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A complete guide to landing your first job out of college

Are you ready to enter the world of work after graduation? This complete guide to landing your first job out of college provides a structured overview of the road to full-time employment. Learn how to navigate the application process, discover effective interview techniques, and understand what it takes to succeed in your new role.


How important is your first job out of college?

Many graduates take time to “work things out” after finishing college, however this can also become a trap. A report by the Strada Institute, based on 4 million resumes, discovered that 1 in 5 college students work in jobs which don’t require a degree—a decade after finishing study. Evidently, if you’re determined to utilize your degree, it’s best to find a suitable role sooner rather than later.

Nevertheless, it’s okay if your first job out of college is temporary. Deloitte surveyed 10,455 employees (from 36 countries) born between 1983 and 1994, discovering that 43 percent planned to leave their current job within two years. Just 28 percent of those surveyed intended to stay more than five years in their current role.

Millenials have long been referred to as the “job-hopping generation.” Consequently, it’s common for younger generations to have a range of jobs on their CV, and potential employers aren’t discouraged by this. Gone are the days of lifelong employment. Instead, the modern approach is “trial and error,” which reduces pressure on finding the “perfect” job straight away.


What to expect with your first job out of college

Before becoming the next Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos, adjustment and learning is necessary. Be ambitious, but have realistic expectations of the types of roles and salaries appropriate for recent graduates. What can you expect as a graduate with little experience?

The types of roles available for recent graduates

During your first job out of college, there will be periods of intense training, performing menial tasks, or making tea and coffee for your colleagues as you learn the ropes. These are essential rites of passage before making your way up the corporate ladder, earning megabucks, or landing a senior role. As a recent graduate, your first job will likely fall under the following categories:

  • A job not requiring a degree. This option gets you started in the workplace, adds valuable office experience to your CV, and improves work-related skills. Jobs include sales, administration, and marketing.
  • A graduate job requiring a degree. These roles require additional training, but relate to your degree and have a specific career in mind. Examples include trainee doctors, lawyers, and psychologists.
  • Graduate schemes are special training programmes lasting between one and three years, training new graduates into qualified professionals. These schemes aren’t degree specific, and are offered by corporations and government organizations.
  • An entry-level job. These roles are designed for recent graduates and don’t require prior experience. They include on-site training. Although they’re not the most exciting and involve lower-level tasks—such as filing, data entry, and making basic phone calls— they’re a great way to prove your worth as a valuable employee.
  • Internships are temporary placements ranging from a few weeks to a year or more. They offer valuable experience, networking with colleagues established in your desired industry, and the potential for a job offer at the end of your contract.

Salary expectations for entry-level roles

Starting salaries depend on country of employment. The average salary for a first job outside of college in the EU, reported by Business Insider, are:

  • Germany: €32,842
  • France: €37,933
  • Spain: €29,128
  • Italy: €33,421
  • UK: €32,842

Your country of study makes a difference on projected lifetime earnings, too. According to salary-benchmarking site Emolument, graduates from Switzerland, France, and the UK earn the most throughout their careers.


Applying for your first job out of college

It’s wise to research your first job out of college thoroughly, before the application process. Start by listing qualities you desire. Allow yourself to be picky. Visualize your ideal role. Is experience alone your priority? Do you love your degree subject and want a job in your field of study? What are your salary expectations?

Knowing what type of job you want will add enthusiasm and motivation to your approach. Once you’re clear, it’s time to begin the journey to landing your first job out of college. And this all starts with the application process...

The application process

Rather than haphazardly sending mass resumes and hoping for a response, make careful, targeted applications. Think of your application process as a project. The more organized you are, and the clearer your idea of the role you want, the greater the chance of ensuring your first job out of college is a winner. To assist, here are the key steps:

  • Create your resume. As you’re fresh out of college and lack professional experience, focus your resume on academic achievements. TotalJobs recommends including standout exam results, extra curricular activities, special achievements, or relevant rewards.
  • Optimize your digital presence. Nowadays, your online presence is just as (if not more) valuable as a traditional resume. LinkedIn advise graduates include a professional-looking profile picture, build a strong network, write a memorable profile headline, and share work on the site’s blogging or video platform.
  • Clean up your social media accounts. Be aware that many companies scan prospective employees' social media accounts. Now is a great time to “tidy up” old Facebook posts or late-night Tweets.
  • Set aside time to apply. ZipJobs set a target of 10-15 quality applications each week. To reach this target, set aside a few hours per day, or a few days in the week dedicated to applications.

The interview process

Once you’re in the flow of applications, it's only a matter of time before you land your first interview. According to Forbes, leading career experts recommend the following tips to stand the best chance of landing a job offer:

  • Use the reverse interview technique. Employers are impressed when interviewees ask thoughtful questions and show a genuine interest in learning more about the company.
  • Display non-verbal cues. These include smiling and a healthy level of eye-contact.
  • Express curiosity and passion. A willingness to learn is attractive to employees hiring entry-level roles.
  • Check LinkedIn profiles of relevant employees. This lifehack displays proactive research—employees are notified when you view their profile.
  • Follow the “30/2 rule.” Keep your answers between 30 seconds and two minutes to cover the question thoroughly without rushing.
  • Send a follow-up email. Use the opportunity to thank your interviewers for their time.

Once the interview is over, keep momentum and continue the application process. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. You may have a few interviews before you receive your first job offer out of college. See each interview as chances to improve your interview skills.

Keep going. It's only a matter of time before you land your first job out of college.


Congratulations! You’ve landed your first job out of college... now what?

Once you’ve landed your first job out of college, it’s time to demonstrate why your company were right to hire you. To conclude this guide, here are top tips to ensure your first job is a success:

  • Be punctual. Always arrive early. This doesn’t mean working yourself into the ground, but arriving at your desk 10 minutes before your official start time will make a good impression.
  • Ask questions. Learning begins from day one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to understand how your new company works, what’s expected of you, and the preferences of your boss and other members of your team.
  • Always keep learning. Continue to learn and develop skills applicable to your new role. Say yes to relevant training opportunities or, better still, be proactive and inquire about available training opportunities.
  • Make an effort with your colleagues. You spend more time with your colleagues than anyone else, so it’s worth getting to know them. Say yes to social events and take an active interest in bonding with members of your team.
  • Be ambitious. Start each day of work determined to give 100%. Monitor your progress and set goals. Aim high.

All in all, remember that this is a period of transition. If your first job out of college is a huge success, congratulations! If it doesn’t quite work out, it’s all part of the process of gaining experience on the way to your dream job. What matters is your attitude and willingness to learn. With this mindset, you’ll be sure to get your working career off to a great start. Good luck!


Your money at N26

Once you’re earning a regular salary from your new job, you’ll need a bank account to take care of your money. With N26’s free bank account, get a clear overview of your finances with Statistics, easily keep track of your monthly pay packet with real-time notifications, and set aside money for all of your personal goals with Spaces., The best bit? It only takes a few minutes to sign up to enjoy all the benefits of banking from your smartphone!

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