3 Steps To Build Confidence As A First-Time Job Hunter

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Giant wooden help wanted sign.

Don’t think that they “want” your help; they “need” it!

I vividly remember hunting for my first real post-college job. It was scary. It was brutal. I moved home and was met with a staggering 13% local unemployment rate.

Needless to say, it definitely tested my patience and my resilience.


The good news is that the economy is way better now than when I entered the workforce 3 years ago. Companies are hiring, and some even offer the entry-level salaries they were a few years ago. In my time working in recruiting and career development, this is the most optimistic I’ve seen the market in a while.

The bad news is that competition is fierce. A lot of graduates and 20-somethings are going after the same jobs, which means, quite frankly, rejection is part of the process.

So, how do you build the tenacity to look for that first job? How do you keep your head up when things get tough? Follow these three steps. I wish I’d known them when I started out.

Step 1: Believe You Are Skilled

The biggest problem I encounter coaching clients is that they don’t feel confident enough in their skills. They think they are not qualified, that they should have studied more, or that they need more experience. And that’s all true—you can always do more. However, if you get stuck believing, “I can’t get this job until I have x, y, and z,” then you’ll never get any job, period.

So, the first step is to believe you have the skills to get the job. This will boost your confidence, and it will definitely show in the interview—which is where you really have to nail it.

(Note: Being confident does not mean being entitled. You want to avoid the stereotype making waves in the recent Time article Millenials: The Me Me Me Generation. Take it from someone who has interviewed 20-somethings perpetuating the stereotype: It’s not cute.)

Step 2: Forget About Your Major

I often see people so hung up about what they majored in. The truth is that unless you’re looking into something really specialized, your major doesn’t even matter a lot of times.

How many people do you know who ended up in awesome careers that have absolutely nothing to do with what they studied? Probably a lot. I studied English literature, and I’m not a literary critic or on my way to being a professor; I’m a career coach. Does that mean my degree is useless? No. For example, I write as a means of marketing my business.

For those of you entering the traditional workforce, companies want to see those degrees—they just may not care what your degree is actually in. Flexibility is key. Think outside the college-major box instead of letting its four corners confine you. This is also a really good way to show employers that you are being realistic on your job hunt.

Step 3: Cut Yourself Some Slack!

Think of a job search this way: How many of you were scared out of your minds to take your driver’s license test? How many of you had to learn how to maneuver a car until you finally got it? You could read all the books you wanted, but until you actually got behind the wheel of a car, you weren’t really going to learn how to drive

Your job hunt is the same way. You’ve never done this before, so you’re going to need to learn from the beginning. Until you get out there, you’re not really going to know what to do!

Every interview is a learning experience. Every rejection is a learning experience. Every résumé that goes unanswered is a learning experience.

On a different yet related note, don’t freak out if you’re not a CEO by 25. So many ambitious young professionals put a ridiculous amount of pressure on themselves only to face the reality that everyone starts from the beginning entry-level position. Relax! Your career isn’t a sprint—it’s a lifelong marathon.

While your first job hunt can be scary, it doesn’t have to be as bad as we imagine. By believing in your skills, being flexible, and cutting yourself some slack you’ll be able to cultivate the confidence and resilience it takes to look for a job.

Good luck!

What tips would you share with a first-time job hunter? Post them in the comments.

(Photo: Brenda Gottsabend)

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  1. Sterling Poindexter June 13, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    Great article.

  2. Ally June 13, 2013 / 12:17 pm

    very good article

  3. koo June 13, 2013 / 12:18 pm


  4. Olivia June 13, 2013 / 12:23 pm


  5. Pamela Arbour June 13, 2013 / 12:25 pm

    good tips

  6. Christian June 13, 2013 / 12:26 pm

    Enjoyed the article

  7. Jeremy June 13, 2013 / 12:31 pm

    Good tips

  8. Jorge June 13, 2013 / 12:33 pm

    It’s the old saying, tenacity trumps talent. Just keep at it.

  9. Vanessa June 13, 2013 / 12:39 pm

    Great article. Oftentimes, it’s not so much about the qualifications you possess -but rather who you know that helps you get your foot in the door. If you know people, great. If not, SHOW UP! Expand your network by making new friends, contacts, etc. Put yourself out there, use social media, e-mail people, talk to strangers (cautiously)…do what you have to do. Boldness goes a long way when it’s done strategically.

