Graduating college is an amazing accomplishment, and the period of celebration that often follows is much deserved! Enjoy it for now – but then get ready to settle into the next phase of your life: finding the right job.
The good news is that you don't ever have to cram for another final exam; the bad news is that having a career is sort of like having a final every day of your life for the next 40 years. Your performance will be monitored and reviewed, and you'll be consistently pushed to work more efficiently, at a lower cost, and with fewer resources than you enjoyed the year before.
The post-college job search can be a daunting task, but keeping a positive mindset is key. A lot of new grads fear getting stuck in a dead-end job and finding it harder and harder to get out of bed every morning. Grads can avoid this terrifying scenario if they keep the following five tips in mind:
1. Frame Your 'Wants' in a Way That Benefits the Employer
Don't be that guy or girl who walks into an interview focused only on what they want from the job without giving a thought to how they can benefit the employer. Real people will be paying you real money to do a job. Take that responsibility seriously. Your goal should be a win-win situation in which both you and the employer benefit. Frame your wants in terms of what you can do for the company.
2. Don't Take Career Advice From Your Parents
Things have changed since your parents were in your shoes. With rare exception, even the most well-meaning parents give horrific career advice: "Start at the bottom and work your way up." "Why would you change jobs already? It's only been five years!"
Sound familiar? Don't listen.
3. Your Major Doesn't Matter
With the exception of a few niche industries and roles, all that matters to most employers is that you have a degree. To organizations, holding a college degree is proof that you can manage your time, take responsibility, and deliver against deadlines.
That being said, being a graduate doesn't mean you're ready for the real job. On-the-job training exists for a reason, and you'll be doing a lot of it going forward.
4. Always Have a Plan
Taking a job because your parents are going to cut you off or because you have bills to pay may be your reality, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be strategic once you land a job. What do you want your job to lead to down the road? Is there a part of the organization from which you can learn by observing – even if it isn't part of your current role – that may add value later in your career? Be strategic and purposeful.
5. Be a Sponge; Absorb Everything
As the saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know." Trust me: There's a still a lot you don't know.
That being said, you probably know what you're supposed to know at this stage. Execution in your role is how you will be measured. Learn from those who have been there before. Find the best talent in your department and follow their lead. You'll become exponentially more valuable with every additional skill you learn and every system or process you master. Soak it all up and use it all as part of your plan to advance.
This new stage of your life will be exciting, intimidating, and terrifying, but if you keep these tips in mind, it won't be too disorienting. Remember: It's okay to feel different emotions throughout the job search. Just take a deep breath, trust your gut, and get to work.
Nick Murphy is a former NFL player, a seasoned jobs expert, and the CEO of Mid-America Careers and Job Spot, Inc.