Career Building Tips for New Graduates
College and university graduates usually face a real challenge when trying to land their first job after graduation. Lack of professional experience, labor market conditions and the absence of job-hunting and self-presentation skills make finding a job for graduates more difficult than for experienced job-seekers. Moreover, the task of finding a job itself isn’t the toughest one. You’ll need to determine your career interests (maybe even create a career plan), get busy with writing of CV, and find the first employment, balancing your ambitions with what the employers have to offer.
You’ve worked really hard to obtain your BA or MA degree; however, it’s only the first step towards your professional success. To make the right decisions at the beginning of your career, use our advice below. Today, we will share the secrets for faster job search, choosing the right company and developing an attitude that will help you drive your career.
Building a successful career: 21 tips
Part 1. Resume writing and job-hunting
- Take your time to create a high-quality resume
A resume isn’t your ticket to the job. A good resume won’t compensate for the lack of your professional employment. However, other things equal, a professionally written resume can take you past the ATS selection and guarantee you more attention from the hiring managers. In other words, you won’t be able to compete with experienced applicants, but will shine comparing to other recent graduates.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind. Firstly, since you don’t have any experience, focus on your education and academic accomplishments. Including volunteering experience, extracurricular activities and student affiliations might also help. Secondly, create a resume objective which is focused on the needs of the employer. And finally, keep it neat and relevant – since you don’t have much experience, one page is more than enough.
For more resume writing tips for graduates, see here: http://resumeperk.com/blog/help-making-a-resume-for-freshers-15-tips.
- Consider more career options
Since you’re new in your industry, you might not see all possible career directions. A degree can open more doors than you realize, and you should apply for all entry-level roles where your degree is required. If you don’t have practical relevant experience, you cannot know what kind of work will fit you well, and you don’t know what you’re really qualified for in the real world. So, consider any relevant career opportunities coming across – you never know where this opportunity might take you. Need ideas about where your talents and strengths will be most helpful? Find a career counselor in your campus or seek the advice of HR professionals.
Do you have a hobby you’re really passionate about? If so, consider making money out of it. Here’s how you can turn a hobby into a full-time job: http://resumeperk.com/blog/how-to-turn-your-hobby-into-job.
- Be ready to hear ‘No’
Landing a job with no experience is not a walk in the park. Most likely, you’ll face a lot of rejections and many doors will shut until one opens. Remember that for university graduates this situation is completely normal, and many have come through it. So, don’t get discouraged and keep applying and networking until you get that desired interview invitation.
However, simply accepting rejections is not enough – you can learn from them. When you hear ‘No’ after sending in your application or after an interview, don’t be shy to ask about your mistakes or weaknesses. By collecting feedback and improving in the areas you lacked in, you’ll make your next attempts more successful.
There is a number of hacks that can speed up your job search process, check them out here: http://resumeperk.com/blog/10-useful-tips-to-speed-up-job-search.
- Find a company that shares your values
There are lots of jobs for those who knows where to look for. However, to feel really successful, you’ll need to find the company whose values you share and whose mission you believe in. When you are able to maintain your integrity at work, you are more inspired and move up the career ladder faster. All in all, a job is something more than the source of income; those who love their job get promoted faster, make more and have more balanced lives in general.
If that’s the kind of career you are looking for, use a whole different approach to job hunting. Find the companies with missions that resonate with yours and values you share, and apply to them directly. Create a strong cover letter to show your cultural fit and motivation.
- Get ready to do the unenjoyable tasks
If you get hired, you’ll probably have to start from the entry-level roles. This means that you will learn from practice, and start with the very basic set of duties. Quite often, for the first months on the job recent graduates only perform basic secretarial duties or assist others. You may also be asked to do the routine, mundane job that no one else feels like doing (by the way, here are some tips to regain the lost motivation for work: http://resumeperk.com/blog/simple-ideas-to-regain-motivation-for-working.
For the ambitious young professionals, this may sound discouraging. Think about this: if you have a degree in finance, nobody will let you manage the company’s accounts until you are experienced enough. So, see those first months as the opportunity to learn more about the company and observe others, stay persistent, and you’ll start getting more serious tasks quite soon.
- Have a clear vision of your strengths
To distinguish yourself at all stages of job-hunting, you need to clearly understand what differentiates you from the others. In other words, you have to know your strengths and why they are important for your chosen career line. Playing to your strengths is easier than trying to downplay the weaknesses.
So, what is it that you have and many others don’t? Maybe, you have studied abroad for a year, or won a student contest, or have gained some practical skills while assisting in family business. Think of which skills these experiences call for and how it can be reflected in the resume. Presenting athletic experience during the interview can also add you points.
- Join a rapidly growing startup
If you are initiative, ambitious and obsessed with your future line of work, a corporate environment with its bureaucracy might be not the best fit for you. Moreover, in conservative industries it takes decades to make it to the top of the corporate ladder.
