Leaving college and entering the real world can be one of the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make in your life. Life outside the four walls of a classroom is drastically different, and all the big changes can throw you off and make you feel unsure of yourself.
I remember being an awkward and nervous fresh grad sitting in an office lobby, waiting to be called for my interview. Job hunting felt like uncharted territory. I never really had to go out of my way to prove myself and directly compete with my peers for something as coveted as a first job.
It was challenging at first, but eventually I found the guts to contact companies and walk into their offices confidently and ready to face anyone for an interview. You can do it too! Learning how to build confidence as a first time job seeker takes time but it will work to your advantage.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Do your research
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” I find this to be quite true. Applying for a job without doing the proper research into a company is like heading into battle without a sword.
If you have a specific company you want to join, make sure to research very well. Whether it’s for writing a cover letter or going into an interview, you should make sure you know what the company is all about. Being caught unprepared by your potential employer can make you look unprofessional and can pull down your self-esteem.
Preparing your research lets you anticipate possible questions they might ask or other hiring-related scenarios. It will boost your confidence and give you a sense of control over the unknown a.k.a. your job hunt.
2. Be aware of your strengths
Part of the challenge in landing a job is knowing how to package yourself as the ideal candidate. From the moment you write your resume or create your online job profile, you are already introducing yourself to potential employers.
Do an inventory check of all the things you are good at and build your resume around it. Highlight personal achievements and discuss actual projects. These things will also come up if you have been invited for an interview. You know those skills you listed in your resume or CV? You should be able to speak convincingly about them.
Finding your distinctive strengths not only makes the task of selling yourself much easier, but it will also remind you of the things you excel in.
3. Strength in numbers
Like with most things in life, if you need help, call a friend.
If you’re visiting companies to hand out your resume, do it with a friend. It can be intimidating walking into a strange office and standing there hoping they’d accept your resume.
Try making a day out of it with a buddy and make a plan of attack with them. When I began my job hunt, my friend and I created a list of the companies we liked, got a map, and planned our route. It wasn’t so daunting having to apply to companies and introducing ourselves to people because we had each other’s support. Having your friend there to back you up will take away some of the scare factor.
Another way you and your friends can help each other out is by sharing job leads or company contact information. You don’t have to start the job search from scratch each time because you have a veritable network of contacts to tap into. Knowing that you’re not going through your first job hunt alone is a huge help.
4. Stop comparing yourself to other people
One of the scary things about heading into the job hunt is not knowing how good your competitors are. It can be easy to feed our worst fears and expect to compete with a hundred geniuses, which leaves you feeling insecure about your own credentials.
Comparing yourself to other people is the worst thing you can do for your confidence. I get it; it can be annoying seeing your classmates post statuses celebrating their first job offers while you’re still looking for a job.
But different people have different talents and skills. You are capable in your own way. The worst thing you can do to your self-confidence is undermine it by comparing yourself to other people. The moment you feel yourself falling into that trap, stop and focus on YOUR job hunt, not theirs.
5. Practice makes perfect
If you were able to get an invitation for an interview from a company, you better start practicing. Companies tend to ask very similar questions when they interview their applicants (E.g. Tell me about yourself, Why did you apply for this position?).
When you get a feel of the kinds of questions asked in your line of work, you should start practicing your answers for them so they won’t catch you off-guard when asked. However, make sure to tailor your answers for each job position that you apply to. You don’t want to sound like you give the same answer to every position. Use your research to practice answering possible questions so you can walk into interviews prepared and confident in your answers.
6. Keep trying
What makes the job hunt so intimidating is that you’ve never really done it before. Your first job hunt will probably be the time in your life when you will get rejected the most. The truth is, only a few lucky individuals land a job at their first try.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown and possible rejection scare you. When you start applying and interviewing for jobs, you will naturally be awkward and stumble a few times. But once you’ve done a few interviews, you will eventually get the hang of it. Use every mistake or rejection as a lesson to learn for your next round of interviews. Let it be the fuel that drives you to work harder at landing that job.
When you start feeling confident doing interviews, it wills start to feel less like an interrogation and more of a conversation.
As a first time job hunter, it’s easy to feel like you won’t be good enough to fill a job position. But the truth is, when you show that you have confidence in your abilities, your employer will believe it too. Believe in yourself first, and the rest of the world will follow.