You finally did it. You spent countless hours studying, writing papers, and money on Red Bulls but it’s finally over. Your college graduation is looming just over the horizon. It’s time to finally jump into the real world. Now you’re overwhelmed. You know how to be a successful student, but how are you going to be successful in the professional world?
It can be easy for you to feel swamped and scared about your future after college.
How do I get a job? How do I impress a company I want to work for? How do I balance my work and the rest of my life?
First of all, know you’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal for someone coming out of college to feel lost as they transition into the professional world. We’re also here to bring you some tips and advice to help you navigate these confusing times. Here are 13 pieces of wisdom to help you stand out from the crowd and make a successful transition from college student to career professional.
There are a million things to be done at once, and the thought can be overwhelming when thinking about what step to take next as you begin to start your career. The best thing to do is to just start. Make a commitment to work on your passions, starting today. You’ve heard, “There are no stupid questions.” There are also no stupid ways to gain experience and get started in your career. Look for a job, and put your heart into it. The biggest mistake is doing nothing. Commit to taking action daily and you will succeed.
You need a system to keep track of ideas, research, contacts, planning, and other information related to your career or your job search. Use an app, a spreadsheet, a notebook, or whatever works for you to keep track of your interests. Think of it like building a 2nd brain, getting your thoughts and ideas out onto paper will clear up room in your brain for other thoughts. Start an ongoing list in your “2nd brain” and keep track of ideas, contacts, plans, and job opportunities and every career possibility that comes to mind as a prospect. Try not to censor yourself at all; simply write. Your list will come in handy in various ways during your career planning and job search.
Become an Industry Expert and Explore Your Passion
Pursuing a passion now-before you have children, a mortgage, and years of experience behind you-should be considered a career strategy. In order to be happy in your career, it's important to work at something you find fulfilling.
Once you determine what profession to pursue (or even a few options if you’re not sure yet), begin to read anything and everything you can about that industry. Know which publications are essential reading, which companies are in the news, which executives are being profiled, where the conferences are held, who has the most Twitter followers, what buzzwords are popular, and of course what job titles are available.
Build Your Online Presence
Building an online presence is an important part of becoming an industry expert. While sometimes you can’t control what information appears about you on the web, often you can-such as asking a friend to remove an embarrassing photo caption from his blog before you start interviewing for jobs. You can also control what image you send out on social media and elsewhere. Having no presence at all can be problematic as well. It means employers know less about you right away, if at all possible it’s better to show what type of work you’re capable of by building an online presence. Depending on what type of career opportunities you’re pursuing, you can develop an online presence by contributing blog posts to university or industry websites, engaging in professional social media discussions (especially on LinkedIn), or starting your own blog or video channel. You can write on Medium about certain topics you’re interested in. You want to establish yourself as an authority on your interests or what career you’re trying to break into. So if you’re trying to get into sales, talk about your favorite cold call techniques, and if you’re interested in marketing, show off your creative skills. People will begin to notice you as an authority and be excited about working with you.
Twitter and Linkedin are also excellent ways to build your professional brand now and in the future. As a job seeker, you can build your professional online presence by tweeting out a link to an interesting article, talking about an event you’re attending on Linkedin, or commenting on a tweet by a professional in your industry or one of your desired employers.
E-mail Like a Professional
E-mail addresses like GlitterGirl and TeddyBear123 don’t exactly inspire confidence when listed on a resume or posted on a job search website. For professional purposes, register a simple combination of your first name (or first initial) and last name at a free web-based email service, such as Gmail.
How you write and carry yourself online says a lot about you. Do your best to speak confidently and concisely to be known in that way as well. Remember that every interaction you have with a potential networking contact or employer is contributing to your image and your chances of getting a job. So use complete sentences and proofread in professional correspondence.
No one has ever built a career alone. Talk to anyone and everyone about their careers as often as you can. Ultimately, they will be a person who hires you, a person who promotes you, and a person who signs your paychecks. The sooner you get comfortable meeting and talking with new people, the more successful you’re bound to be.
Networking doesn’t have to be going to an event and talking to people, another great way to network is setting up interviews with successful professionals who are willing to share career advice with you. All informational interviews should conclude with one essential question-perhaps the most important of all: “Would you be willing to connect me with anyone else you know who might offer some advice?”
