like, and don’t expect to get hired any time soon.”
— Anonymous

“Having many internships will help in finding a job — pads the resume, and you meet a lot of ‘connections.'”
— Anne Johnson, economics grad

“I wish I knew how hard it was to get a job and how education is actually viewed in the business world.”
— Anonymous

“I would have liked to know how to start looking for the right job and how to be ready for an interview. Some practical interviewing sessions would have helped very much.”
— Anonymous

“I wish I would have know a lot more about job-hunting when I first graduated from college, especially salary negotiation. You may have the degree, but if you don’t have the experience they are looking for, it can be difficult to land a good job.”
— Anonymous

“[I wish I’d known about] job-searching. For me, it has all been trial and error. Thank goodness for the Internet. Perhaps [colleges should teach] how to apply a particular major to the outside job market.”
— history major

“[I wish I had known] that it is important to really find your focus in what you want to do.”
— Anonymous

“I wish that I would have known that no matter how perfect a job sounded in theory … once you start — it is going to lose its glitter and glitz. You have to make your own goals and projects sometimes to keep things interesting. Also, no matter how much money you are making — something is going to break, you will have to go to the doctor, a check will be lost in the mail, etc.”
— general-business major

“I wish I had begun my job search DURING school, rather than waiting until after I had graduated.”
— Anonymous

“I think recent college grads believe that it is simple getting a job; but it is not! Don’t expect to get a job overnight. It takes time. I’ve been on interviews and been up for positions [where the process] lasted for weeks! Networking is key.”
— Anonymous

“Experience is essential to landing a good job after college. I wish I had been more serious getting experience rather than worrying so much about finishing school quickly.”
— Anonymous

“I did not receive adequate career counseling that enabled me to make a good choice on future career plans/goals.”
— Anonymous

“I wish I knew more about workplace people skills. Basically, how to deal with the complexities of working in a large corporation and the bureaucracy that can complicate tasks. Also more computer IT and more foreign-language skills.”
— finance grad

Go back to The Real World Home Page.

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