Have you been wondering about how to get a first job? Stepping out into the world of work for the first time can seem overwhelming. Here’s what you need to do.
Have you been stressing about how to get a first job? Entering the workforce can be an exciting and overwhelming time. It’s a HUGE leap which brings responsibility, independence, knowledge, money and so much more!
Finding your first job doesn’t need to be a difficult process, however you do need to put in the effort if you want your application to be successful.
I’m going to show you, step-by-step, the key aspects of job searching you need to be aware of to successfully win your first job.
This post is about how to get a first job.
Brainstorm ideas for a first job
Your first step is to decide which business, role or industry you would like to work in.
Many people starting out in the workforce opt for jobs in hospitality or retail. This is because:
- there are many of these jobs available throughout the year
- little to no qualifications are required
- the skills required are already or currently being developed (like communication, literacy, basic numeracy and interpersonal skills)
- training/onboarding is quick
- jobs are usually local/close to home
- causal/part time hours are available which makes work flexible around study commitments.
But if hospitality or retail isn’t your thing, here are some alternative ideas worth considering:
- Dog walker
- House sitting
- Pet sitting
- Office assistant (in person or virtual)
- Warehouse assistant
- Data entry clerk
- Pamphlet delivery
Better still, if you have an idea of which career you would like to pursue in the future, I highly recommend that you look for a first job that will complement it! For example, this could be in the same industry as your ideal career or develops the same knowledge or skills. This is an excellent way to trial a career, gain knowledge and skills, and put yourself in an ultra-competitive position in the labour market!
Develop your resume
Your resume is one of the most important tools you have when job searching. Quite often it’s the first impression you make on a potential employer, so it’s important to get it right.
Writing a resume for the first time can be daunting. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Keep the length to 2 pages – too short and you won’t do your skills and knowledge justice, too long and the employer will not read the information.
- The important information goes first – your Professional summary, Education and Key skills should be on the first page, then work backwards from here.
- Communicating your skills – demonstrating your skills, (especially your transferable skills) is so important to do, especially when you don’t have any work history to underline your abilities.
- Do not include your personal details such as date of birth, gender, marital status, nationality and appearance – none of these details have any impact on your ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job. However, keep in mind your employer does have a right to confirm you are legally old enough to work and you may be asked to present document to this effect.
- Focus on format – a clear, concise format is just as important as your content.
- Include interests and hobbies – I only recommend this section if you don’t have any work history or you can demonstrate that the skills developed from these interests or hobbies are relevant to the vacancy you are applying for.
At this point, you don’t need to have your resume finalised. A solid draft will do as you need to tailor it to every job you apply for.
Need help with your resume? We’ve developed a FREE resume template just for you.
Have someone proofread your resume
Don’t skip this step!
No matter how good your written communication skills are, it’s likely you’ve made a mistake somewhere in the document you haven’t picked up on. ALWAYS ask someone to review your resume.
This can make all the difference in a highly competitive job market and it doesn’t have to cost much time or money. Generally, schools and universities provide these services for free to their students.
Start your job search
Job searching is more involved than a basic Google or Seek search.
Now that you have an idea about the type of job/s you would like to apply for, targeting your job search is important. For example, if you would like to apply for a sales assistant position in retail, start by identifying businesses around your local area who might offer these positions. Check the ‘Careers’ or ‘Jobs’ section of their website to see if they’re hiring. Many large retail businesses do rolling recruitment which means they are always accepting job applications.
Simply asking people if they know of anyone who’s hiring is also a good approach. Don’t underestimate how effective this is when looking for a job! Many jobs aren’t advertised as employers prefer to hire people who are known to them, or people in their networks, as they perceive a higher level of trust and reliability in personal recommendations. Approach your parents, teachers, coaches, aunties, uncles, friends of the family (really any trusted adult you have a relationship with) to get started with this.
Searching on Seek (and other online job boards) should be the last step in your job search. Millions of people access these job boards per day which means the vacancies receive a very large amount of applications. They tend not to remain updated either and it’s easy to be applying for a job that’s already been filled.
Take careful notice of the job application information. This will be important when you tailor your resume.
Tailor your resume to the job vacancy
Don’t skip this step either!
I’ve read hundreds of resumes over the years and trust me on this one, an employer can tell within the first 10 seconds of reading when a resume is or isn’t tailored to a job vacancy.
Tailoring a resume doesn’t need to be complicated. In most cases, only minor adjustments need to be made to the Professional summary, Key skills or order of Employment history. These changes should be based on the key information in the job advertisement.
Tailoring your resume to the job vacancy is critical as the employer usually spends around 30 seconds scanning a resume. The employer needs to see almost immediately that you are a strong candidate for their job and have the skills, knowledge or experienced needed for their organisation.
Always pay attention to the application guidelines in the job advertisement.
Develop your cover letter
It’s still common for job advertisements to require a cover letter to accompany a resume. This could be in the form of an email, attached document or form submission.
A cover letter is so much more that an acknowledgement of an attached resume. It’s another opportunity for you to demonstrate to the employer you are the best person for the job!
Your cover letter should be formatted as a formal business letter, however the tone shouldn’t be too stiff and formal.
I always recommend a similar format to my clients. Here are the main points:
- The first paragraph usually states the purpose of the letter (to apply for a certain job)
- Introduce yourself in the second paragraph and provide a brief overview of your skills and experience
- The third, fourth (and possible fifth) paragraph should give examples of your skills and an example of how they were recently demonstrated.
- The next paragraph should provide a personal linking statement to either the industry, organisation, role or location.
- The closing paragraph should express your desire to meet with the employer and provide your contact details.
Apply for the job
Before you hit that submit button, review the job advertisement first to confirm you’ve addressed all the requirements. Applicant Tracking Software can easily screen candidates out who haven’t met the basic criteria. You don’t want this to happen to you!
If you haven’t heard from the employer after 2 weeks of your initial application, contact the organisation and follow up on the progress of your job application.
Be sure to apply for multiple positions! Even if you have an outstanding application, there’s no way to tell how strong the other candidates might be, so it’s important to ‘hedge your bets’.
Now you know what it takes to successfully win your first job and how to address each step of the process.
Job searching can be a long and overwhelming process. By careful planning, strategic action and some real effort, you too can submit a very competitive job application.
The key is to be direct, thorough and persistent. Good luck with your application!
This post was about how to get a first job
Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward
Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.