You just graduated – congratulations! You worked hard, pushed your limits and earned your degree. This is when things get a bit more interesting. Until now, due dates and class schedules have offered a comfortable amount of daily structure. Now, opportunities are endless—and it can be somewhat overwhelming.
Here are a few tips to help keep you on the path toward your career following graduation.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch:
The ability to communicate who you are and what you do can be the difference between making a great connection and being overlooked. Create a 30-second “elevator pitch” on what you want to do and why. This should highlight your top achievements in school, why you entered your field and why you add value to a company. Practice this pitch with anyone who will listen until you can use it to seamlessly integrate it into any conversation.
As you are working on this “elevator pitch” be thinking about your personal brand and narrative. This identity and personal story will help you connect the dots for potential employers. It should explain your work style, why you made certain moves and why your past experiences make you the best candidate. Most importantly, it should be memorable.
Get to Work:
Whether you are seeking your first professional job or starting a new career path after returning to college, it is important to make the most of the months immediately following graduation. Harness recent-grad enthusiasm by making job hunting your full-time job. Send resumes to any job that interests you and don’t be afraid to approach big-name companies. Utilize contacts you met in your classes for job leads or references. You may not land every job you apply for, but every interview prepares you for the next one.
Check in on Social:
During the interview process, many employers will do their own research on a candidate. Oftentimes, this includes reviewing social accounts. Before you dive into the application process, do an intensive sweep of your social accounts. Review public posts and remove anything that may take you out of the running for a professional position. While you are conducting your social audit, take the opportunity to up your game. Post industry related articles, connect with industry influencers and, of course, build a strong LinkedIn profile.
Prioritize Your Goals:
As you craft your ideal work setting, think about what matters most and be willing to compromise to meet that goal. Is earning a lot of money most important to you? Then, you might have to work longer hours or take assignments that others refuse. If vacation time is your top priority, you may have to sacrifice pay. Do you seek variety in your projects? Smaller companies often allow you to wear multiple hats but may require late nights or more flexibility. Knowing what is most important to you will help in targeting the right company and negotiating your salary.
Your greatest asset when looking for a new job is your network of connections. If this network is relatively small, then expand it. Join industry associations and attend the events. Volunteer at seminars and conferences, and introduce yourself to everyone you can. Be positive, engaged and memorable. Exchange contact info and send a follow-up message when appropriate. Every name in your contact book is a potential lead for a job.
Boost Your Resume:
A great resume stands out from the crowd, is easy to digest and highlights skills that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Before you submit your resume make sure it highlights value you can add to a potential employer and showcases relevant work or industry experience. Don’t focus your resume content around what you want from the company; focus on what you want to do for the company.
Highlight the Right Skills:
If you don’t have a great amount of industry experience, highlight soft skills instead. Show how you have a history of taking initiative, making an impact and solving complex problems with creative thinking. An employer is often prepared to train a new employee in company-specific processes. Soft skills are much more difficult to teach and therefore, very desirable in a new employee.
Learn to Negotiate:
As business author, Chester Karrass, said “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” Negotiating salary can be one of the most challenging parts of securing a new job. However, according to a study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, people who negotiated their starting salaries earned, on average, $5,000 more. Over the course of a career, this equates to $500,000. Negotiating your salary well from the beginning pays off in the long run.
Prepare to negotiate long before your interview. Decide what your time is worth and create a compelling argument to prove your case. This argument should center around performance outcomes, industry standards and comparable positions, not emotion.
Good luck with your life path after college graduation! Don’t forget – South College offers career services to students and graduates at no charge. To take advantage of this valuable resource, visit our career services page.