How to Land Your First Job: Step-by-Step Guide

Looking for your first job? We’ve got you covered with this ultimate step-by-step guide.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Student lands first job and becomes a professional

Preparing to get your first job can be an exciting prospect. “The world is your oyster,” as they say. The freedom and possibilities are endless, but actually, this can be a little overwhelming, because with so much choice — and no experience — and so many different paths, where do you start? Stick with us and this guide will walk you through the steps you can take to land your first job.

1. Choose wisely

Choosing your first job as a teenager can have implications on your whole career. The skills and experience you gain in this position can help you move on and up, so it’s worth some careful consideration and research.

It’s tempting to choose a job based solely on salary and status, but taking a more holistic approach will ensure you make a move and get a job that benefits you in the long run, and helps you find a job you really enjoy, with genuine prospects.

2. Ask yourself important questions

Take some time to think about what you want from your career. Ask yourself important questions such as “What do I enjoy?”, “What am I passionate about?” and “What is my ultimate career goal?” These questions will help you to think about your future career plans, as well as what’s right in front of you here and now. It will help you make choices that will support your chosen career path.

Even if you have no idea what you want to do long term, think about what you enjoy, what you definitely don’t enjoy, how certain options will affect your work-life balance and how you want your career to make you feel.

This is the time to consider what you need right now. Do you have time for a full-time position? Or are you wanting a part-time position that fits around studies? Do you need a job that’s close to home, so you don’t have to commute? Or can you travel a bit further afield to get to work? These are all things to consider before you even start looking for a job.

3. Test the waters

Once you’ve given some thought to what you think you might like to do, before jumping in, get some real-world experience and knowledge about it. If you feel a career in engineering is for you, for example, before finding a first job in this field, see if you can speak to anyone already in the industry, look through job ads to see what skills are required for an engineering role and connect with professionals in this field on LinkedIn. If you are proactive, you may be able to gain some work experience.

4. Be realistic

Once you’ve got a good idea of where you want your career to go, it’s time to go back to the beginning and think about how to kick things off. You may want to be marketing director of a large multi-national, but what can you do today to help get you there? There aren’t any quick fix hacks, and your first job is unlikely to be so high profile. It will most likely require some additional qualifications and years of experience, but it can set you on the right path.

Be realistic in terms of the level of job you are qualified for and use it to build valuable experience. In this scenario, a retail position, or an entry-level promoter role could be good first jobs.

6. Write a résumé

If you’re trying to land your first job, you will need an entry-level résumé, so having one ready before you start your job search is a good plan. While you won’t have lots of professional experience to include, you will be surprised what you can include in your education section, as well as the extracurricular activities you’ve done and the skills you have.

Think about relevant classes and courses you’ve taken. These could be at school/college/university or they could be independent courses, such as online learning courses, evening classes, or something less formal where you have taught yourself a relevant skill. It’s all valid.

Extracurricular activities where you’ve worked as a team or taken a leading role can demonstrate important transferable skills. This is also true of any sports you participate in, or any fundraising or charity work you have done.

If you’re a bit creative, you can create a clean and professional-looking résumé to possibly give you an edge. If you’re less artistic, you could always look at buying a résumé template bundle that you simply input your information into — lifesaver!

7. Begin your job search

Once you have put a résumé together, it’s time to look for some jobs to apply for. Some is the important word here. When looking for a job, it’s a good idea to apply for a number of roles to maximize your chances. Be strategic. Be clear on what you want and stick to it, but within that, target as many roles as you can that fit your brief.

There are lots of different ways to find a job these days. Start by looking at local job boards. You can also use LinkedIn to search for jobs and Google to identify particular roles or websites dedicated to the type of role you’re interested in. Don’t rule out using social media to apply for jobs. Twitter can be a good place to find jobs and often jobs are advertised on local Facebook groups and pages. Keep a note of what you find and their deadlines.

8. Apply for jobs

Applying for roles might mean using the résumé you’ve written along with a cover letter, or it might require that you fill out an application form. If it is an application form, your résumé will help you. It’s essential that you tailor your résumé/application and cover letter to the role you’re applying for, really spelling out why you are the person for the role.

When looking for jobs, consider who you know who might be able to help. If you have a contact in the industry you’re looking to enter, use them to gain an insight. They may be able to direct you to a job, offer volunteer work, or help you with your application.

Don’t limit yourself to job vacancies you find advertised. Be proactive and take your résumé to people who might have a job coming up or will keep you in mind. For example, if you’re looking for a retail job, take your résumé to the shops and services in your area. You’ll be fresh in their mind, and they might call you if a job becomes available.

9. Prepare for the interviews

When you’ve sent in some applications, you will need to start thinking about preparing for the interview stage. Look at the job description and think about questions the interviewer might ask you and have some answers ready.

If you have someone to practice with, do that, or a mirror works just as well. Make sure you research the company so you know what they are looking for in an employee, what is important to them as a business and what they stand for. This will also help you if they ask you if you have any questions.

How you come across to your interviewer is important, so you’ll want to create the right impression. Dress professionally, even if you are not sure how formal the interview will be (for example, take off your hat, style your hair, etc.). This will present you as someone who is serious about the job, professional, and with attention to detail.

10. The waiting game

The hard part is over, and now you just have to be patient and see if you got the job. Don’t waste time sweating over what you think you didn’t say, or shouldn’t have said, think positively and continue to apply for more roles in the meantime.

If you don’t hear back from the interview, it’s OK to send a follow-up message to thank the interviewer for their time and to see if a decision has been made. If you were not successful, don’t be disheartened. As a first-time jobseeker, it takes practice. It is good to ask for feedback so you can use it for your next interview.

Watch our interview with Kyle Elliot for some top tips:

Final thoughts

Preparing for a first job is exciting and there is no need to get stressed with the details if you follow our steps above. Knowing what you want is key, but it’s important to know what while your first job can be a starting point for your future career, it is always okay to change your mind. A first job will still give you experience and transferable skills that can be used whatever direction you choose in the future.

Remember, you may not be successful the first time, but that isn’t a reason to give up. Keep applying and eventually you will be successful.

Are you in the process of finding your first job? Did you find this useful? Share it with your friends and let us know if you managed to land a job in the comments below!