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:07 am

      Very true Vanessa! Whether you’re getting a traditional job, doing sales or going at it on your own networking is key! Get out there, show up and most importantly have some fun doing it :)

  10. Janel June 13, 2013 / 12:43 pm

    As the article states, don’t worry about your major! For most employers, having a college degree is all that matters. Don’t give up-keep looking, searching, and applying.

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:08 am

      Amen Janel! Very rarely did an employer become picky about someone’s major. They just want to see you have a college education!

  11. Robert June 13, 2013 / 12:49 pm

    Great tips

  12. Marvin Mui June 13, 2013 / 12:54 pm

    I enjoyed this article very much so. Especially Step 2 about the majors and how it is not important when you are looking for your first job. This is why I appreciate SYEP so much. It makes it easy for people with no experience to gain experience through a lottery.

  13. Jessica June 13, 2013 / 12:57 pm

    Short quick and to the point, what people need!

  14. Jason June 13, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    great article

  15. Patrick June 13, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    thanks for the advice.

  16. Christian Villagomez June 13, 2013 / 1:00 pm

    Okay then… very traditional sayings we’ll have no choice but to put to the test.

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:15 am

      When you’re going after corporate jobs they dig traditional. There are two reasons career advice seems to be pretty basic around the board.

      1. Companies don’t like it if someone rocks the boat. They have rules and want you to follow them.
      2. You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow traditional career advice and then don’t get the job! If you keep it traditional you beat out half the competition already!

      Forbes did have an article recently where I contributed some of the less traditional career advice that could fly within the corporate world. You may enjoy reading it :) http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/02/27/10-unconventional-but-very-effective-tips-for-job-seekers/

  17. kristy browder June 13, 2013 / 1:01 pm

    smart advice and helpful hints!

  18. Samantha Clark June 13, 2013 / 1:09 pm

    Very interesting perspective and extremely helpful.

  19. Julia Montag June 13, 2013 / 1:13 pm

    This is awesome. Thanks for the helpful tips!

  20. Skyla DeBeau June 13, 2013 / 1:21 pm

    Finding a job can be so stressful, thanks for the great tips to boost my confidence.

  21. Jo June 13, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    Good tips

  22. Jeff Rutan June 13, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    This is well written. I use to hand people a phone book and tell this is a list of businesses. Each company has at least 5 employees and your only looking for one spot!

  23. Truly June 13, 2013 / 1:27 pm

    Totally applying these new tools! Thanks.

  24. Erica June 13, 2013 / 1:35 pm

    Agree with the whole article!

  25. William June 13, 2013 / 1:40 pm

    Good things to keep in mind.

  26. Kyle June 13, 2013 / 1:48 pm

    Thanks for the help. Will remember that in the future.

  27. Itzamari Pizano June 13, 2013 / 1:57 pm

    This helps me out a lot ;-;

  28. Carmin Snyder June 13, 2013 / 2:02 pm

    Well worth the read! Good information.

  29. jeanie June 13, 2013 / 2:10 pm

    Great article

  30. Sean Ritter June 13, 2013 / 2:14 pm

    Thanks, good info

  31. Alisha anderson June 13, 2013 / 2:17 pm

    Great article!!!! Need to remember this when I do go in for an interview.

  32. Elias Shahin June 13, 2013 / 2:17 pm

    This article is a life changing of course. because not long ago i almost dropped out of school because of a lot of reasons. family member death, stressing out, didn’t know why i’m majored in BUS FINA. i do love math because my thing is to understand not to memorize, but unfortunately 80% of my professors are not doing their jobs. They tell you to buy the book then after you do, they tell you go to my web page and then this website has all the multiple choices you need for the test. and i’m like really ? is this finance ? memorizing ? They started not showing up to class, instead; they will get their TA to assign us a homework from the book just to keep us busy. There is more to talk about, but it’s kinda a long story.
    Something else that i don’t like, these days >> people start acting without thinking/ or thinking without acting. i just want to say wake up and know whats your goals and make every day count. believe in yourself and always say i can do it no matter what and do it for you you you no one else because in this life most of the people out there will hold you back because they want to compete and be better than you. write down your goals now and see what you want to be and be thankful for what you have now.. use the tools that you already have and build yourself. you are the most valuable asset so make your mark and be different. shine from the crowd and stop saying i want to be like him or her. be you

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:16 am

      Elias! You are a reader after my own heart! I agree with you 100%! Keep that attitude and you’re going to get pretty far in life :)

  33. Nicole June 13, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    Great to learn new things from this article. Very interesting.

