Here you are. You’re (almost) finished with your Bachelor or Master programme and ready to start looking for a job. However, you have no idea how to choose a company to work for after you graduate.
For many students, taking the step from studying to their first job can be challenging. Especially when you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. You might have gained some experience at side jobs or internships, but starting your first job feels very different.
We spoke to career coach Tessa Knijnenburg, who specialises in talent management and recruitment. She gave us insights and tips that will help you choose the right job and company to work for after you have graduated. Follow these steps to make the process of find your first real job easier:
Step 1: Explore and spark your interest
The first step to choosing a company to work for after you graduate is to figure out at what kind of company you would like to work at or what job position you would like to take on.
The best and easiest way to start exploring is to look on websites like Magnet.me or LinkedIn. Scroll through different job opportunities. Read what the job is about and have a look at the company in general to see if it’s a good fit with what you’re interested in.
On Magnet.me you can directly browse companies and dive into the ones that match what you are looking for.
Aside from career networks, you could also explore your personal network. Talk to friends, family or acquaintances who work for interesting companies. Ask them how they like their jobs so far. Are they happy with their jobs and the company they work for? What are the elements of their job that make them happy? Are there things that they aren’t as happy with?
As a last resort, you can check out career fairs to find a company to work for after graduation. These are usually organized by your university throughout the year, and you can contact your (former) student advisor for more information on fairs like these. Going to such events and just ‘seeing what is out there’ can be helpful for getting to know your preferences and interests.
Step 2: Find out what job positions you like
Nowadays, many university programmes are broad, meaning you have a large range of future job prospects. For example, a course like International Business gives you the possibility to be qualified for many different kinds of job positions like Business Development, Sales, Marketing, Management, HR, and many more.
Did you like a specific course at uni?
The first thing you can do to find out which job position fits you best is to look at the courses you took in the past years.
If you loved your digital marketing course, this might be something to look into. Did you take a corporate management course that you performed really well in? Then dive into the field of management.
It helps to think of certain cases you studied or assignments you completed.
Do you want to change your direction?
It is possible that you don’t want to continue in the field that you gained a diploma in.
Go back to the first step if this is the case. This time, whenever you come across an interesting job position, investigate a bit further. This way you will quickly learn whether this direction is something you might be interested in.
Keep in mind: don’t be afraid that you won’t be accepted for a job position you didn’t study for; it is mostly your motivation that counts.
Golden tip: make a list!
The golden career coach tip we got from career coach Tessa Knijnenburg is to make a list. Whether you’re talking to others about their jobs, exploring career sites or even during interviews, write everything that’s important down.
During the process of finding the right job for you, it is hard to remember everything you are looking for and everything that you would like to avoid. Making a list (or several) can truly help you get a clear overview of what you want.
For example, when you are talking to someone about their job and they mention that they work in an informal work environment. You seem to like that as well. Write the keyword “informal work environment” down in the list of things you are looking for in a job. You can always follow up on keywords by looking them up, reading about them or asking people to elaborate. Writing keywords down will slowly give you an idea of what you do and don’t find important in a job.
Remember, your lists can cover many topics: from company culture to whether you would like to go abroad for work.
Once you have a list of things you find important, go back to websites like Magnet.me and select the job opportunities that match your list(s). Keep in mind that you will have to compromise, as you will rarely find a job that matches all the things that you are looking for. Settling for an 80% match is also great!
Step 3: Discover the type of company you want to work for
Deciding on which company to work for is also very important because you will spend a lot of time there. It has to feel comfortable and like you belong there. There are two ways to choose the right employer for you.
The first approach, although more time consuming, is using your lists. You can search for companies that (almost) perfectly match your personality and company culture preferences.
On a website like Magnet.me, you can scroll through an endless list of companies, read about company missions and get insight into their office environments by looking at pictures and/or videos. If you think a company might be suitable for you, contact them regarding an open job position that also spikes your interest.
The second approach to figuring out which company to work for is to apply to all the companies you can find that offer your preferred job position. This way, you might get invited to several interviews during which you will get the chance to decide whether these companies are places that you can see yourself working at. Another great thing about this method is that you will practice your interview game and get better at it.
Step 4: Learn more about a company during an interview
Congrats! You got invited to the office for an interview! Now you can start preparing questions about the job position and the company itself. Make sure to take the list of what you’re looking for with you. Ask questions about the things you find important in a future employer during your interview.
For example: Do you find it important to be able to work in an informal work environment? Ask the employer about their company culture and don’t hesitate in asking them whether they can elaborate on their answers during an interview if you have not gotten an answer to your question yet. You are here to learn more about them.
Getting to know the company culture…
Understanding the company culture is the most important thing when it comes to finding the right employer for you. Here are a few interesting questions that you can ask during an interview to learn more:
- What is the hierarchy at this company like?
- How do you celebrate success?
- What do you usually do on a Friday afternoon?
- Do you have drinks with each other outside of work?
- What does the lunch at this company look like? Does everyone eat together?
Furthermore, ask to speak to someone who is currently in the position that you’ve applied for. This way you really get to know the ins and outs of the job and the company culture. If this person is not the person that initially interviewed you, the conversation will probably be less formal, and you can ask more personal questions like: what do you like most about your job? What do you like most about the company?
Final tips on choosing the right employer
After going through an application process, a company can almost seem too good to be true. You might feel a little suspicious about the transparency of the answers you are getting. If this is the case, ask the employer to name things about the company or the company culture that could be improved. This way, they can’t just paint the perfect picture. If you are not comfortable asking the person who is interviewing you, ask this question during a conversation with another employee.
Always remember that companies interview you because they want you to work there. They will not invite someone just to waste your (and their own) time. Take control of the situation, and don’t be afraid to get everything out of an interview and get your questions answered.
Last but not least: trust your gut. If you have a great feeling about a company after an interview, it is most likely that you will be a great fit. Even if there are certain things that don’t exactly match your lists, an 80% match is also good. Your gut feeling usually doesn’t let you down.