How to be an Alum: Getting Your First Job

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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So you've graduated! Now what?


So, you’re in the homestretch. You’ve dotted your “i’s” and crossed your “t’s.” After years of studying and stressing, you can finally see the finish line: GRADUATION. And if you feel anything like how I felt: you are terrified. You were a student your entire life and now all of a sudden you’re a “Real Adult” (whatever that means). Life post-graduation always seemed like an abstract dream, the same way you would tell people, “Yeah, I’ll definitely go skydiving one day.” Well, that day is now and there is no parachute.

But not to fear! The road you are traveling has been traveled before. In my previous installment of "How to be an Alum,” we went over tips about managing your living arrangements post-college. In this article, we’re going to answer the age-old question: how do I get my first job without sacrificing my well-being! Being a recent college-grad is hard, but we’ll all figure this out together!

Don’t compare yourself to your peers.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and give everyone an easy path to fulfilling employment, but that’s not how this works (believe me, I’ve tried). Everyone is going to have a different journey towards employment and It’s important not to compare your journey to anyone else’s. If your senior year roommate leaves college and immediately starts their dream job, don’t feel discouraged that you haven’t received your first interview yet. Keep applying, don’t put yourself down, and remain positive.

Maintain a Healthy Attitude Toward Rejection.

Not receiving a job offer is an unfortunate part of life, but it does not define you as a person or as a worker. Learn how to handle any potential rejection by framing it as a learning opportunity. Did you call your potential employer by the wrong name? Did you have a stain on your dress-shirt that you didn’t notice until after the interview? Did you forget to bring your resume? I promise the world will not end. Instead of being embarrassed, just be mindful going forward to review who is going to be interviewing you, bring stain remover, and always have a hard copy of your resume on hand. (Pro tip: Keep a copy of your resume in your briefcase, car, purse, or backpack so you never forget it!)

Use all of your online resources.

There are thousands of articles, YouTube videos, and testimonials on how to get a job! Make sure you check out the ones that best prepare you like interviewing preparation and tips and tricks to gain confidence.

Focus on something that you feel that you can improve upon. If you find yourself becoming nervous before an interview, research deep breathing exercises and calming techniques. If you find yourself having trouble with public speaking, find a masterclass that will give you tips on how to articulate with confidence and authority. If you aren’t sure what to wear to an interview, figure out how, typically, workers dress in your desired field. (Pro tip: It’s always preferred to be more formal than casual.)

Gain experience.

Learning doesn’t stop the moment you graduate! If it’s within your means, try and gain useful skills out of the classroom by applying for internships within your field and within the locations you can see yourself putting down roots.

You can also find valuable sources online to expand your knowledge in any areas you didn’t cover in your major. Always curious about learning how to code? Try CodeAcademy and learn for free! Want to improve your Excel skills? Watch any of the numerous tutorials on YouTube!

Find a mentor.

When in doubt: ASK. Navigating the road to finding your first job can be overwhelming. Find a co-worker, boss, parent, teacher, professor, or really any employed person you trust and ask them about their experience getting a start in their professional career. Ask someone to coffee and organize a list of questions you might have about getting your foot in the door and what skills are valued by employers.


Networking might sound a little scary, but there’s no reason to cue the horror movie music! If you’ve never tried networking before, make sure you start small. Get in touch with professors, former bosses, alumni groups, and employed classmates through LinkedIn or any other professional channel. There is never any shame in sending a cover letter or resume to someone you respect. You never know what might become of it!

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to gain employment. Just remember to listen to advice from those you trust, work hard, and never put unattainable expectations on yourself. Good luck!

Kasey Greenbaum.jpgWRITTEN BY
Kasey Greenbaum
Macmillan Learning

Kasey graduated from UMass Amherst in 2017 with a degree in Communication and English. She now works for Macmillan Learning as a Digital Marketing Assistant. As a self-described 'Real Adult in Training,' you can most likely find her somewhere in downtown Manhattan showing strangers pictures of her dog or hunting for the undisputed best place to get waffles!