The countdown is on. T-minus four weeks until graduation.
Your nervous habit of nail-biting has returned. That “living with your parents forever” dream has turned into a recurring nightly event. You feel like you’ve tried everything — researching companies that look cool, stalking your friends who have seemingly “figured it out” on social media, schmoozing with your parents’ connections. But still, nothing.
Welcome to the club. Every year, around 1 million graduates wind up unemployed or underemployed — meaning they take a job that does not require a degree.
That doesn’t have to be your story. In response to the growing problem of underemployment, education innovators are building ways for college grads to complement their education with real-work experience and in-demand skills. Your degree still matters, but these days it’s just not enough. That’s at the heart of what we do at Koru.
So, here’s our advice to you as graduation approaches.
Find your direction.
It’s hard to find a job when you don’t know what kind of job you want.
Identifying an early-career path that matches up with your interests and strengths sounds like the worst homework assignment of all time, but it’s incredibly important as a first step. You’ll need to dedicate some time to introspection, but you’ll also need to research what is actually involved on a day-to-day basis in a typical entry-level job in any given field.
Figure out what’s out there and then, make a leap. Nobody is 100% sure of what they want to do. Become 51% sure of something, and go after it. You can always pick a new 51% later.
Seek feedback in the moment.
Students are used to getting feedback in red ink a few weeks after they turn in an assignment. That’s helpful in an academic setting, but spoiler alert — that’s not how feedback in the real world works.
The one thing I wish I had known when I graduated? Feedback is not a “grade.” It’s a gift. When feedback is honest, kind, and true — and it happens in the moment — it is the most powerful way to not only grow, but grow fast. At Koru, we often hear that while in college, students have received feedback on the content of a presentation, but not the delivery — something that often matters most in the real world.
So, if you don’t get a job after an interview, don’t take it as a red-inked “F” and move on. Ask for feedback. What could you have done better? You might be surprised at what you hear.
Translate experience into stories.
Every college student has translatable experience to some entry-level role. Unfortunately, very few students understand how their experience — academic, athletic, extracurricular, professional (sometimes) — translates to bite size 60-second stories they can use in an interview setting to effectively communicate they have job-ready skills. It’s hard to do this and it takes practice, but it is one of the most important exercises you can do when job searching.
Practice telling your stories and figure out what purpose each of them serves. At Koru, we teach the START framework when storytelling. You can read more about how to use it here.
Finding a job is a full-time job. It probably takes more time and energy than a student would typically put into his or her studies during their senior year. I am happy to be at my dream job right now, and I met with — via face to face or phone meetings — over 50 people in 30 days last April when I was looking for something new and exciting. It wasn’t always fun. But it was necessary. And I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t gone through all of those meetings.
When you don’t know where to start — always remember that people hire people, not companies. Become a master networker and interviewer by treating every person you connect with as an opportunity. Set up informational interviews, research the people you are meeting with, practice your pitch, ask for feedback, and re-shape your stories based on who is next on your list. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to use your Alumni directory. Never underestimate the power of connection.
The road ahead may seem daunting, but the most important thing is to never lose heart. You’re up to the challenge, and with some patience and grit, you’ll get where you want to be.
Kristen Hamilton is the Co-Founder and CEO of Koru, the leader in predictive hiring. As a technology entrepreneur and executive with a passion for impact, Kristen has a successful track record driving value for customers and investors. She co-founded e-commerce pioneer Onvia and took it public in 2000. Kristen built the organization to 500 people, raised over $300 million of investment capital, and led the M&A team to acquire and integrate four private companies in two years. Kristen then shifted focus to education and talent acquisition, as head of educator strategy at Microsoft, and COO of World Learning, where she ran operations in 66 countries.More from Kristen Hamilton