Consider a Coach
As a student, if you needed extra help in a class or for a grad school entrance exam, you’d consider hiring a tutor. If you wanted to learn to play an instrument in college, you’d hire a teacher. If you wanted to get into serious shape, you might hire a personal trainer. Why not use the same strategy for your career planning? If you're working towards your next career step, mentorship can be a huge help. A career coach can be a valuable investment, but you can also find mentors online through networking. Using them as a resource to build your career can also be invaluable.
Resume & Cover Letters
What is impressive on a marketer's resume is different from what’s necessary on an engineer’s resume. So, make sure you tailor your resume to the job you’re interested in. If you haven’t already, show your resume to anyone you know in your desired field(s) and get their opinion before you apply for jobs.
Your cover letter is also important. Think of it as a form of marketing: you need to show that you know your market (the potential employer) and that you’ve got the skills and experience they need. Companies don’t want to read letters about how much you want to learn or how you want to try something different. They want to know what you will contribute to their organization. A quick way to know if your cover letter is too focused on you? Count the number of times you use the word “I.” You can also use sites like Linkedin and Crash.co to connect on a more personal level and get your resume out on the web as well.
You can anticipate the majority of questions you’ll be asked in a job interview. The more experience you have answering those questions successfully, and the more feedback you’ve gotten about your performance, the better you’ll do in the actual interview. Never let your actual interview be the first time you talk out loud about your experience. It’s important to research some different details about the company before going into the interview, including:
- The company itself
- The industry to which the company belongs
- The major competitors of that company
- The particular job function for which you are applying
If an interviewer throws you a curve ball, do your best to stay in the moment and go where the interviewer takes you. Listen carefully to what the interviewer is telling you or asking, and take time answering questions, especially if they are unanticipated.
It’s also important to know the salary you both want and is reasonable to ask for with your experience and in your industry. Online resources like Salary.com and Glassdoor are helpful for getting a ballpark estimate for a potential job. The best way to get an accurate assessment is to talk to someone who actually works in the type of job you want. Tap your personal and alumni networks for recent grads in your field who might be willing to share some numbers with you.
Take on Projects
If you’re having trouble finding a full-time job in the industry you want to join, but you’ve been successful in your networking efforts, it may be a good strategy for you to offer to do some project work-unpaid or for an hourly rate for one of the professionals you know or have met. Experiential learning is a wise way to build learn skills, get feedback, find opportunity, and possibly even impress people enough to hire you full-time at some point in the future.
Always Keep Exploring
It is not necessarily easy to find your dream career, and it may take a lot of searching to find it. But don’t give up, because it’s out there. And you never know which mountain or friend of a friend will turn out to be the correct path-so it’s perfectly okay to explore them all.
Whether you’re in college, or a Bootcamp, sure or unsure of your career direction, one thing is certain: you shouldn’t feel pressured to stick to just one thing this early in your career. If you have multiple interests, it's okay to explore all of them. While it certainly takes time to pursue several opportunities, you have nothing to lose by keeping several doors open.
Keep Learning and Develop your Hobbies
Consider taking a class or workshop on a random topic that you find fascinating or have always wanted to try, even if it doesn’t directly connect to your job search or career planning. You never know what talents you might discover in your Saturday afternoon cooking class, or what career opportunities you might learn about through your online graphic design course.
Hobbies are a fantastic way to find a work-life balance that works, but you also never know how your hobbies will also translate into strengthening your skills in your career. For example, being a strong public speaker is always a plus in any career, especially if you’re able to skillfully incorporate a joke. Any type of stage training, including stand-up, can help you to learn skills like poise, storytelling, and connecting with an audience of one person or one hundred people.
If work-life integration is important to you then you have to plan for it. These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Technology makes work accessible around the clock which can incentivize longer hours. In fact, a whopping 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week in a Harvard Business School survey. Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health, and happiness.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual, but it’s important to take time for yourself and rest. Set time boundaries for yourself when it comes to work. Explore your hobbies and plan out exciting trips and vacations to give yourself time to relax.
From making the right impression to getting a handle on time management, this new phase of life can be tricky to navigate. We hope these tips help set you up for success. If you’re interested in learning more ways to get ready for the professional world, check out the Meratas blog!
Topics: Professional Development