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10 Job Search Mistakes College Students (and You) Make


Well, you've spent tens of thousands of dollars on your education, and now you're ready to head out into the real world, but there's one course they don’t seem to teach in college: “How to Land a Real Job in the Real World,” so new graduates-to-be often make mistakes that slow the progress down and make it harder to find employment than it should be.


With that in mind, I've prepared this list of the most common mistakes that students make so you can avoid them. Consider this your crash course on what NOT to do when you are looking for a job:


Don't start without a plan. This means spending time researching fields and careers that you're thinking about working in and making a list of places you'll contact. Then, you need to methodically work your way through this list. Social media, and in particular LinkedIn is a great resource for this!


Don't let your major limit you. Remember to look for things that interest you that might fall outside the narrow confines of your exact major. Much of what you do in a position can often be learned on the job, so don't worry too much about it matching perfectly. Think of your degree as what gets you in the door, not what defines what you'll be doing for the rest of your life.


Don't ignore your school's career center when looking for job leads. Some schools are more helpful than others, but you can always learn something there. And their job is to help place you, so don't be shy about asking them for help.


Don't look only for jobs that are listed on the major search engines. This is an easy, but lazy way to look for work. Be sure to look at your local classifieds and CraigsList (CraigsList.org) for general leads, but also look up the trade associations of the fields you're looking in for more specific job listings.


Don't rely just on the internet or email to communicate. It is often too easy to delete or ignore, especially if you're an employer that gets inundated with email. Be sure to hard copy resumes as well as emailing them. Also, it is too easy to be “casual” with an email. Remember, anything you write is permanent communication, so always be professional.


Don't be afraid to start with an entry-level position. You're new to the job market, so you're not entitled to anything. Like I said above, your degree often will just get you in the door, then it's up to you to prove yourself and make yourself indispensable from there.


Don't send a resume or an email from the account of a place that you are already working at. First off, this will not impress your new employer, and may make them question your integrity since it might appear that you're taking advantage of your existing company. Plus, if you lose your job, that email account will vanish, and you will no longer be able to contact anyone from it. If you want to find out how your resume fairs up you might want to take advantage of a resume review service to get actionable tips on what to improve on.


Don't wing it on job interviews. I'm always shocked at how little time in preparation most people spend once they've finally landed an actual interview. Once you have an interview set up, spend some time researching their website. Learn about what they do, and their company history, and who founded them and when.


If nothing else, it will show that you're serious, and it is a step that most other applicants (read: almost all) won't take. Also, review the common questions that employers ask and give thought to how you will answer them.


Don't dress casually. Always dress for business with your clothes neat and pressed, and your shoes shined. Little things speak volumes about a person, and this can make a huge difference. Also, if there's a doubt about how to dress, you're better off being overdressed than underdressed.


Lastly, don't treat your job search like a part-time endeavor. You can overcome a lot of handicaps like not having job experience by simply being willing to outwork everybody else. Treat it like a 40 hour a week job, and hustle. Don't sleep in. Get up early. And make each day count. Now, while these tips don't cover everything, they'll get you started and give you a leg up on everybody else, so you can land that job in no time.

Last Updated: November 15, 2016
About the author

James Innes

James Innes is a career author from the UK who has published several books focused around improving resumes and excelling at interviews. He's also the Founder and Chairman of the James Innes Group, specialising in CV and resume writing since 1998.