8 Steps to Landing Your First Job
8 Steps to Landing Your First Job
From in-depth resume prep to help finding your career path, here's everything you need to know.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," according to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, but for students and early-in-career candidates it's seldom clear what that first step should be. How can you position yourself as a great candidate if you don't have previous experience in the field—or any previous professional experience, as the case may be? Where to even begin?
Not to worry, we'll show you how to navigate. Whether you're interested in freelance roles, full-time jobs, leadership development opportunities, internships or Co-Ops, landing your first job starts with eight simple steps.
Write Down Your Interests
If you don't have much (or any) previous professional experience under your belt, it's hard to know where to begin. Which industries should you consider? Which job titles? The questions are basically endless.
But the answer to these and related questions is ultimately going to be the old Buddhist one: You need to look inward. To help you get started, take a moment to complete the following prompts.
- I’m usually really excited to talk about _________.
- I love learning about _________.
- I tend to lose track of time when I'm _________.
- I like solving problems that involve _________ , _________ and _________.
- My strongest subject in school has always been _________.
- I've received praise and positive feedback about my ability to _________.
- Five people I admire have jobs in the following fields: _________, _________, _________, _________ and _________.
Don't think too hard about your answers for now. In this context, whatever your gut is telling you is probably right.
Spend a moment studying your answers above. Are there any themes you notice? What stands out to you? See anything surprising?
If you don't have ready answers for questions like these, that's fine. However, there's also a trick we can use to expedite this process, and it's a marvelously simple one: Open a new browser window, head to the job site of your choice and use your answers above as literal keywords in the search box. Then, when you're ready, hit the "Search" button.
What comes up? What kinds of roles are you seeing? Are there titles or functions that seem to be repeating?
As you start investigating, don’t worry about job locations or any of the other specifics for now. For example, you shouldn't be thinking about the amount of money you stand to earn in a given field or role. All of that stuff can come later. Your only goal at this point should be to identify potential career pathways.
Pro tip: If you need a more structured approach to figuring out your first career move, there are other tools that can help as well. For example, the O*NET Interest Profiler from the U.S. Department of Labor might be a good place to start. This free, interactive tool asks you about your level of interest in 60 different work-related activities, and your answers are used as the basis for recommendations about career pathways. That might help surface some useful ideas, especially if you got stuck with the above exercise.
Finally, note that the U.S. Department of Labor offers a number of other free career tools for people like you, and you can access all of them here.
Think Through the Options (Not Just "Job" Jobs)
While you're busy looking at job boards, bear in mind that not all "jobs" will go by that name. In fact, there's a parallel ecosystem of opportunities built for people like you. So be sure to check out the following options, too.
- Internships: Variable in length (usually anywhere from two to four months), often paid (or with cost-of-living stipends included), internships give you the equivalent of full-time work experience, together with the freedom to explore your interests and see where you fit best. In other words, they're an awesome option for undergrads, grad students, recent grads—and pretty much anyone just starting out in their careers.
- Co-Ops: Like internships, Co-Ops are another common career pathway into Johnson & Johnson, but there are a few differences as well. For one, in order to be eligible, you may need to have relevant experience or education in a specific subject area. Our Co-Ops also typically run a bit longer than internships—they can be eight or even 12 months in duration. Oh, and all of our Co-Ops come with competitive compensation, too.
- Leadership Development Programs (LDPs): LDPs at Johnson & Johnson are multiyear rotational programs for undergrads and graduate students in which you take on real-world challenges—and are challenged to grow. Plus, you'll benefit from exposure to multiple sectors and lines of business. And since participants often wind up with full-time job offers, this could be the prologue in the story of how you landed your first job.
Put Together a Resume ...
Your resume is a key piece of how you present yourself as a professional in the world. As such, it needs to do a lot of different things at once: quickly and effectively highlight who you are, for example, while also communicating what you hope to become—and what you want to do next.
How to express all of that to a recruiter or hiring manager while adhering to the minimalist structure demanded by the document? While the answer to that is fairly complicated, your recommended course of action is anything but:
- Review the three highest-impact resume formats for 2022.
- Decide on the format you like the best (which should be the format that makes the most sense for your candidacy).
- Download the associated template.
- Follow the prompts on the template as you fill out the document.
Pro tip: While writing a resume is oftentimes challenging for college students, it doesn't have to be. Check out these seven resume best practices for college students if you're looking for more hands-on guidance.
... and a LinkedIn Profile
Ready to expand your professional network, discover new opportunities and—who knows?—maybe even get noticed organically by recruiters and hiring managers?
Then it's time to tackle your first-ever LinkedIn profile.