To build career faster, it’s better to choose a rapidly growing industry or join a startup. When the company (or industry in general) is developing quickly, you learn on the go and acquire skills much faster than in calm and stable environment. So, your career will take care of itself: you’ll go through the ranks with a rocket speed. And, having joined a small startup as a junior software developer, you can find yourself in a chief technology officer role in a few years.
- Don’t just send your resume
Although applying for job openings via job boards or company websites has become the most popular way of job hunting, don’t let it be your only method. Given the facts that most jobs are never advertised and most people use the same method, its efficiency isn’t very high.
Rather than sending your resume out again and again, think about how you can approach this process proactively.
The easiest way to facilitate the job hunting is to make cold calls to the companies or to connect with hiring managers via LinkedIn. However, it’s better to go even further and get a referral or meet with a company representative in person (for instance, on the job fair) – in these cases you become top of mind for a hiring managers and the chance of getting hired increases dramatically.
- Take care of that social media
As a student, you must have used social media for fun and connection with friends only. Meanwhile, the employers do scan the Instagram and Facebook profiles of job applicants to get an idea about the candidate’s values and personality. If your profile has loads of pictures from the nightclubs, parties, beach and controversial jokes, this might be the reason why you are not invited for interviews. Companies use your profile to understand whether you fit into an organizational value and culture, and a teenage-style profile isn’t something they expect to see.
Whether you are looking for jobs or only intend to start, clean up all your profiles on the internet or update your privacy settings. Here’s exactly what should be improved about your social media presence: http://resumeperk.com/blog/how-social-media-can-build-or-ruin-your-career.
- Hone your interviewing skills
If you’ve never been interviewed for a full-time position before, an interview can be a huge stressor for you. Although interviewers are tolerant to the nervousness of new grads to some extent, it won’t help you if you start mumbling in response to traditional interview questions. The best way to reduce stress and increase your chances for the job is a thorough preparation.
Look up for the most popular interview questions and prepare answers for them. After that, rehearse the interview in front of the mirror or with a friend. Pay attention not only to the words you say, but to the tone of voice and body language as well. Check out our tips for a successful interview – they might also help with your preparation.
- Create an impressive covering letter
Don’t underestimate the importance of a cover letter. It’s more than just a formality – your cover letter is an opportunity to connect with the hiring manager on a personal level, explain your goals and motivation for joining the company as well as highlight your cultural fit. If your letter evokes interest, they’ll likely spend more time reviewing your resume and you’ll get more chances for an interview accordingly.
It goes without saying that you should write a new cover letter for each job you apply, as it’s the only way to really tailor your letter to the company and the role. Keep it short – 3-4 paragraphs are more than enough for a new grad. If writing a letter stresses you out, contact our resume experts for help: we will craft an effective covering letter to accompany your resume. Check out our prices for cover letter writing - we also offer discounts for students and graduates.
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Part #2. Attitude and mindfulness
- You don’t have a curriculum any longer
As you enter the workforce, the first and foremost thing you need to remember is that there won’t be any ready solutions. You can outline a brief plan for where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years from now, but you cannot know so far how exactly you’re going to achieve it. So, one of the key things to do is to embrace the uncertainty. This will lower your stress level as you’ll realize that you cannot know what career option is right for you. And the best thing you can do is to seize the opportunities as they arise if they feel right, and correct your plan of actions along the way.
The bad thing about it is you cannot predict anything. But the good thing about calming down and taking opportunities is that it can lead you to success you haven’t dreamt of.
- Don’t see your current choice of career as lifelong one
In 10 years from now, your expectations from the job and career in general are likely to change. Moreover, having worked in your current career path for 4-5 years, you might realize that you’d rather do something different. This is completely okay and becomes more and more common for the job-seekers.
So, if you realize that you’ve made the wrong choice of career or reached the glass ceiling, don’t be afraid to make the change. Remember that you are free to make it at any stage of your career if your current role is no longer fulfilling. Just keep in mind that a resume for career transition should be written differently.
If you ever decide to pursue a career change, this advice might come handy: http://resumeperk.com/blog/career-crisis-why-does-it-happen-and-what-to-do.
- The definition of success for you is likely to change
Everyone is dreaming of achieving success; but what exactly does the word ‘success’ mean to you? You’d better realize it early on to make the right decisions at the beginning of your career. However, even then, be ready that your definition of success will change over years.
For instance, at the beginning of your career you might be money-driven and look for opportunities that will enable you to earn a decent salary in the future. In seven years or so, though, you might realize that a high paycheck cannot compensate for constant late hours and lack of time to spend with your family. Then, the success for you will be more about flexibility, not the salary. Or, you might have the need to live as an honest, compassionate person and stay true to your values. You need to determine what success means to you and then find the way to accomplish it, changing the route as your goals change.
- Network and nurture interpersonal relationships
Your professional success is more dependant on who you know and your ability to get along with others well rather than on your knowledge and skills. Don’t burn the bridges after graduation – stay connected with your peers and alumni professors. The same rule works in the office environment – when leaving the job, do so on the positive note, saving friendly relationships with former colleagues and boss. Remember who helped you along the way, and be grateful. You never know how and when you’ll cross paths with these people in the future.