  34. gale June 13, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    Good article. God created each of us different . Be yourself at all times

  35. Amanda June 13, 2013 / 3:02 pm

    Very interesting!

  36. Jennifer June 13, 2013 / 3:06 pm

    Great article!

  37. heidi June 13, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    great article

  38. Rashae Peterson June 13, 2013 / 3:11 pm

    I’m still currently in college working on my bachelors and I still think, “okay, what do I do after school is finally done?” You kind of have to prepare yourself mentally before hand. It helps get you motivated and helps you search your options much sooner!

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:19 am

      Just jump right in :) There’s really no other way to do it. Kind of like driving a car – you didn’t know what you were doing at first but then you became more confident and learned along the way. Same concept :)

  39. Leeann June 13, 2013 / 3:26 pm

    Good information!

  40. Navid Hakim June 13, 2013 / 3:32 pm

    Very thoughtful!

  41. Tamara June 13, 2013 / 3:53 pm

    Good info!

  42. James McLaughlin June 13, 2013 / 4:03 pm

    Good points…

  43. Bridgette June 13, 2013 / 4:05 pm

    I think all of these are important but you should also remember to be prepared for anything when going into an interview. Stay open minded and go along with whatever the interviewer has you do or asks you.

  44. Nadelyn Pichardo June 13, 2013 / 4:05 pm

    As of right now I’m still in the search for a summer job and I feel a little more confident after reading this article. Sure I was not looking for a job that has to do with my major since I’m majoring in Chemistry however, nonetheless this article provides great advice!

  45. Amanda June 13, 2013 / 4:13 pm

    Nice read!

  46. brad June 13, 2013 / 4:17 pm

    I’d like to challenge: “Step 2: Forget About Your Major”.

    No. Your major is important. If you want a good career, don’t pick the outdoor forest ranger major, history, or something else vague. Research what makes good money within what you are interested in. Medical, Computer, Engineering fields are great careers, and for these great careers it DOES matter what major you choose. So many of my friends picked the WRONG major in college and they cannot find a job. Picking a major is important, don’t pick the wrong one.

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:24 am

      All of the majors you mentioned are incredibly specialized in which case yes your major matters. Otherwise It would be like becoming a doctor without the proper training, or building structures without knowing anything about engineering.

      However if you’re going after a Fortune 500 as an entry level grad (management trainee, sales, csr, admin, even finance at times, business development, etc), they really don’t care what you got your degree in because everyone starts at the same place regardless.

      Side bar: You may be able to get big companies to pay for your graduate degree! They’ll pick you for the promotion over someone outside of the company for two reasons: first, they know you’ve been trained by them and second, they paid for your school and they want a return on investment.

  47. niakeela June 13, 2013 / 4:22 pm

    very good story about jobs. Hope to get a job soon so I can help my family with the bills.

  48. Alexis June 13, 2013 / 4:29 pm

    Very informative article

  49. shaketalynch June 13, 2013 / 4:33 pm

    Really good article, as well as very helpful.

  50. Kristal June 13, 2013 / 5:02 pm

    very helpful article

  51. Liz June 13, 2013 / 5:10 pm

    Good to know.

  52. Sumner June 13, 2013 / 5:15 pm

    Good article

  53. Michelle R June 13, 2013 / 5:17 pm

    This helps me stay positive.

  54. Suzie Leavitt June 13, 2013 / 5:22 pm

    Very helpful article

  55. Samantha Drees June 13, 2013 / 5:28 pm

    That was a very good article! haha

  56. Aaron June 13, 2013 / 5:41 pm

    As the article states, don’t worry about your major! For most employers, having a college degree is all that matters. Don’t give up-keep looking, searching, and applying. Does this apply with everything……. Teachers have to have their degree and in a certain subject in most cases

  57. Ms. Ramon G. Brooks June 13, 2013 / 6:00 pm

    Thanks for the informative advice which will be helpful since I’ll soon be starting college online courses!

  58. emily jenkins June 13, 2013 / 6:05 pm

    good stuff

  59. sarah June 13, 2013 / 6:09 pm

    Good tips!!

  60. Brigette June 13, 2013 / 6:11 pm

    Very true.

  61. Alex Roach June 13, 2013 / 6:20 pm

    Wow very relevant to me. I need a summer job!

