JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois


The first step after college is finding a job that not only challenges you, but will also get you started down your new career path.

Finding the right job takes preparation, confidence and determination. It can also take some time, so you may need to be patient. Before you begin your search, take the time to prepare a budget for living expenses. You may need to find an interim job or have a plan on how to pay for expenses until you have secured your position. Make sure to factor in costs such as housing, insurance and other living expenses, along with what will be needed for your job search, such as résumés and even new business attire for interviews.

If you have outstanding student loans, it is important to determine when you will need to begin repayment of those commitments. Remember that even if you don’t complete your degree, your loan will still become due once you drop below half-time status. If you received financial aid through a program that has a requirement that must be fulfilled as a condition of receiving the financial aid, such as teaching or practicing optometry, you must factor that commitment into your job search. Most likely you must begin fulfilling the requirement within one year of leaving school or the amount you received will have to be repaid.

Set a timetable for accepting a position and have an alternative job plan if your search takes longer than expected.

To start your job search, draft a resume that highlights your education, talents and experience. There are many avenues to assist you in preparing a resume that will interest potential employers, such as the campus career center, professional recruiters and even Internet job sites. Make sure to have someone you trust proofread and provide feedback on your résumé prior to having it printed and sent. This document often provides prospective employers their first impression of you.

Practice your interview skills, including what your answers to difficult questions will be. There are many books and information sources that can help you prepare for those hard questions that an employer may ask in an interview. Also, remember to do some research on the company and prepare a list of questions that you want to ask the interviewer. It is important to consider the stability, future advancement potential, employee-benefits package, and other factors of the job that is being offered.

Some careers require a portfolio of work and job-related samples. If your career path requires this type of presentation in an interview, make sure to have the portfolio updated and available when you enter the interview.

Another important task is to secure personal and professional references. Many companies require references and perform routine reference checks prior to hiring employees. Most personnel departments also put more emphasis on professional references and those from former employers. It is always good to have contact information for your references on a sheet of paper to present to the interviewer upon request.

Once you feel prepared, you can begin your search for available positions. As an entry-level applicant, your salary may be lower than expected to start, so you need to make sure you can survive on the income offered. You may also want to ask the interviewer about potential advancement opportunities at the company and other employee benefit programs, such as investment programs (e.g., 401K). Remember that money shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor when selecting a job. Consider job satisfaction, as well. Will the job make you happy? Will it utilize your skills and degree? Will this job work as a good stepping-stone on your way to where you eventually want to be? Is the employee-benefits package acceptable?

Once you have accepted a position, make sure to revisit your budget. Track your money and determine what you currently are using it for and what you will be using it for in the future. Budget how much you’ll need for your housing, transportation, food, clothing, utilities, entertainment and luxuries. And don’t forget about your student loans, credit card debts and any other expenses that must be taken into consideration (e.g., car loans, insurance, phone bills, etc.).