Ask The BUNCH: How To Land Your First Job

Our friends at BUNCH Magazine share some valuable tips for navigating networking and jumpstarting your career after college graduation.
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Our friends at BUNCH Magazine share some valuable tips for navigating networking and jumpstarting your career after college graduation.
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Welcome back to our collaboration with our friends at BUNCH Magazine! This year, they're sharing some of their infinite wisdom by answering pressing questions about career aspirations, transitions and callings. We welcome their knowledge in the creative, professional and entrepreneur space, and we think you will love their insights as well.

Dear BUNCH,

I'm in a bit of a debacle and looking for advice. I'm a recent university grad, newly(ish)wed, and my husband and I just moved from Seattle to the Midwest for him to start law school at Notre Dame. In my time as an undergrad, I worked, was in leadership, and spent my "free" time trying to learn how to engage in wellness, introspection, self and others-centered development, and following a lot of errant curiosities about how to lean in and live presently, organically, and simply.

I'm in a funny place this summer of job hunting but having the process come at a snail's pace. I have a degree under my belt, a bit of experience, and a whole lot of humility and energy to get curious, work hard, and be present—but alongside many other recent grads, I find myself at a little bit at a loss. I've been diving into as many articles as I can get my hands on and applying to anything and everything under the sun, but despite encouragement from family, friends, and mentors that insist, "You'll do great!" nothing has worked out yet.

So my question is, is there some secret to landing your first job out of school? Are there ways in which the Clementine or BUNCH teams have had similar struggles or successes?

Thank you,
Elizabeth

Hey Elizabeth!

Landing your first job out of college can be one of the most daunting things to face. When I graduated, I was getting no real feedback from big companies and was always afraid that my work wasn’t good enough for them, so sometimes I wouldn’t even apply. You may not have the same fear as I did, but I noticed that once I expanded my horizons and got more creative with whom I was reaching out to, things started to happen!

With my degree in Visual Communications (aka Graphic Design), the obvious route was to look for a job at a design agency or become a junior graphic designer. I scoured every job board I could find, but had no luck. Job boards are great, but since everyone goes after the same position at the exact same time, the company gets a flux of submissions at once. This makes the chances of being seen SO MUCH HARDER, so I decided to try a different tack. Here's what worked for me...

Do your research and reach out directly:

I began to think hard about the specific type of company I wanted to work for and how I could provide an unexpected advantage. I knew that I loved small, highly creative companies that worked around fashion. So, when I found some, I read through their entire company websites and identified ways in which I could benefit them. Sometimes, I’d notice that they didn’t have a graphic designer on their staff or that they had no one to do the art direction for their projects. Knowing that these were my strengths, I cold-emailed and presented myself as a solution to the problems they may or may not have known they had. I landed my first job as an art director through this method.

The downside is that some of these businesses may have smaller budgets, since they're not actively searching for new talent. However, if you’re dedicated enough and can manage on a lower starting salary, it’s amazing to spend your energy helping a company to grow before your eyes. Working for one of these places can lead to more job satisfaction now and a larger income in the future. 

This same approach works for larger, more established organizations, too. At a different stage in my career, I contacted a fashion magazine whose aesthetic I admired by emailing my resume and portfolio with an explanation what I wanted to do there. I ended up becoming a full-time, freelance layout designer with an opportunity to have a salary. 

If a door doesn’t open, create one or find a window—at a company that truly piques your interest and suits your skills. This tactic takes time and effort, but when it comes to job outreach, quality over quantity can make a huge difference. 

Create a side hustle:

This would be an excellent time to begin your own venture. You don’t have to create a whole business from scratch, but what if you started blogging about exactly what you love and have a degree in? It may seem cliche in our day and age, but remember that the internet is a lot larger than the city of Seattle, and if you put your talents out there online, amazing things can happen.

You don’t have to blog every day, but consistency is key. You can approach it as an online portfolio, a fun outlet to keep momentum going, and a way to get your name out there, so that people can come to you. Plus, a blog reveals your passion and your work ethic while conveying your unique personality. I’ve seen so many people who have turned their knowledge and hobbies into lucrative careers through blogging and/or social media projects.

Network:

I'm sure you've heard this before, but networking is key. It can seem tedious, since you want a job now versus later, but I can tell you from personal experience that my professional network has been the most vital component of my career to date. People love to help people they know, and once you start meeting industry contacts and telling them what you do, you’ll be the first one they have in mind when an opportunity pops up. I know it sounds like leaving things up to chance, but trust me, the possibilities can be magical. 

You may be able to find some great networking events in Seattle if you do some online research, but if you're not into parties and crowds, you can alternatively make it your mission to schedule coffee meetings each week. Whether you use word-of-mouth, LinkedIn, or Google, seek out people who have careers that inspire you or who work for companies you love, and send friendly, personalized emails asking if they'd be open to chatting in person. You'll be surprised by how many people want to share their knowledge and help you achieve your career goals, and you might even make some new friends in the process. 

Get clear and committed:

This all adds up to one strategy: pinpoint exactly what you're looking for, and go after it with gusto. Try making specific scheduled goals for every week, like applying to three jobs you find via job boards, reaching out to three companies you find on the internet, publishing one blog post, and meeting two people in your field. I know it sounds like a lot, but something is sure to happen eventually if you go all in. 

Hope that helps, and happy job hunting!

Sincerely,

Asia David
Creative Director, BUNCH Magazine

p.s. Did you catch BUNCH's advice on what to do if you're feeling totally lost in your career?