  62. Meagan Brown June 13, 2013 / 6:21 pm

    Great article

  63. Grace June 13, 2013 / 6:24 pm


  64. Shereba June 13, 2013 / 6:26 pm

    Sounds good…

  65. katie June 13, 2013 / 6:26 pm

    nice article

  66. Caitlyn CASSON June 13, 2013 / 6:32 pm

    1.dont stress
    2. Be patient

  67. maria June 13, 2013 / 6:33 pm

    This is a very good article

  68. Elizabeth D. June 13, 2013 / 6:37 pm


  69. Jessica June 13, 2013 / 6:44 pm

    Good tips and great read. Thanks for sharing!

  70. Cheryl Rahkonen June 13, 2013 / 6:45 pm

    Thanks for this great article. I think I am one that was hung up on the degree…..but not anymore.

  71. Pouneh Aghababazadeh June 13, 2013 / 6:46 pm

    I’m having trouble with step 1 …

  72. Stephanie Jasuta June 13, 2013 / 6:47 pm

    I agree with point #2 especially. I was communications major and I’m now a teacher!

  73. Melissa Miller June 13, 2013 / 6:50 pm

    Great article with great tips!~

  74. Alessandro Lopes June 13, 2013 / 6:54 pm

    Very strong article!

  75. Jennifer June 13, 2013 / 6:55 pm

    Really good tips here!

  76. Katie June 13, 2013 / 7:14 pm

    Very good article. I am a Norbert’s grad, and am in that situation right now. Can’t lose confidence in yourself. Stay strong!

  77. Lisa June 13, 2013 / 7:25 pm

    Very good article and very helpful/good tips.

  78. Jess June 13, 2013 / 8:11 pm


  79. Courtney Beck June 13, 2013 / 8:15 pm

    Love it.

  80. Jenise June 13, 2013 / 8:19 pm

    Great tips!

  81. Laila June 13, 2013 / 8:24 pm

    Great Article! Love the getting a drivers license and learning to drive comparison… when you put it like that I can breathe and not keep having my little anxiety attacks that I get once in a while! Thanks so much!

    • Amanda Abella June 14, 2013 / 10:40 am

      Haha thanks! I think the driving metaphor is a good one for any new endeavors :)

  82. Mary June 13, 2013 / 8:25 pm


  83. Teena June 13, 2013 / 8:27 pm

    Great article I fount the information helpful

  84. Ashley Cook June 13, 2013 / 8:30 pm

    This will be helpful especially when I start looking for jobs.

  85. Missy June 13, 2013 / 8:33 pm


  86. Sherri June 13, 2013 / 8:40 pm

    good advice

  87. MikeE June 13, 2013 / 8:43 pm

    yup makes sense

  88. Kelsie June 13, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    It’s ok not to get the best job in your major as soon as you graduate. Get your foot in the door and then work your way up

  89. heidi horne June 13, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    this is great I am looking for a job currently!!!

  90. Kody June 13, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    Very informative. Also remember to not settle for the low-ball. Know your capabilities and what you are worth.

  91. Abby June 13, 2013 / 9:11 pm

    thanks for sharing!

  92. Jenny June 13, 2013 / 9:25 pm

    What a great article!

  93. Hans June 13, 2013 / 9:52 pm

    Very true !

  94. vera June 13, 2013 / 9:54 pm

    great info very knowledgable

  95. Cindy Clark June 13, 2013 / 10:19 pm

    great article

  96. sandeep chand June 13, 2013 / 10:34 pm

    This helps more in real life scenario

  97. TIna June 13, 2013 / 10:51 pm

    THanks for sharing!

  98. Allison June 13, 2013 / 10:51 pm

    So true

  99. elizabeth June 13, 2013 / 11:05 pm

    thanks for the info.

  100. Adam June 13, 2013 / 11:16 pm

    Good article

  101. Shannon L June 13, 2013 / 11:35 pm

    Great advice. Especially when you stated to give yourself slack. In this economy, you’re lucky to have a job. Let go of your wishlist and consider every offer.

  102. luis siete June 13, 2013 / 11:36 pm

    Article Got me ready

  103. Jackie June 13, 2013 / 11:37 pm

    Soo True!!!

  104. April June 13, 2013 / 11:38 pm

    Relax and be yourself. You want someone to hire you for who you are and what you truly bring to the table. You don’t want them to be unpleasantly surprised that you are not who you let on to be.

  105. song ashikawa June 13, 2013 / 11:46 pm

    so true!

