Woman concluding a successful job interview

Now that you've graduated from college, it's time to use your degree (and any previous work experience) to find a job that's a great fit for you and is one that you love. Here are some job search tips, including help on refining your interview skills and whether to consider career counseling, to land that dream job.

Beginning Your Job Search: How to Find a Job

When it comes to job hunting, knowing where you are now and where you want to go is critical to mapping out your success. Depending on your field, entry-level jobs may require a graduate degree to get you started or to accelerate your career once you have some experience under your belt. With that understanding, crafting your résumé is a critical first step to starting the job hunt. Getting feedback to improve your résumé is a must but consider who you ask for help. A career counseling expert is a good start, but it is equally important to ask a trusted mentor or industry expert in the field you are pursuing.

LinkedIn is a great place to post your résumé, connect with alumni (especially in your field), and identify professional groups to join to expand your network and increase your knowledge. You can also use job search sites, like the following, to get started:

  • Indeed and ZipRecruiter – top job search sites
  • USAJOBS – for government jobs
  • AngelList – for start-up jobs

With millions of job seekers accessing these sites to find jobs, refining your résumé, seeking connections to grow your network, and asking for informational interviews can help give you a competitive edge. These strategies can help to get your name to the top of the pile of résumés flowing in for the best jobs. If you feel you might be missing opportunities in different industries where you can apply your skills, spend some time on the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website to discover new career paths or see which industries are growing and adding jobs and which are becoming more competitive.

Finding a job requires persistence, patience, and commitment. If this process is frustrating or daunting for you, you might opt for more aggressive career guidance solutions, like working with a recruiter or seeking career counseling.

Is Career Counseling Worth It? Consider the Advantages

Perhaps you took advantage of your college or university’s career services to build and polish your résumé, connect with alumni in your field, conduct mock interviews, or attend job fairs. These are all excellent first steps to help find your first or next job, or at least familiarize yourself with the process. Many of these campus career offices offer services to alumni as well, so even if you weren’t on top of things before graduation, you might still connect with these services at your alma mater.

Interview preparation helps you find a job

There are also professional career counseling organizations, including recruiters or industry-focused career consultants, prepared to offer in-depth services to help you get placed in your dream job. These sorts of employment agencies often have a track record of providing great candidates and therefore are well-connected with corporate recruiters and company human resource departments. These companies are often up to date on current job openings and have developed job search strategies that increase the success rate of securing job interviews for their clients. They also understand what skills make a great fit for both the job seeker and hiring manager.

Potential Benefits of Career Counseling:

  • Find the right job, faster
  • Increase the number of job opportunities
  • Improve the quality of job opportunities
  • Refine interview skills
  • Learn negotiation skills to optimize salary and benefits

Depending on the structure and extent of the career service you engage with, you might opt for a formal mentorship component. A trusted mentor has the work and life experience that will help you explore opportunities you might not have considered—like a linguist shifting from academia to government intelligence work—and can help keep your career on track. Whether formally—through a career counseling service—or informally with someone you connect with through alumni or personal networks, consider seeking a mentor in your field and nurturing that relationship beyond securing your first job. As opportunities or divergent paths inevitably emerge in your career, a mentor offers a great sounding board to help you successfully navigate your career.

If you choose to engage with a career counseling service, there are several ways these services are offered and paid for. Here are some common contractual arrangements:

Service-Based Contracts: Career counselors and job placement services may offer their services through service-based contracts. These contracts outline the scope of services provided, the duration of the engagement, pricing, and any specific terms and conditions. Clients typically pay a fee for the services received. Many independent private practice career counselors can be found on platforms such as Upwork.

Retainer Contracts: In some cases, clients may enter into retainer contracts with career counselors or job placement services. These contracts involve an ongoing relationship where the counselor or service is retained for a specific amount of time. The client pays a retainer fee, which provides them with continued access to career counseling or job placement assistance as needed. A retainer contract can offer discounted pricing for executive placement services.

Commission-Based Contracts: Some job placement services, especially those focused on connecting candidates with employment opportunities, may operate on a commission basis—that is, you don’t pay anything unless and until they help you land a new job. In these cases, the service provider earns a commission or fee based on a percentage of the candidate's salary or the value of the job placement. The contractual relationship typically includes provisions regarding commission rates, payment terms, and the duration of the commission agreement. For example, a recent full-service entrant into this space is Pathrise—they boast of a 95% placement rate for applicants they’ve accepted as clients.

Project-Based Contracts: Career counselors or job placement services may also offer project-based contracts for specific assignments or tasks. For example, a career counselor might provide résumé writing services as a one-time project. The contract would outline the scope of work, deliverables, timelines, and payment terms associated with the project.

Landing an Interview is a Big Step: Top 5 Job Interview Tips

If you or your job placement service manages to secure an interview for you, don’t waste a precious opportunity! Many professional career counseling services will help with interview preparation and mock interviews, but you can also do it on your own. Preparing for an interview requires a good knowledge of yourself: your particular strengths and weaknesses, your goals and proclivities, and what motivates you. Here are five tips to keep in mind. 

  1. Research the company: This may be the most impactful job interview tip—it demonstrates your interest and preparation. Thoroughly research the company, its values, mission, products/services, recent news, and any other relevant information. Use this knowledge to tailor your answers and show your alignment with the company's goals.
  2. Practice common interview questions: Practicing common interview questions allows you to articulate your experiences and skills effectively. Prepare concise and impactful responses to questions about your strengths, weaknesses, previous experiences, and how you handle challenges. If you’ve not hired professional help, at least try to practice with a friend or use mock interview tools to improve your responses.
  3. Dress professionally and maintain good body language: First impressions matter, so dressing professionally and maintaining good body language is essential. Dress appropriately for the job and company culture. During the interview, make eye contact, sit upright, and exhibit confident and attentive body language. This can positively influence how you are perceived by the interviewer.
  4. Ask thoughtful questions: Asking thoughtful questions during or at the end of the interview demonstrates your interest and engagement. Prepare a list of relevant questions that showcase your curiosity about the role, the company, and its culture. Mentors with industry experience can be particularly helpful in generating a list of great questions. Bonus tip: avoid asking questions whose answers can easily be found through basic research and might indicate you didn’t do your homework.
  5. Highlight your achievements and skills: It's crucial to highlight your relevant achievements and skills during the interview. Provide specific examples of how you have contributed to previous projects or organizations. Emphasize your strengths and demonstrate how they align with the requirements of the job. Showcasing your accomplishments helps you stand out and leaves a lasting impression.

These interview skills may come more naturally to some, but everyone benefits from preparation and practice. You may even consider accepting an interview or two for jobs that aren’t at the top of your list. These are great opportunities to practice your interview skills as well.


Not ready for the job search because you haven’t decided which career is the best fit for you? Check out our Career Quiz here for some suggestions based on an assessment of your interests and personal style.