After earning her degree, one of my daughters is facing that challenging post-college period when summer partying is over, her friends are scattered up and down the country and the cold reality of ‘what’s next?’ takes center stage.
Sound familiar? If the answer to that question is yes, what practical actions can you take? What mindset would serve you best as you begin the job search in earnest?
Here are 5 tips for recent graduate making the transition from academic to professional:
Discover the Rules of the Game
The best way to find out what employers expect is to dive in at the deep end with work experience through internships, work placements, volunteering or temporary work. Starting with your raving fans (including your friends, your friends’ friends, mentors and university professors and lecturers) get warm introductions from within your network to professionals working within your chosen industry. Study those professionals. What makes them successful, or not?
Show you care about the organizations you speak with. Give it your all. A big criticism from employers is about graduates’ lack of research before interviews and not enough preparation. Tell them something even they don’t know about their business! What are their competitors doing? What trends are overtaking the industry?
Even more important, ask good questions.
Manage Your Expectations
Discover the typical salary range for the work you’ll do in your industry (Salary.com and Glassdoor.com are great places to start). Read company reviews from the people already employed there (Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com). Once you know what you’re getting into from a compensation and culture perspective, be prepared to roll your sleeves up.
Define success in your own terms not someone else’s. Don’t be afraid to fail – it’s how you learn what to rule out or rule in. You are no longer just responsible for yourself, getting assignments in and managing your social life. Change the language from ‘I’ to ‘We’ and the ‘client’ or ‘user’. Employers want team players who know how and when to follow.
Create a 6 Month Plan
Forget the 5 year plan. Prioritize a practical short-term plan to position yourself with employers through establishing your online and face-to-face professional identity. Make yourself visible, attract employers like a magnet and articulate who you are through online profiles and networking.
Tap Into Alumni, Find a Mentor
On LinkedIn, find graduates from your university, and even the same course, who are now working in a company that interests you. There is nothing more motivating than having someone truly believe in you and being alongside you to talk things through. So work those introductions, or introduce yourself, to recent alumni and, when appropriate, ask them to serve as your mentor.
Find out how they made the transition to professional life, what worked for them, what pitfalls to avoid, what their jobs are like, and insight or guidance into a particular career or industry. They will know what you are going through if they have graduated recently. Be a brilliant mentee!
Through all of this: realize that job hunting is a job in itself – don’t let anyone tell you different. Show your work ethic to future employers – and use your job search as an example of the dedication you apply to the projects in front of you.
What one action will you take today to help your transition to work?
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Learning to Leap!
About the Author: David Shindler is the author of “Learning to Leap, a Guide to Being More Employable.” An experienced coach and people development expert, David specializes in developing and accelerating employability. He also runs the Employability Hub (a social learning community and resource center) and the Learning to Leap group on LinkedIn and Facebook fan page. Tweet David, or contact him via his website.