Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) Director Dwayne Peterson works one-on-one with New College students.
Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) Director Dwayne Peterson (right) works one-on-one with New College students.

This summer, New College of Florida was named a “College of Distinction” for 2021-2022, with recognition in two main areas: Career Development and Equity & Inclusion (accolades the College also received last academic year).

“The Career Development recognition goes beyond a job board and résumé writing,” said Tyson Schritter, the chief operating officer at Colleges of Distinction (a respected guide for college-bound students). “New College has shown inventiveness in connecting with students throughout their academic careers and beyond. Students and graduates are fully supported by New College’s outstanding Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO).”

Institutions like New College, which hold a Career Development badge, prepare students to meet the demands of the changing job market through one-on-one counseling; résumé and cover letter writing; interview assistance; and access to internships. Dwayne Peterson, the director of the CEO, recently shared with Colleges of Distinction some of his Tips for Landing Your First Job After Graduation:

Develop a strategy.

Searching for jobs requires a plan that you have to continuously put into action, and must include both using the internet and outreaching to people. Consider finding out how people who have jobs that interest you found their jobs. Then, align your plan accordingly. For example, what are industry “insider” websites? Should you consider a post-graduate internship, temporary or freelance work to build your résumé? Are entry-level trainee programs common? Do you need to take an exam or gain a certification?

Leverage your college career center’s resources. In addition to offering career advising, all college career centers develop relationships with employers. They may host career fairs and events. They should also have a system with job listings from employers recruiting directly from your campus. For example, all college graduates, no matter where you went to school, have access to Handshake—an app specifically for college students to connect with employers hiring for internships and entry-level positions.

Third-party job websites like IndeedGoogle or LinkedIn make it easy to find opportunities, but your plan needs to go beyond them. These sites only have a fraction of jobs that are available to you. Maximize third-party sites by creating email alerts where new jobs come to you so you don’t miss opportunities. But, when searching online, spend most of your time researching specific employers that hire for jobs that interest you and going directly to their specific career pages.

It never hurts to apply for something. Cast a wide net by applying for anything that interests you. You don’t have to meet all qualifications, just most qualifications. For most new college grads, this will likely be in the zero to two years of experience range.

Establish connections. 

Think people as much as you think jobs. Eighty percent of jobs are found through connections and not from websites. Most of your search strategy should be focused on connecting with people you know as well as introducing yourself to people you don’t. Think about all the people in your life that might be able to help you. Family, family friends, Facebook connections, your church, student club, classmates, etc. When it comes to finding work, you never know who can help you.

Leverage your LinkedIn network.

LinkedIn is an essential tool in job searching, no matter your industry. With nearly 800 million users, LinkedIn provides the greatest opportunity to connect with all kinds of people, including recruiters, professionals, hiring managers, classmates and alumni. This should also be the main tool you use to keep up with everyone you meet professionally.

Contrary to other social media platforms, it is okay and encouraged to connect with strangers on LinkedIn. You just have to add a personalized note to your connection request so that the person has an idea of who you are and why you’re interested in connecting. Once the person accepts your connection, you can directly message them. You also now have easier access to their network.

Your alumni community is a great place to start on LinkedIn. Being a part of an alumni network is an advantage you have as a new college graduate. Alumni want to help each other. Look up the school page for your college on LinkedIn and find the “alumni” option. This will pull a search of everyone who went to your college on LinkedIn.

Try asking for advice rather than for a job directly. It can feel overwhelming when someone directly asks you for a job, especially when you don’t have one to offer. But, when you start with asking for advice, this opens the door for the person to help. Everyone has a story to share.

Promote yourself. 

One of the more impressive things you can do is create a convincing LinkedIn profile with a headline and summary that captures your professional interests. Create a website with an “about us” segment, a résumé, and perhaps previous samples of your current work and skills. Some industries may also expect a portfolio or website.

Use everything you have to develop a convincing story. Work experience, internships, significant class projects, volunteering, campus leadership roles—all of these experiences show your skills in action and can be used on your résumé.

Don’t limit yourself by your major! This is particularly true if you’re a liberal arts graduate. The “useless” liberal arts degree is a pervasive and demoralizing myth. Employers need graduates from all kinds of majors. However, many times, it’s not for the academic knowledge of your degree, but rather the transferable skills you’ve gained through your classes and experiences. These would include skills like critical thinking, communication, initiative, teamwork, project leadership and professionalism.

When you apply for jobs, always tailor your cover letter and résumé by using the exact language in the job ad. Employers don’t read résumés for long—likely less than 10 seconds! So, make sure to use different section titles on your résumé to move the most relevant experiences to the top of your résumé.

Keep growing. 

As you work your search plan, regardless of whether you land a job or not, continue to develop your skillset—whether technical or non-technical. Are there short-term projects or volunteer roles you can take on that would add to your résumé or portfolio? Can you take a class on CourseraSkillShare or LinkedIn Learning to expand your skills for specific jobs that interest you? This can show employers that you’re serious about your goals.

Trust yourself. Remember to follow your heart. At the end of the day, you’re the best counselor you have.

This process is slower than you may think. As the risk of COVID-19 passes, employers are increasing their hiring and the entry-level job market remains strong. But, it will still likely take three to six months of active searching to get an offer. So, make sure you take care of yourself and practice positive mental health strategies to stay focused and motivated.

For more information on the CEO, visit ncf.edu/ceo.

For more information on Colleges of Distinction, visit collegesofdistinction.com.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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