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4 fail-proof application tips for recent graduates

Congratulations, new graduates! You’ve earned your degree, and as you head into an exciting future filled with possibilities, we’d like to offer you a few tips on how to prepare for the job hunt and best show off your new skillset, especially if you want to join our VA team.

Tip #1: Ready your resume

When you’re applying for any job, not just your first, you need a resume. Since it’s the first opportunity you’re going to have to really sell yourself to a hiring manager or recruiter, you need to make sure you shine.

For some of you, this might be easy. Your degree will define the skills you’ve acquired that make you a good candidate for the job you want. Transcripts, awards, and certifications can all show how you took advantage of your education to get ready for your career.

For others, your degree may not immediately sell you as a perfect candidate for that VA career. In that case, highlight soft skills, like organization, communication, and work ethic, or hard skills like computer expertise, writing proficiency, or even a second language (which is a major bonus in a lot of federal jobs).

Don’t dismiss something because you didn’t get paid for it, either. Volunteer experience, internships, and even hobbies can also be a source of experience that supports your application, so don’t forget to add them If it can reasonably be applied to any of the job requirements.

Tip #2: Practice for interviews

After your resume, the interview is the next time you’ll be able to sell yourself to a hiring manager. If you think of your resume as getting your foot in the door, the interview is the time to blow the door off the hinges.

At VA, we use a performance-based interview (PBI) process. With these kinds of questions, we present a scenario and ask you to tell us what you did in that instance. For example, we may ask you about explaining something to a patient, or how you dealt with conflicting priorities.

You can learn about our interview process—and even find a few sample questions—on our website, but the best advice we can offer is practice, practice, practice. Practice with friends or family (or both!) so you can get comfortable with answering these kinds of questions in a clear, articulate manner.

Tip #3: Build a network

It is critical for recent and upcoming graduates to start networking as soon as possible.

In this day and age, it’s easy to start networking right from the comfort of your dorm. Connect with people on LinkedIn, especially people who are in your chosen career field. You can ask them questions and learn about how they got their start at VA.

Also, don’t discount the old-fashioned, tried-and-true method of meeting people face to face. While we live in a very virtual world, there is something to be said for making good first impressions. Plenty of people have earned a second look from a recruiter with a firm handshake and a confident smile.

To that end, look for job fairs or networking events hosted by your local VA. You can also combine the 2 methods of networking we’ve talked about here and reach out to your local VA’s human resources department to inquire about opportunities online or in person.

Tip #4: Manage your expectations

As you enter the job market, you may have a specific career goal, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t focus on those opportunities as they become available. However, don’t be disappointed if your first job offer isn’t the exact job you want.

Taking a job that’s adjacent to what you want to do can be a great way to start a rewarding career. Sometimes, there are different roads to the same destination, so getting your foot in the door and gaining some valuable experience won’t be a wasted effort.

Especially at VA, that first job gives you access to our many employment benefits, including some student loan repayment options and continuing education scholarships to help ease financial burden or give you skills to continue on the path to your career goal.

Work at VA

We wouldn’t be able to provide high quality care for Veterans without enthusiastic and educated new graduates like you. Congratulations on your degree, and we can’t wait to meet you.

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