Sadly, it happens all the time.
The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What advice do you have for college graduates entering the workforce?” is written by Gina Argento, president and CEO of Broadway Stages.
You made it through college and survived what was probably the craziest four years of your life so far, and came out on the other side of the whirlwind of exams, essays, and group projects. You proudly donned your academic attire and threw your cap in the air. Everyone gathered around you, hugged you, took you out to dinner, and undoubtedly asked the million-dollar question: What next?
It’s a question that many college grads are tired of hearing, and have a generic answer prepared that they’ve given a hundred times. Ultimately though, having a job is your end goal. So, how do you find and survive your first one?
Successful job searchers need to do a few things right. Have a presence on job-related sites, including your college’s career network, Indeed, CareerBuilder, and Monster Jobs. Also, be sure to create a LinkedIn account, if you don’t have one already. The networking site is a great way for potential interviewers to learn a bit about you. Additionally, make sure that your resume is up to date and clean, and that your cover letters are personalized and highlight why you’re the ideal candidate to fill a position.
One of my biggest hiring pet peeves is when I see a cover letter so generic it could be sent to any company for any position. We get hundreds of applications a year, but the ones that stand out say more than just, “I have experience with film.” That’s already expected when you’re applying to a TV and film production company.
Eventually, if you execute your search correctly, you will be offered a job. Congratulations! Now you have to figure out how to survive your first job. I tell all recent college grads that work is in many ways unlike college. At work, you have a more regular schedule than in college, and become much more specialized. College is for figuring out what you want to do, but your first job is for honing your skills and becoming an expert. It’s a chance for you to put your education and internship experience to use and prove yourself at the office.
At Broadway Stages, I look for my staff to become experts in their field, whether it’s in filming equipment, woodworking, lighting, or another area. Their expertise isn’t expected on day one, but when we hire, we look for those who have potential to grow and become leaders of their team. So always show that you’re excited about learning and growing in your field.
Make sure you put in a lot of time and effort. Sometimes in college, students cruise through without working too hard. But with your first job—or really any job—it’s important to show your boss you want to be there. Don’t be the person staring at the clock and waiting for the workday to end.
Finding and succeeding at a job is an experience that is slightly different for everyone. Maybe you will find the job you land through a connection and bypass the job website stage altogether. Maybe you will decide to take a gap year to backpack through Europe, and land a job abroad through someone you meet along the way. You can’t know the future, you can only prepare for it to the best of your abilities.