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Even when you’re still a student, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what kind of job you want and the best way to become qualified for it (Image from Career Day at NTNU. Photo: Johan Røed)

Advice and Tips

Five steps to landing your first dream job

Written by Stine Pjaaten og Anne Grete Nordal Published: Mar. 17 2022

Is your goal to find a job that’ll leave you happy at the end of the day? Even if you’re still a student, you should start taking the steps needed to finding and landing your first dream job.

Whether you’re a new student or have been studying for awhile, it’s never a bad idea to start thinking about your future career. Maybe you’ve been imagining the job you want, maybe you’ve already gotten a foot in the door after a summer job, or maybe you’re starting from scratch. But no matter where you’re at, there are a few things you should think about when looking ahead to your future.

Head of Tekna’s career services, Mette Meinert

Mette Meinert is head of Tekna’s career services, and for 15 years, she’s been helping members find their career path. She says that it’s a smart idea to start thinking about where you’d like to work when you’re still a student, and that your dream job might be something completely different than what it is for your fellow students.

According to Meinert, there are still certain criteria that apply to most people when describing their dream job. Being at work should be a positive experience where co-workers feel a sense of unity. There should be a good balance between having work tasks you master easily and those that challenge you. A job should also give you opportunities for career development.

Meinert has also noted that many recent graduates have been putting company values at the top of their wish list when looking for a job.

– They want to work for a company whose values are the same as their own. For example, if you’re concerned about climate, you probably want your company to have the same focus. This is because for many people, their job becomes their whole identity.  

How to land your dream job – step by step:

  1. Participate in extracurricular activities

    – Starting when you’re a student, it’s a good idea to think about developing skills, including extracurricular ones. If you don’t have more than your degree to put on your CV, it might appear a little thin compared with someone else who has more skills. One way to help yourself is to get summer jobs relevant to your degree as this’ll give you a big advantage when it comes to applying for jobs after you graduate, says Meinert.

    The career advisor also feels that you should think about how you can make yourself as attractive an employee as possible.

    – For example, being a member of a student organization or participating in other non-credit courses/activities will give you valuable experience and make your CV stand out from the crowd.

    – And here’s another tip: If you haven’t yet started your Master’s thesis, try to find a practical topic to write about, for instance a challenge that companies are currently facing. Don’t choose a topic that’s highly academic if you might want to work in the private sector. Consider this carefully before starting to work on your thesis.

    She also recommends updating your LinkedIn profile while at school.

    – Having a LinkedIn profile is really impactful in certain industries. You can use as many special terms as you want and lots of acronyms, too. All of this might help your name come up when recruiters and potential employers are doing online searches.

  2. Think outside the box

    – Do broad searches. Find out more about what you call your “dream job”, and maybe it’s something completely different than what you’d find at the five most popular companies, she says, explaining:

    – There are a lot of exciting things going on outside of the biggest and most attractive companies, whose piles of applications are often enormous.

    Tekna for students

    As a student you get two insurances included in your membership.
    In addition you can get help with job applications and salary recommendations and you will be a part of a social and professional environment. 

    She also advises recent graduates to look beyond the private sector. – Don’t forget the public sector! There’s a lot happening there these days. And maybe you’ll be given more responsibility and interesting work assignments. You might also get broader experience at a younger age than you’d get in other sectors, which might be more specialized.

  3. Do your research

    You’ll be better prepared if you learn information about a company in advance. That’s why Meinert advises you to find a few companies that seem interesting and then follow along with their operations.

    – Watch the news and follow companies on social media. There are a lot of interesting things being advertised here. It’ll help you get an idea of a company’s current projects and what it’s like to work there. You can use your insight when applying for a job or contacting them. And if you use social media, it’ll notify you if any available jobs appear, she explains.

  4. Use your contacts

    – Do you know somebody who’s working at a place you think is interesting? Be curious and ask them questions about what it’s like to work there, and what background people who work there have, and what kind of projects they’re working on. Let them know that you’re interested in working there.

    – It’s very important to think about your network. Not just the people closest to you that you know best, but also people who are in your «secondary network». Tell it like it is: «Hey, I’m really interested in what you’re doing, do you have five minutes to have coffee and answer a few questions?», says Meinert encouragingly.

    She also thinks there are opportunities to be found in the informal job market, through a so-called open cover letter.

    – In an open cover letter, you can invite yourself to have a five-minute chat with a representative of a company that especially interests you. If you’re allowed to do this, it’s important that you show interest and ask questions instead of just trying to sell yourself. It’s not a job interview, but rather a way of getting to know each other. Ask about what it’s like to work in this industry and what kind of competence they’ll be needing in the future.

    Meinert also says that you should follow along on LinkedIn to keep up with where your former fellow students are working – maybe there’s something for you there as well.

  5. Write a good CV and cover letter

    Once you’ve found out where you want to work, all that’s left is for you to apply there. You’ll find a complete guide on how to write the perfect application here: How to write a good application. 

    Here are a few brief pointers:

    – Answer the job ad. Show that you have what it takes to meet the company’s needs. And remember that you don’t have to fulfill all the requirements listed in the ad to apply.

    – Spend a good amount of time on your application and avoid making sloppy mistakes.

    – Let your personality shine through, but be a bit formal as well.

    – Use the “key qualifications” section of your CV to promote your most important qualifications for the job.

    – Show that you believe in yourself, yet show humility as well.

    After you’ve read through the tips, Meinert recommends that you create your CV and cover letter in Tekna’s CV Builder.

    If you’ve already written a CV and/or cover letter, feel free to send them to Tekna’s career team at [email protected] to be reviewed

    Moving on from your first job

    Meinert says that if you can leave work at the end of the day and think that you’ve had a good day there, you’re probably in the right place. Yet she emphasizes that it’s still important that your expectations about your first job are realistic.

    – The most important thing about your first job is that it has an environment that encourages employees’ learning and development. Talk with your supervisor and try to create a situation where at least some of the work tasks you have move you forward in a positive direction.

    The career advisor then goes on to say that at the beginning of your career, it’s standard practice to switch jobs relatively often.

    – If you’re in your first job, it’s not unheard of that you’ll be leaving it after two years. Just remember that it can be a good thing to stay at one place long enough so you can show that you’ve gotten positive results and acquired new skills when you decide to move on and apply for a new job.

    In addition, Meinert thinks there are a lot of benefits to be gained from trying out different jobs. Doing so can both help you find your career path and give you a lot of valuable experience.

    Finally, she points out that people often get their biggest salary increases when they change jobs.

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