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Pitfalls to Avoid When Hunting For Your First Professional Job

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College graduation season is inching closer, and that means the pressure is on to find a job in your desired field. Unfortunately, not all fields are equal, and those with STEM degrees are more likely to land a job quickly. However, that doesn’t mean that someone with an art history education needs to take the first mediocre job they find. Start early and follow best practices to help increase your chances of landing your dream job, but also be sure to avoid common pitfalls that will hamper your job search.

Assuming You’re Not Qualified

There’s famous research from HP showing that women are more likely to apply for jobs only if they are 100 percent qualified, while men will send a resume if they meet about 60 percent of the qualifications. The takeaway here is important to all job seekers, especially new grads – don’t pass up a job posting because you don’t tick 100 percent of the boxes.

Hiring managers and career coaches are very clear that there’s no perfect candidate. While there is no magic number, most agree that if you meet 70-75 percent of the qualifications, that’s good enough. Hiring managers want candidates to grow into the position, and not feel bored and quit less than a year into a job. So it’s better for you and your boss if you’ve got most of the skills down, but still have a little left to learn.

Also keep in mind that many tech firms, agencies and fast-moving industries look closely at soft skills like creative thinking, proactive problem solving, communication, teamwork and empathy, especially if it’s a client or customer-facing position. Hiring managers across the country repeatedly say they’d rather have a team player who knows how to think on their feet even if that means needing to teach them a few extra technical skills.

Taking the Very First Job Offered

It’s a common feeling to finish your last exam and panic at the unknown. If you’ve spent the last four to six years immersed in regular schedules working toward specific goals, the first year post-graduation will likely have you feeling a little lost. But don’t let uncertainty lead to a bad career decision. Just like employers, employees are unlikely to find a job that meets all their requirements, but you should vet each opportunity carefully to understand factors including pay, career growth potential and how likely an organization is to help you learn new skills.

Experts understand you need to pay for rent, groceries and student loans, but they warn you shouldn’t rush into taking any job. Vet professional opportunities first before you take a part-time coffee shop job. Research has shown that those who take jobs that don’t require a degree are more likely to impact future jobs.

“If you start off underemployed, you have a higher likelihood of remaining underemployed five and 10 years out” – that’s according to a recent joint study by Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies. The authors, like most college career office counselors, encourage college students to start looking for jobs long before graduation day and participate in internships or relevant volunteer experiences throughout college to make their resumes stand out.

Not Negotiating Salary

Even though your professional resume is slim, don’t discount the experience you do have. Stats from NerdWallet have shown that less than 40 percent of recent college grads tried to negotiate their salary, and that’s likely to leave a lot of money on the table long-term. To best negotiate, highlight your skills, and do your research so you can confidently answer when HR asks, “What are your salary requirements?”

Take a look at job boards and industry research to understand what the job you are applying for pays in your metro area. If the average is $40,000 to $50,000, don’t respond to HR’s question saying you are looking to make $42,000 a year. Ask for the higher end of the spectrum, even 5 to 10 percent higher, so there is room to negotiate up when they offer you the job. Most hiring managers won’t blink at an applicant who asks for 5 percent more than the posted limited.

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About the Author

Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.