Post-college career tips for recent graduates.

  • Pursue an internship to network with potential employers.
  • Skip the job hunt entirely and start your own business.
  • Take a gap year to gain life experience and soft skills.

What can I do after college?

Now that your time as a college student is over, the real world awaits. But the environment for first-time job seekers is drastically different now than it was even a few years ago, as millions of employees quit their jobs in search of something better during the Great Resignation.

As potential employers fiercely compete to recruit, employ, and retain the best talent by offering higher salaries and more generous benefits, recent graduates about to start their careers have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find work that’s both fulfilling and lucrative. As you get ready for the next chapter of your life, explore the following options for how you can make the job market work for you.

1. Find an internship.

Lots of grads pursue internships after college as a way to start learning professional skillsets and build relationships at a company or in a particular field where they’d like to work. Although many internships are unpaid, under the right circumstances they can be a valuable opportunity to shadow a more experienced employee and learn directly about how the workplace functions.

That said, not all internships are created equal. If you find yourself in an internship where you’re doing nothing but making coffee or cleaning up the office for no pay, you might be better off seeking an entry-level job somewhere else. In today’s tight labor market, employees have unprecedented leverage to seek out fair compensation.

Once you begin looking for a full-time job, don’t expect it to be a quick process. Most experts agree that you should plan to spend between three and six months job hunting. Because of the time spent browsing job listings on sites like LinkedIn, learning how to write a cold email for a job and filling out applications, looking for a job can be just as time consuming as having one.

You’ll want to write a resume and cover letter using an app like Adobe Acrobat, and gather any work samples, physical or digital portfolio items you’d like to show a potential employer. Acrobat can help you manage all these documents and combine them into a single PDF to easily share with recruiters. And if you need to update your resume or cover letter with some new skills or work experience, you can use Acrobat to directly edit a PDF and make changes on the fly.

Learn how to format a resume to stand out.

A recent college graduate getting a walk-through of a workplace
A college graduate using a notebook and their laptop to research job opportunities

3. Learn a new skill.

You have your degree and plenty of knowledge acquired to prepare you for a job, but you may not want to step foot into the professional world just yet. Taking additional classes and getting certifications prior to or while searching for a job shows that you are truly dedicated to the work you are doing. For example, some jobs may require a working knowledge of Javascript language or proficiency in Excel. Taking a course is proof that you have put in the time and effort to learn these skills.

Some jobs may require certain classes or certifications, but for others, there may not be any listed on the job description. Completing additional classes can make you stand out as a job applicant and demonstrates that you go above and beyond to excel in your work. Your additional courses can be used as a talking point during job interviews to highlight your work ethic.

4. Start your own business.

Another time-tested option is to learn entrepreneurship and start working for yourself. If you’ve got an idea for a product or service that nobody else is offering, it’s easier than you’d think to go from recent college grad to CEO of your own company.

When you’re researching how to register a business name and the paperwork you need to file to start a business, you can use an app like Acrobat to save the necessary forms to Adobe cloud storage, where you can fill and sign documents digitally to save on print costs. If you’re putting together a business plan, Acrobat makes it easy to gather multiple documents and merge them into a single PDF for simple sharing and presentation. And if you design a logo for your company, it’s no sweat to add it to each page of your company’s documents to burnish your brand.

5. Take some time to explore.

You don’t need to figure out your new career immediately. Many recent graduates take a gap year between finishing school and entering the working world to pick up some new life experiences to help enrich their job skills. This could include:

  • Backpacking around the world
  • Writing a novel
  • Starting a podcast
  • Learning graphic design
  • Teaching English abroad
  • Working as a nanny or au pair
  • Learning a new language
  • Volunteering

Spending some time to explore your own dreams and goals can add a lot of clarity and purpose to your job search. But it’s also an opportunity for you to learn new skills that can help make your resume stand out when it’s time to get a job. Remember that your resume grows as you do and you should continue to edit it as you gain new skills and experiences. Always have a friend or colleague proofread your resume so you are putting out the best version possible to potential employers. They can easily leave feedback with a free PDF reader.

It can be a challenge to find a career path after getting your college degree. But with proper preparation, the right online tools, and organization, you can find great success in the post-pandemic job market.

Learn how Adobe Acrobat can enhance your job search

A college student sitting on the floor in front of their couch and using their laptop

Post college graduation FAQ.

As someone who is about to graduate or has recently graduated, you probably have many questions about next steps for your career and lifestyle. Keep in mind that you are not alone, and everyone is in the same boat — figuring things out. At the end of the day, most of us are taking things day by day, so remember to not be so hard on yourself.

While everyone’s post-graduation path is going to be slightly different, there are some general guidelines that can help you navigate this new portion of your life. Below are some common post-graduation questions with some helpful tips.

When should I apply for jobs after college?

It is best to start applying for jobs as soon as possible, as you are more likely to receive more rejections in your first post-graduation job hunt. With less experience, the options for your career are more limited; however, if you apply to more companies you have a better chance at securing a spot somewhere sooner than later. Some employers will hold a spot for you, even if you are not able to start until you graduate.

Keep in mind that companies almost always have multiple rounds of interviews before hiring a candidate, and these interviews may be spaced out by a few days, a week, or sometimes more than a week.

How many jobs should I apply for after college?

If you would like to increase your chances of securing interviews, you should submit two to three job applications a day. Your goal should be to apply for 10 to 15 jobs a week. Set aside a couple of hours each day to dedicate to finding and filling out job applications. Look through job sites and find ones that you qualify for, then modify your cover letter and resume to match each position you apply to.

While 10 to 15 job applications a week is a great guideline, the amount could vary based on other obligations such as an internship, school, or a current job. Don’t be afraid to apply to jobs outside of your current or home city as well to increase your chances.

How can I transition from college life to post-college life?

After being in school your entire life, going into a job every day instead of a classroom is a big change. There are many different routes you can go post-graduation, and wherever you end up, the following are good pieces of advice to take with you:

  1. Acknowledge that you are in a transitional stage of your life. It’s okay to tell yourself and others that you don’t have all the answers. This will help reduce stress and create a safe mental space for you to analyze your options.
  2. Create an accountability group. You most likely have other friends who are in the same boat as you. Talking about next steps and setting goals together can help keep the group accountable and stay on-track when it comes to job searching.
  3. Master a few hard skills. Some skills are commonly wanted in almost any job field. Master some hard skills that will benefit you in just about any work environment. Don’t forget to add these new skills to your resume.
  4. Work on soft skills. Hard skills are taught and learned in structured contexts, while soft skills are personality-driven and built with experiences. Employers value soft skills such as teamwork, flexibility, and being a good listener.
  5. Journal. Journaling can help you to organize your thoughts and help you come to conclusions on your goals and career path.
  6. Keep up with current trends. The job market is constantly evolving, and you must learn to adapt with it. Keep up with current job trends so that you can match the needs of the job market.

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