Whether you’re straight out of high school going into the workforce, gunning for your first real job after college, or working full time to put yourself through school, nothing is more intimidating than trying to get your first “big kid” job. While school might have prepared you for a lot, there are a few things no one ever seems to tell you about landing entry-level positions. It isn’t as hard as it seems, but it takes some special skill.

Set Realistic Goals

This first one shouldn’t be surprising, but it seems to catch a number of green-horn applicants off guard. Apply for positions for which you are qualified. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with submitting yourself for that dream job, but don’t be surprised if you aren’t getting any callbacks for that manager level position when all your supervisory experience is overseeing kids at the daycare for which you volunteered for a summer. You’re going to need to put in a bit of time building workplace skills and connections, meaning you need to be willing to submit yourself for lower level positions that will promote up to where you want to be, or perhaps even non-career positions within the field you would like to work in. There are plenty of people who got their start as assistants - don’t be afraid to be one of them.

Focus On Translatable Skills

Every hiring manager has a slightly different take on the subject, but both on your resume and in your interview, the odds are in your favor if you focus on the things they can’t teach more than the things they can. Remember, this is an entry level thing. They don’t need you know their exact database or procedures. Those things will be taught. What they do need to know is how well you communicate, how you handle stress, how you problem solve, how you schedule, and other things that are more intrinsic to you as a worker. Be prepared. Don’t simply tell them that you are organized, be ready to provide real life situations as to how you organize. The more you can show these skills in action, the greater chance you have.

Look The Part

This is another one that applies on paper as well as in person. Make sure you look professional. Don’t ever assume a resume is enough on its own - attach a cover letter. Proof read regularly and vigilantly. Take it from someone who missed out on their dream writing job because they were in a rush and had one tiny typo - edit daily during your job search. Have a resume that tell a story about who you are as an employee, not just one that bullet points actions you have taken in the past. Create a LinkedIn page. Get any embarrassing Facebook photos hidden from public view. When you come in for an interview, even if you know the environment is jeans and t-shirts all the way, dress professionally. The interviewer will appreciate the effort, and you’ll be in a much safer place than dressing down and finding out upon arrival that it’s really more of a suit and tie kind of place.

With just a few quick tips and a bit of mental prep, you’ll be on your way to your first job in no time. Now get out there, send some resumes, set some interviews, and land yourself a great job. Good luck!

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