Develop an ability to set up and maintain professional connections. It’s much easier to find a job when you have an insider who can put in a word for you. And you should also be ready to return a favor.
- Get rid of self-doubt and insecurity
The fact that you’ve just graduated, have no experience and little idea about where to go next can give you a lot of self doubt. Abandon these negative thoughts if you want to succeed, as they have negative affect at your job-hunting and the way you act on the job. Self-doubt comes in many forms: you may believe that you’re not good enough to apply for a competitive corporate job, or you’re not experienced enough to take initiative in a new project or you’re not smart enough to complete a complex task. Don’t let your concerns stand behind you and your career success. Try affirmations or take trainings to boost your confidence so you could fully realize your potential.
One of the situations when you have to be free from doubts is asking for a promotion or a pay raise. Here’s the best guide on how to ask for a pay rise.
- Create a reasonable budget
The period between graduation and the first paycheck on your first job is the toughest financially. When you experience financial problems, it can make a negative impact on your job-searching process in general and even urge you to accept the first offer you receive even if it’s not the best fit for your career.
To avoid getting stressed because of money, create a budget and reduce as many expenses as it’s possible. Consider moving back in with your parents and helping them with housekeeping if they provide for you until you get hired. Get a part-time job that will not interfere with your job-seeking process. Check out how to make ends meet until you find a stable full-time job.
- Choose your boss carefully
When landing the first job, choosing the right boss is as important as choosing the right company. The truth is that it’s your boss who will have the major influence on your pleasure, enjoyment and career success in the organization. So, during an interview with a potential supervisor, observe the way they communicate with other employees in the office. Ask questions about their leadership style, approach to work or mentoring. Try to understand whether you feel comfortable around this person. If the potential boss seems arrogant, overly dominant, or criticizes the staff too much, you’ll find it harder to learn and develop professionally under the poor supervision. In this case, it’s better to turn down a job offer or to choose another department, if possible.
- Be enthusiastic and initiative
Your first job will give you many opportunities to grow – as long as you’re willing to learn. People tend to be more empathetic and patient to recent grads during the working process: you have the right to make mistakes, ask stupid questions and even your first failures won’t be frowned upon. However, your coworkers will only help and support you if you show the right attitude: accept the tasks with enthusiasm, work hard and stay late with the rest of the team if necessary.
You are given more credit because of lack of experience, so use this credit wisely. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, take on the challenging tasks and show initiative in the office. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if something goes wrong. The more hardworking and open you are, the more opportunities you’ll discover.
If you haven’t learnt the rules of office etiquette so far, check out how not to behave at the office party.
- Remember that the education never ends
For a successful professional, the process of education doesn’t stop on obtaining a degree. In fact, to succeed in the modern world, you’ll need to learn during the entire life – attend trainings, seminars, learn new practices and software, or maybe get an advanced degree if it’s necessary for your career. The world’s most influential business leaders and entrepreneurs read books every day and are thrilled about the new and unexpected. That’s why you’d better love learning new things in your field – this will give you a competitive edge over other professionals and help you build a successful career faster.
Don’t limit yourself to only learning more in your industry. Reading classical literature and bestselling books outside of your area of expertise will expand your mental horizons and career prospects.
- Stay positive
The time of job-seeking, as well as the first months on a job, is likely to be a huge challenge for you. However, even when things don’t go the way you had expected, it’s important to maintain positive and upbeat attitude. Don’t give up in front of the unknown or tough situation – analyze what went wrong, correct your mistakes, and go on. Whether you are tired, stressed, or unmotivated, remember that these conditions are temporary and you’ll reach your goals if you are persistent enough. Moreover, if you follow our advice above, you’ll manage to find the first job faster and develop the right attitude to it and to your career in general.
Need some first-hand career motivational advice? Check the top career tips from women in business.
Graduate career building: the important takeaways
To sum up the insights we’ve listed above: the key to a successful career is developing the right attitude. The right attitude towards your career leads to right actions at work which, in their turn, help you grow professionally faster and create a career you’ll love.
- Prepare for the job hunting as thoroughly as possible: create a strong resume/cover letter, research the prospective employers, and practice interviewing. The better prepared you are, the higher are your chances for the job. If you don’t have a quality resume, order resume writing help from a professional.
- Be active, initiative and hard-working during your first months on the job. Seize every opportunity to learn, stay late if necessary, and don’t give up in front of the tough tasks. Your positive attitude and orientation on growth sometimes matters more than the knowledge you’ve gained in the university.
- Networking and relationship building are highly important. Take care of your professional reputation early on – don’t forget the people, who helped you along the way, stay connected to former peers and coworkers and always quit on a good note. A wide professional network makes career building as simple as walk in the park.
What is your biggest challenge after the graduation?