The Three Stages of Applying for Your First ‘After College’ Job

I, like most students, have applied for several jobs throughout the course of my life. My first job, babysitting, didn’t require an application (just a babysitting class hosted by the American Red Cross). The stakes were a little higher when I was in high school and applied for my first summer job. I didn’t need a résumé, but I did need to fill out some extensive paperwork, provide references, and participate in an interview.

The first time I really needed a real résumé was when I applied for my first internship. After I got the internship position, I didn’t give my résumé another thought. That is, until I needed to apply for my first ‘real world’ job.

By ‘real world’ I mean a professional, after graduation job. As a graduating senior, I spent a large portion of my spring break applying for jobs and internships (one of which, if I’m really lucky, will provide me with a job after graduation).  The following is what my experience was like.

Stage #1: Excitement

At first, the process of applying for jobs was fun and exciting. I began polishing up my Linkedin account, my confidence bolstered with every skill I added to my résumé. However, while my Linkedin account was up to date, it needed some tweaking to make it appear professional and this took some time.

Next, I began my search for job postings and open positions. This part of the process was also fun, as I continually discovered open positions seeking someone with my exact qualifications (“Currently pursuing or recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree or higher in English or communications.” Check!). Additionally, I had fun reading job descriptions offering exciting and unique opportunities.

Stage #2: Stress and Fear

The exciting part of applying for jobs came to an end pretty quickly, as reality started to set in. After pulling together a collection of jobs to apply for, I was faced with the task of tailoring my résumé to reflect the description of each job I planned to apply for, writing cover letters, and requesting letters of recommendation.

With every new assignment I needed to complete, my stress level rose. I was suddenly overwhelmed by, what seemed like, the vast enormity of tasks before me. This stress, in turn, evolved into a seemingly endless line of anxiety driven questions. What if I don’t even get called for an interview? What if I can’t get a job by the time I graduate? What if I never get a job?

We’ve all heard the horror stories of graduates who only get hired after turning in 100 job applications. New grads often lack professional connections (or don’t have the knowledge to effectively utilize the connections they do have) making it hard to get hired. This reality bolstered my anxiety and started to distract me from the tasks at hand.

Stage #3: Accomplishment

I began to prioritize tasks and, not surprisingly, much of my anxiety began to recede once my work was well underway. I finished up my résumé and cover letters. I submitted my applications online.  After submitting my first job application, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.  Whether or not I even will be called to interview for any of the positions I applied for still remains to be seen.  But, after completing these applications, I felt, and still feel, very satisfied and accomplished.

What I Learned:

  1. Start early

While I already had a résumé ready, I really wish I would have spent more time updating it before it came time to apply for jobs.  Most of my time was spent updating my résumé to include my current work experience and information.

2.  Get help

While I was drowning in my anxiety, I was glad to get help from my family.  UP Career Services has also been a useful resource for me when I’ve needed help with my Linkedin account and résumé.

3.  Don’t give up

This one is pretty obvious.  Applying for jobs is stressful, but it is also fun and rewarding!


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