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Beyond the Diploma: Navigating the Path to Professional Success

Job Search

April 29, 2024

With spring attempting to make its way to Iowa, many college seniors are preparing for a big milestone: graduation. Along with the excitement about completing an educational program and moving out of a house or apartment comes anxiety about finding a job and figuring out what’s next.

We live in an ever-changing job market. One day there are hundreds of jobs posted online to apply for, and the next day we hear about hiring freezes and potential downsizing. Current statistics from Iowa Workforce Development show unemployment in the state at 2.9% overall and 4.8% for recent college graduates. The economy and job market will always play a part in the job search, but the biggest factor is how you approach it!

Tackle Your Job Search in Greater Des Moines

Searching for your first job can feel overwhelming, but let’s break it down into three things you can focus on that will help yield better results: Networking, Experience and Partnership.


A buzz word in the professional space, networking is a topic that could be an entirely separate blog, so let’s focus on a few key elements.

First, set up a professional presence online, aka LinkedIn profile. Use a professional (or professional looking) profile photo, add all experience and education details. Then, start connecting, finding professors and educational staff, speakers you’ve heard in the classroom and former job shadow opportunities through professional groups. The more connections you make on LinkedIn, the more you will get out of this resource! Reposting and liking articles/ posts and engaging with others who post make a connection and start conversation on the professional platform. Employers are likely to search your LinkedIn profile during the hiring process, so be sure to keep your information up to date and show you are active.

Second, find a mentor. Connecting with someone you aspire to be like (skills, experience, or level of success) can give you an idea of what needs to be done in your job search, how to avoid mistakes they’ve made or things they may suggest you do differently connect you with the industry.

Third, take advantage of every opportunity you can to network, because somewhere down the line it will come in handy. Knowing people is one thing, but being intentional about introducing yourself and following up, is where networking can really yield results. Speakers that come into your classroom, HR professionals at career fairs, family friends, neighbors, etc. can all be connections to your future job.

Experience While in School

Gain as much experience as possible while in school. Seek out an internship that aligns with the type of work you want to do (not just an internship/job to have something on your resume). Volunteering, or working part-time in the space you want to be, is better than getting paid to work in a role that does not align with your future goals. Employers are not going to ask if an internship was paid or unpaid; they care most about the experience you gained and how that applies to the full-time position you are interviewing for.

Continue to gain experience outside of the classroom. Job shadow. Attend networking events. Join professional groups or boards. Nothing is more valuable to speak about in an interview than how you differentiate yourself from the tens and hundreds of other candidates who have the same degree as you.

Finally, continue to develop your skills through online workshops and certifications, books, podcasts and conferences. Anything you can do to continuously grow your skills is going to benefit you when applying and interviewing for jobs after college. Apply! As a rule of thumb, if you meet 70% of the job requirements, apply for the role! The 30% you don’t meet will allow room for you to learn and grow. Don’t let yourself be the reason you were not selected for a job.

Partnership; Work with a Recruiter

Partnering with a recruiter can give you an advantage in your job search because they specialize in helping candidates with a specific skillset, and they are well connected to hiring leaders across various companies. Working with a recruiter is a completely free service to candidates and serves as an extension of your job search.

Recruiters will provide personalized job searching assistance, evaluation and editing with resumes and cover letters as well as customized interview training. They have extensive knowledge of local markets and will ensure your resume is being used as a working document; edited to highlight experience and skills that align with each specific job you’ll apply for. They will help you articulate what you bring to the table and spend time preparing you for interviews with employers, giving immediate and personalized feedback.

For more information on what it’s like to work with a recruiter, check out this recent blog written by a Palmer Group college intern!

Since 1998 Palmer Group has been a leading resource in providing Talent and Business solutions. With consistency and confidence, our experts partner with our clients and candidates as they navigate the evolving job market. Our award-winning employment solutions include temporary and contract staffing, direct hire placement, as well as additional job seeker services and employer services.

We are an employee-owned company founded on strong ethics, values, and a passion for making lives better. Our employees are committed professionals that are passionate about helping others and forming relationships that matter.

As part of your job search strategy, Palmer Group’s agency recruiters offer support and guidance at no cost, to help you identify the best opportunities and set yourself apart in today’s competitive job market.

To get started, explore our list of open jobs or submit your resume today.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Deidra Meyer

Deidra Meyer is Recruiting and Development Lead at Palmer Group, a premier employment solutions provider across the Midwest. She has 13+ years of experience in recruiting and development and holds her SHRM-CP and ASA-TSC certifications. Deidra is a member of the Attraction and Retention Council and involved in HR groups.