Tips for new grads looking to land their first jobs

As graduation season continues, thousands of college students in California are preparing for their final big test: finding their first job.

Luckily, the economy is warming up. According to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, businesses plan to hire 9.6 percent more graduates from the class of 2015 than they did graduates from 2014.

But a brighter economic outlook doesn't necessarily mean finding that first job will be easy. UC Davis graduating senior Bernadette Lagman said it took months for her to get hired.

"I started looking ever since the start of my senior year, so that was basically September, and then I finally heard from Yelp in February," Lagman said. This fall, she'll be starting her first job in Yelp's San Francisco office.

Marcie Kirk-Holland, director of UC Davis's Career Center, said many college graduates have to readjust their vision of the "perfect" first job.

"I think one of the mistakes people make is they think that first job is going to be that have-all, end-all job forever, and sometimes expectations are really high," Kirk-Holland said.

Many students and recent alumni also don't take advantage of the free help available to them at college career centers.

At UC Davis, career center staff can assist students in writing resumes and cover letters, and they also do mock interviews to get graduates ready for the real thing. Kirk-Holland said this help can be critical in getting students their first job.

"Cover letters -- some people are [saying] they're not as important. I think for fresh grads, they're very important because it's also a way to demonstrate writing skills," Kirk-Holland said. She added the resumes and cover letters should be checked by a second pair of eyes.

Many college students, eager to be self-sufficient, are also reluctant to network. Career coach Andrea Weiss says recent graduates should talk to parents' friends, family members and their school's alumni to learn more about job opportunities.

"Alumni associations are a wonderful place to go to, both in terms of events they may have, but also to look for other alumni that are working in your field," Weiss said.

Your school's alums are also great targets for informational interviews. Weiss said many students are so eager to land "real" interviews that they overlook the importance of informational interviews.

Informational interviews are "not necessarily to go out and say, 'Will you hire me? Do you have a job?' But just to do research and gather information and to find out how that field works, what it looks like, where might be starting points," Weiss explained. Additionally, informational interviews can provide a great opportunity to ask about entry-level salaries – which will be invaluable information once a job offer is in hand.

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