  106. Amber June 13, 2013 / 11:48 pm


  107. somedude June 14, 2013 / 12:01 am

    Love the bit about the marathon. I see so many interns starting their career in my industry who get all discouraged if they’re not making six figures within three months. Ask the guys who are at the top now, it didn’t happen overnight for them either.

  108. Weezy June 14, 2013 / 12:01 am

    This article has really helped open my eyes a little and not worry so much about getting a job with my major. Thumbs up!

  109. Stephen Golphin June 14, 2013 / 12:11 am

    Great article

  110. Marian June 14, 2013 / 12:15 am

    This is a good article! Especially what it says about cutting yourself some slack!

  111. Maranda June 14, 2013 / 12:22 am

    My suggestion to anybody trying to find their first job is to just not stress about it too much! A lot of people wont call you back, but don’t take it personally! You’ll find a job eventually. :)

  112. mike bousquet June 14, 2013 / 12:37 am

    right in line with what people need to know

  113. Cameron June 14, 2013 / 12:43 am

    Keep in mind that in the State of California, California Labor Code 980 prohibits employers access to potential/hired employees’ personal social media. Therefore if you are asked for access to grant your social media, you can deny potential employers access at your discretion. “Social Media” is defined by the State of California as “an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations”.

  114. Brandon June 14, 2013 / 1:15 am

    I have the hardest time with number 3. I never cut myself a break.

  115. Eduardo Munoz June 14, 2013 / 1:23 am

    enjoyed it it was very helpful

  116. Dillon June 14, 2013 / 1:25 am

    You know, I’m astonished at how many people are simply writing that this is a “great article,” or “Nice.” I have a feeling that if they’ve come here from The Red, they’re failing to see the true point of their task…

    For change to occur, catalysts must be painstakingly collected and the proper tools forged.

  117. Kels June 14, 2013 / 1:59 am

    Love it!

  118. E Tate June 14, 2013 / 2:41 am

    Enjoyed reading

  119. Zakkiyya June 14, 2013 / 2:53 am

    These things are true…you have to start somewhere!

  120. Mark Reynolds June 14, 2013 / 3:08 am

    This is some good info.

  121. Francis Ramos June 14, 2013 / 3:23 am

    Good article and attitude

  122. Rhonda weaver June 14, 2013 / 3:29 am

    Thank you for this Awesome information

  123. Octavia June 14, 2013 / 3:35 am

    Great article

  124. Doris June 14, 2013 / 4:17 am

    Great article!!!

  125. Brenda Moody June 14, 2013 / 5:06 am

    Good article

  126. Angela June 14, 2013 / 5:53 am

    Great information and this makes me feel more confident!

  127. abdul salam khan June 14, 2013 / 6:23 am


  128. Storm June 14, 2013 / 6:40 am

    Great article

  129. Deyette L June 14, 2013 / 7:37 am

    Great Tips

  130. Heather Franco June 14, 2013 / 8:31 am

    Great tips

  131. Andrea June 14, 2013 / 8:51 am

    this is really good

  132. Jake June 14, 2013 / 9:33 am

    cool article

  133. Shenequa June 14, 2013 / 9:49 am

    Nothing more than confirmation.

  134. Brandon June 14, 2013 / 9:52 am

    Great Article

  135. Drea June 14, 2013 / 9:58 am

    Yep, learned in my career, Majors (unless super specific) don’t really matter much in the long run.

  136. Joey Rearden June 14, 2013 / 10:03 am

    good articles

  137. Katie June 14, 2013 / 10:15 am

    very helpful

  138. Bernard H. Watta June 14, 2013 / 10:17 am

    Great information. Wish there had been this kind of help when I was still in school.

  139. Cortney Twila June 14, 2013 / 10:48 am

    I definitely got the “I’m not skilled enough down.” It was really hard for me to get over that. You can go into any job not feeling skilled enough, but practice makes perfect. You just need somewhere to start. Thank you for your wise words.

  140. Donna Waites Robinson June 14, 2013 / 10:50 am

    Thank you very interesting :)

  141. kathy peterson June 14, 2013 / 10:52 am

    Sounds like good advise.

  142. jayne napier June 14, 2013 / 11:05 am

    I think you should be a go getter and get out there and do what u have to do I didn’t and regret it so bad i worked all of my life not what i wanted but i did them anyway anything to make money to raise my daughter so put one foot in front of the other and be a do getter and seek what u want in life and that was a very interesting article.

  143. karla June 14, 2013 / 11:29 am

    Good Article

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