5 Ways to Prepare Before Embarking on a Job Search for the First Time

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

The first-ever job search can be quite a scary endeavor, even if you’re genuinely looking forward to joining the world of work. While the prospect of a job may be thrilling, the search can be grueling and stressful, and when you’re competing against so many other well-qualified candidates, racking up a few rejections is to be expected. Being part of the workforce can be an exciting learning experience likely to change your life in many ways, but getting there isn’t always easy. While you should be mentally prepared for a challenge, there are also ways to make the process easier and less stressful.

From finding the right vacancies and sending out application packages to rehearsing for job interviews and waiting to hear back, searching for a job is usually a daunting task. It takes a lot of time and energy, often feeling like a full-time occupation. Looking for your first-ever job can be even more intimidating, and you may find it hard to maintain a positive outlook when you’re not getting the desired results. 

Don’t worry, though—you’re not alone. The stress and nerves are normal: All the candidates you’re competing against likely feel the same way. Finding the right job takes time, and finding your dream job can take years of hard work and effort, so try to manage your expectations and keep applying—you will get there. 

If you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed and would like some guidance through the job-seeking process, check out our job success services and let our team of experts give you a boost by writing or overhauling your resume and LinkedIn profile, writing customized cover letters, and helping you practice for job interviews, among other things. We also offer career coaching, so reach out if you’re not sure how to work toward achieving your professional goals or need help defining your ambitions in the first place.

What can you do to prepare for your first-ever job search? 

1. Do your research

The better prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be to get hired sooner and land a higher-paying job. You’ll spend less time sending out one application after another and scouring job boards, thus launching your career sooner. 

One of the best ways to prepare is by researching the companies you want to join, the roles you have set your sights on, or the industry you’re keen to work in. Learn as much as you can about your dream companies and positions, and keep honing your skills and expertise however you can—taking courses or working on new projects are some of your options. Not only will all this preparation enable you to locate the right jobs and enhance your resume, but it’ll also help you answer the tougher questions at job interviews, so it’s a win-win. The more you know about where you want your career to take you, the easier it will be to find your path and achieve your goals since you won’t be wasting your time wading through job ads that aren’t the right match for you.

2. Write your resume and cover letter

It’s crucial that you customize your resume and cover letter for each job you’re pursuing, but first, you need to create a template, a master file that you can duplicate and edit as necessary. Assuming all the jobs you’re applying for are in the same field, the overall tone and story are likely to remain consistent, so you’ll only need to change the details to tailor the documents to each vacancy. Thus, every hiring manager you reach out to will receive a unique job application customized for the specific position, but you’ll save a great deal of time by only having to make relatively minor adjustments.

Aim to keep your resume and cover letter to a single page each, and be highly selective, only including information relevant to the position you want. If you exceed one page, the hiring manager will likely assume one of two things: Either you lack the communication skills to select the most pertinent information and convey it concisely, or you’re full of yourself. 

To make up for your lack of professional experience, list your academic achievements, certifications, specializations, training, and any awards or commendations that speak to your character and work ethic. You may even be able to dig into your hobbies—just consider what your different achievements may signal to a potential employer. Be concise in your descriptions and focus on what makes you unique and qualified. 

3. Have confidence in your value

One of the most important qualities a candidate can bring to a job interview—and to the entire job search, for that matter—is confidence. Even if you lack professional experience, you can show a prospective employer that you’re confident in your industry knowledge and your potential to become an invaluable team member. If you have confidence in yourself, a hiring manager is more likely to mirror those feelings; conversely, if you don’t seem to believe in yourself, they won’t have any reason to, either.

Employers want to know what you will bring to the table and why your specific skills are an ideal match for their vacancy, so you need to be prepared to answer those questions confidently, preferably using a couple of examples that clearly show your character and skills. If you don’t feel confident, try to remedy the situation by working on your skills, practicing for your interview, and recognizing your strengths. Just be careful not to take it too far and become arrogant—that’s an immediate turn-off for any employer. 

4. Bet on honesty

Always be truthful during the job search process. From your resume and cover letter through to the interview, be honest about your experience (or lack thereof), your strengths and weaknesses, your goals, your expectations, and your abilities. Avoid filling your application with any claims that can be disproven. If you don’t feel that your true qualifications are enough, either look for other ways to prove your suitability for the position or seek another opportunity—whatever you do, never lie. If you get the job based on a lie about your qualifications, you’ll quickly be found out, and the repercussions will be significant.

Definitely put your best foot forward and highlight the positives, but don’t make up any qualifications or work experience to look better on paper because a single lie, no matter how small, can ruin your chances of getting your dream job further down the line. Word travels fast, so you definitely don’t want to be branded a liar.

5. Be yourself

It might sound cliché, but being yourself is truly the best thing you can do when searching for a job. Yes, you want to be on your best behavior—polite, punctual, engaged—and take the process seriously, but that shouldn’t mean putting up a facade or pretending to be someone you’re not. 

There are many different sides to your personality, so focus on your professional side, and present your best attributes. Once you land that first job, you’ll be too busy working to play a role, so bring your own unique energy to the entire process and remain true to yourself—it will pay off in the end. If a hiring manager doesn’t like who you are, then that isn’t the right job for you anyway.

Having a clear path to follow is imperative when you’re starting your career, so ask yourself what you expect from an employer and what they can expect from you. Highlight your skills and qualities during the application process, and make time to practice for interviews, whether you do it with a friend or set up a mock job interview with one of our experts. Your first job search can be daunting, but with solid preparation and the right mindset, you can make it far easier and land your ideal job much faster.

Improve Your Resume or CV