Finishing college and figuring out "what's next" is a major adjustment. Like all new phases of life, it won't necessarily be easy, but having an understanding of how to navigate a complex, unpredictable job market is the key to enjoying the ride. May these 10 tips provide some guidance as you make your way into your post-college career. Welcome to the real world!
1. Your new job is learning.
Instead of earning a grade, you will receive a paycheck. In class, your professors dictated what information was important to master. Now, it's up to you to determine where your interests are in regard to your position. As a new employee, develop a sense of curiosity. Learn everything you can about your job, the company and your industry. Cultivate new skills that will not only help your career but enrich your life.
2. Stay open to unexpected opportunities.
It's rare at this point to have your future figured out, and you will likely identify chances to do something that you would have never predicted. Don't rule out an option because it wasn't part of your initial plan. There are a few helpful criteria that will help you choose your path: if an opportunity offers a dynamic experience, if it allows you to work alongside interesting, talented people or if it ignites a passion in you, it is worth considering.
3. Be respectfully tech savvy.
Don't filter your world through the screen of your phone, smartwatch or another device. Your job right now is to become a master of interpersonal communication and to build strong relationships with others. That takes time, attention and eye contact without the distraction of a screen. Continuously checking your devices is disrespectful and sends the message that you are not engaged or interested in what's going on around you.
4. It's not all about the money.
Yes, you have student loans galore, and you need to support yourself. However, this is also a season in life when your expenses are as low as they will ever be. Money alone isn't necessarily a reason to choose a particular job. Think of what you will learn at the company and where the path may lead. If you take a lower paying position at the most respected company in the industry where you will get experience that you can take with you wherever you go, that's a win.
5. Be prepared to pay your dues.
No matter how well you did in college, you will be working with (for) people who have more practical experience than you. It is very likely that you will be performing some tasks that you consider menial, boring or beneath you. We have all done it. Your success in handling mundane tasks without complaint will get you noticed for your diligence and maturity; bigger roles and important projects will be forthcoming.
6. Brace yourself for failure.
The concept of failure - botching a presentation, getting reprimanded or even worse, fired - is new territory for many grads who have until now led lives of following the well-worn path to academic success. Don't actively seek it out, but remember that it's not the end of the world. Disappointment is a chance to learn - a painful, but effective teacher.
7. Be proactive.
This is one of the secrets of life. Don't wait for someone to tell you what you need to be working on. Ask how you can help, or figure out what needs to be done and do it. Update your boss on the status of projects instead of waiting for them to ask you. If you have a big idea that will benefit the company, share it.
8. Enthusiasm is a precious commodity.
Develop your enthusiasm muscle. Genuine interest makes all the difference when interacting with supervisors, coworkers, clients or anyone you encounter. Don't hang out with the complainers, the gossipers or the disgruntled. Those are the people who have given up control over their own destiny, and their attitudes may prove to be contagious.
9. Ask for feedback.
Let your supervisor know you are interested in hearing their thoughts on your work and how you can grow. Then be truly receptive to their constructive criticism and listen without getting defensive. Gracefully accepting critiques of your performance is a skill in itself, one that is worth mastering for the sake of professional growth.
10. Have patience.
Careers are built over years, by days, weeks and months of putting in steady, solid effort. Just like it takes practice before you can play a musical instrument with sophistication, it will take time before you hit your stride as a seasoned professional. Enjoy the journey.