6 Reasons Why It's So Hard to Get a Job After College (With Helpful Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 4, 2022 | Published April 14, 2020

Updated May 4, 2022

Published April 14, 2020

There are many reasons why it can be difficult to land your first job after college. While some factors are out of your control, such as the current state of the economy or personal issues, it’s a good idea to start preparing to enter the job market before you actually graduate. In this article, we discuss why your first job matters so much, list six reasons why it’s so hard to get a job after college and offer a list of tips to help.

Why the first job matters

The first job a graduate takes after college often has a significant impact on the rest of their career. Graduates who obtain a role that has little to do with their area of study (or doesn't require a degree at all) are more likely to stay in either it or a related role for the next five years. Individuals find it difficult to deviate from that path once chosen, decreasing their odds of obtaining employment in their field. You don’t have to start off with your dream job, but finding a job that’s at least within your desired field is important. 


Related: The New Graduate's Guide to Job Search

6 reasons why new graduates struggle

From local economic issues to undervalued majors, there are many reasons why graduates struggle in their job search. Common reasons why it’s hard for recent college graduates to find jobs include: 

  1. Uncertainty with major

  2. High competition

  3. Little work experience

  4. Few or no skills

  5. Little networking

  6. Lack of follow up

1. Uncertainty with major

Upon graduation, some students discover they have no greater interest in their majors. Others discover a severe lack of job opportunities within their chosen field. Take some time to think about what specifically you enjoyed the most about your major or the classes you took. Research jobs that are a good fit for your specific major or look up potential career paths that don’t necessarily require a related degree. 


Related: 25 Most Useful Majors To Get Your Degree In


2. High competition

With so many people searching for jobs at the same time after graduation periods in December and May, the job market for entry-level positions is naturally going to be much more competitive. Some industries experience more job competition than others and it becomes harder for individual graduates to stand out, even with excellent grades and experience. It can take more time than expected to find a job, so it’s best to start applying well before your grad date. And if you don’t meet all the qualifications a job posting lists, apply anyway. Most applicants don’t meet all the desired criteria 


Related: 24 Best Jobs for College Grads With No Experience

3. Little work experience

Unfortunately, earning a college degree doesn’t automatically mean you can secure an interview for your dream job. Many job postings require some level of experience, whether it advertises an entry-level position or not. Consider applying for internships or jobs related to your desired career before you graduate, so that by the time you’ve finished school, you have some past experience you can include on your resume.  

4. Few or no skills

Along with experience comes valuable skills, some of which individuals only learn while on the job. Employers often seek specific skills when fulfilling their roles and they may ignore resumes without them. You can gain skills valued by all kinds of employers by volunteering, interning or working, even if they aren’t in related jobs. 


Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

5. Little networking

Without work experience, it’s harder to find networking options, but you can definitely still network before you get your degree.  Consider the networking opportunities that are available to you as a student or recent graduate such as:

  • College job fairs

  • Meeting up with your favorite professor or a potential mentor

  • Virtual or in-person networking events

  • Industry-focused groups

  • Social media 

  • Volunteer opportunities

  • Connections through friends or family


Related: 7 Networking Tips for Getting a Job

6. Lack of follow up

Many recent graduates often underestimate the power of following up. After completing an interview process, it’s important to follow up with the person who interviewed you via email.  Keep it professional and concise, thanking them for the opportunity and mentioning anything that could set you apart from other candidates. 


Related: How Long Should I Wait After an Interview To Follow Up? (And Other Questions Answered)

Tips for getting a job after college

If you’re struggling in your job search, there’s hope. Correcting a few minor mistakes often leads to a greater job outlook. Consider these tips when looking for a job after college:

  • Research

  • Enhance your resume

  • Build your online presence

  • Apply to internships

  • Network

Research

Before finalizing a decision on a major, prospective students should research their field of interest and see what the job outlook for their prospective job is. If you can’t change your major, consider adding a minor in another field you’re interested in, taking or seeking an internship in the industry you’d prefer to work in. Use job sites like Indeed to personalize your job search with filters to find jobs that fit what you’re looking for. While you may be tempted to take the first job you’re offered, consider first checking out company reviews from current and former employees to learn about work conditions, typical salaries and company culture and decide if an employer is right for you. 


Related: How To Find the Best Job for You in 6 Steps

Enhance your resume

A common factor among many graduates struggling in their job search is the quality of their resumes. Even the greatest education and experience fail to stand out with a poor resume. Creative industries, in particular, prefer resumes with color and style, showing off the character of the applicant. Most industries prefer single-page resumes that list only the most important information.


Read more: How to Write a Successful College Graduate Resume (With Job-Winning Sample)



Build your online presence 

In the digital age, there's no better way for an individual to sell themselves than by building and maintaining their online presence. You can do this by simply making sure all your public profiles are cleaned up and professional profiles are detailed and up to date. You could also go even further and create your own website. Websites can host portfolios and resumes and provide a personalized, informative peek into what an individual is like. Profiles on networking sites and personal websites can answer many of the questions managers hold for interviews, putting these applicants ahead of others.


Related: How To Build an Online Resume Website

Apply to internships

Most fields have some sort of internship opportunities. They act as valuable sources of education and experience during and after college. Some educational institutions host their own internships or require outside internships as part of their curriculum, but it’s always a good idea to complete at least one internship while in college, if possible. Employers look for applicants with experience, and an internship is a great way for you to get that experience before entering the workforce. 


Related: How To Get an Internship With No Experience

Network

Networking is one of the most vital components of a successful job search. As mentioned before, take advantage of networking events and other opportunities that place you in front of industry professionals. A friendly introduction is sometimes all it takes to obtain a job later on. Such events are also prime areas to exchange business cards. When jobs open, employers from these events may reach out.


Related: The Complete Guide To Networking

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