From start to finish, fortunately, this should be a breeze—a career newbie like you won't have too much professional experience to document, and you'll also see that there's a lot of overlap between your LinkedIn profile and the resume you just put together. For example, you can likely copy and paste the candidate statement verbatim from your resume into the "About" section on LinkedIn. As for the rest, fill out what you can of the remainder, including the "Education" section, as completely as possible. Next, upload a professional headshot, select a few interests and start adding contacts from your network.
One more thing: It's a good idea to spend some time looking at your account settings, too. Say you've created an alert about career opportunities at a prospective employer, for example. Do you want to signal that interest to recruiters at the company? This defaults to "No," but for you, the answer could be "Yes."
And a final, final step: Before you go, why not take a moment to make sure your profile stands out? If you're up for it, cross-reference the profile you put together against these profile-building best practices for LinkedIn.
Pro tip: If your LinkedIn profile is in working order, consider shortening and simplifying the URL that links to your profile by following these steps. While this isn't essential, of course, it is a nice finishing touch and suggests a bit of professional polish. Why live at "linkedin.com/in/your-name-123456789" when "linkedin.com/in/your-name" can be yours? The latter might be easier to remember for future professional contacts, too.
Start Searching (and Applying!)
Armed with a fuller sense of all the different opportunities out there, not to mention a best-in-class resume and completed LinkedIn profile, it's time for some action. How should you go about hunting for roles? What are the right tactics? And what should be your overarching strategy?
Let's start with tactics. If you plan to take advantage of job sites, a lot of your success is going to boil down to using the right keywords. So determine which terms really matter for your job search, and weed out those that are extraneous. Notice, for example, that you can use the filters on most job sites to exclusively show entry-level positions—meaning that shouldn't be included in your search criteria, and you'll see more targeted results by omitting it, too.
In terms of strategy, at this point it's a good idea to start thinking through how you would answer questions like the following:
- How much does this company's industry matter to me? Is that more or less important than the company's mission?
- Would I rather work for a smaller company or a larger one?
- Do I do my best in more structured environments or less structured environments?
- What would be an acceptable salary range for me? And what about perks and benefits? Would the right perks and benefits allow me to accept a job with lower starting pay?
- How much flexibility do I really need? How often do I want to work from home?
Keep your answers to these questions in mind as you start applying for roles, and as you do, try to identify a small cohort of companies—say, 15 or so—where you think you would be an excellent fit.
Pro tip: Think you've found a potential employer that really interests you, based on the questions above? If so, consider checking the box to receive notifications about relevant new roles as they become available. That's something we offer to candidates who sign up for our global talent community, and you'll find similar options on most career sites.
Prepare for the Interview
What should you expect going into an interview so early in your career? At least in one respect, you're in luck here: Entry-level jobs usually involve no more than two or three rounds of interviews, and the process will probably be something like what we've outlined below.
- Phone interview: This call will be largely introductory and exploratory in nature—especially if a recruiter is on the line, and the hiring manager isn't, it could be a fairly informal chat. But either way, think of this as a relationship- and trust-building opportunity for all parties, as well as a chance for you to talk about your candidacy and learn more about the role. Expect thirty minutes to an hour, tops. Take a moment to review the eight things you should do before a phone interview and you'll be all set.
- First-round interview: Staying positive, answering questions clearly, listening patiently, even just looking the part—there are a lot of things you'll want to get right in a first-round interview. So it's no surprise these interviews occasionally cause anxiety for job seekers, especially when you're just starting out in your career. How to stay cool? Review these six ways to ace your first-round interview for an overview of the process, plus tips and actionable advice.
- Second-round interview: This is the final stage for most entry-level roles, so if you've made it this far in the process, that alone should feel good and be a source of confidence. That said, a lot of things could be different this time compared to the previous round. Check out our complete guide to second-round interviews for a detailed breakdown of what you should expect.
Finally, since you're going to field one or more behavioral interview questions at some point in this process, it's also probably a good idea to brush up on these tips for answering behavioral interview questions.
Decide on Next Steps
Let's assume the interview was a slam dunk (or, in any case, that it went sufficiently well for the company to have offered you the role). Now, the ball is firmly in your court.
Yay or nay? What's it going to be?
This is a big moment, obviously, and while you should think about it carefully, the decision needn't be stressful. Just make sure you have a firm grasp on the key details: what's expected of you, what the timeline is for replying and so on.
Whatever your answer is, congratulations are probably in order. After all, you've made it to the last step in our checklist, and a significant professional milestone should be right around the corner.
Pro tip: For more granular guidance, head over to these best practices for accepting or declining job offers.
Take Your First Step With Us Today!
Ready to put your best foot forward, launch your career in a deeply inclusive environment and apply your skills to positively impact the future of health for everyone?
If so, be sure to check out all of the opportunities to join Johnson & Johnson today.
And one more thing before you go: Why not sign up to join our global talent community, as well? It's an easy way to stay in touch, learn more about our culture at Johnson & Johnson—and even get notifications about jobs that might interest you in the future.