So, You Have a Degree…Now What?

Photo of recent college graduate with cap and degree to illustrate a bright future.

So, You Have a Degree…Now What?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have your career path planned out after graduation. Not everyone knows exactly what they want to be when they graduate. A report from the U.S. Department of Education revealed that almost 1/3 of first time college students change their major at least once within the first three years. A LinkedIn study found that graduates will change jobs an average of four times in their first decade out of college. With graduation right around the corner, we wanted to offer a little guidance to those of you who may not exactly have a plan for their professional future.

Figure out what you want to do based on your interests, talents and values
Many graduates don’t know what kinds of careers their area of study has prepared them to work in. Taking a personality test is a great way to get to know your strengths and weaknesses and what is important to you in a career. While there are some that you must pay to take, there are quite a few free options as well. A article provides 10 online self-assessment tools you may find helpful. If you participated in any internships or extracurricular activities that you enjoyed and in which you performed well, you may be able to turn those experiences into career opportunities. Types of Careers is another online resource from the folks at that gives information about a long list of careers, and even maps what types of education and experience you may need to secure a job in that field.

Prepare your resume
Your resume is your introduction to a potential employer. It should be no more than two pages, free of typos, and laser-targeted for the position you are seeking. If you already have a working resume, now is the time to make updates to include any internship or paid job experience. Recent graduates should include their final GPA (if above 3.0) and any honors or awards received. Letters of recommendation and references from professors or other professional connections can be a great addition to your resume. You should be sure to secure these as soon as possible after graduation while your performance and contributions are still fresh in their minds. If your work experience is limited, don’t try to compensate by using complex templates or filling your resume with industry buzz words. Keep it simple, factual, and focused on your accomplishments. If you don’t have a resume yet, career sites like Indeed offer step-by-step resume creation to help you get started. Be sure to include keywords pertaining to your field and experience; specifically, to the position you desire so that recruiters and hiring managers can easily find you in searches of career or job sites. With the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) into a growing number of businesses, as many as 75% of candidates are out of consideration for a role before a human ever sees their resume.

Target companies that fit your job needs and skill set
Completing a simple online search of local companies that specialize in the industry that you are targeting can help you choose a company that is the right fit for you. Do as much research as possible to establish the length of your commute, the company culture, any community involvement and available employee reviews. Check the company career page often for job openings in your desired field and submit your application as soon as possible. Some recent graduates become preoccupied with the size of the company. They believe, for example, that a smaller company may provide less opportunity for advancement. According to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBE) council, firms with less than 20 employees make up 89.4% of businesses. Large or small, your main goal as an entry-level candidate is to align with a company and start gaining experience as soon as possible. That experience will open more doors for you within that organization, or in another.

Utilize job sites
If you haven’t targeted a specific organization for which you’d like to work, posting your resume on job sites like is a fantastic way to let employers know that you are seeking opportunities. Indeed, CareerBuilder and ZipRecruiter are a few of the most widely-used sites available to jobseekers and employers. Depending upon your field, there may even be job sites that are specifically created for your profession. According to, the best time to apply for a job is within 48 hours of its posting, so check back to the site often. You can request to be notified via email (or push notification if you’re on an app) when a job is posted in your field of interest. Before you ask, yes, you do need a LinkedIn profile. And it should have a professional photo, and a great headline so that you catch the eye of recruiters and hiring managers.

Have Realistic Expectations
Remember that your degree does not necessarily qualify you to earn a top salary right away. According to a recent iCIMS report, graduates in 2018 expect to earn a salary of over $54,000 right out of the gate. You will need to have more than just a degree and some internship experience to be able to command a higher salary. Those candidates who have a degree in any of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) will have much more bargaining power to reach their salary goals. According to NACE’s (National Association of Colleges and Employers Winter 2018 Salary Survey report, engineering and computer science degrees are expected to command the highest starting salaries. Instead of making salary your highest consideration in your first position out of college, make it your priority to choose an organization where you can gain much needed experience and have the opportunity for advancement. 

Choose a Mentor
It’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive about making decisions regarding your professional life. If you have a mentor you trust to talk through things, it can seem a little less overwhelming. Choose someone in your network that you admire for his or her achievements and industry experience. Your mentor should ideally have accomplished the goals you hope to achieve in your career and have similar philosophies and world views to ensure the best fit.  Join some local young professional networks to meet new people if you don’t already know who would like to mentor you. Learning from someone who has already climbed the corporate ladder will help you climb your own ladder much more quickly. If you choose the right mentor, you can learn from their mistakes and accomplishments, be accountable to someone other than yourself, and possibly even expand your network. Our recruiting team also recommends staying connected with your peers who have similar degrees and professional interests. Employee referrals continue to be the top source of new hires, according to SHRM. You may be able to land a job by networking with others in your graduating class at organizations that are hiring for multiple positions.

It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re in the initial stages of your career. Just remember that you’ve done much of the hard work already. Getting your degree demonstrates that you are dedicated, willing to learn and are motivated to succeed. Managing your expectations and taking the initiative to gain any additional skills you can will help make life after college less frustrating. Be patient and take advantage of every opportunity available to you. Aligning yourself with a trusted recruiter or staffing agency can also be an invaluable resource as you start your journey. A recent Bradley blog provides some tips for jobseekers for choosing the right recruiter or agency to assist with a job search. Congratulations and best of luck!

Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike.

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