Some people believe that your twenties are a time for self-discovery. A time to make mistakes and take more risk. This time is also the preschool of your adult life, you’ve spent your formative years learning and now it is time to take that, put it into action, and make a career.
Now that college is over and you’re expected to grow up, a lot of college graduates ask, “What now?” Some go on to find jobs in their field and others opt for graduate school or going back to college to study something else.
Here are some tips from the experts to propel you into adulthood and a career, no matter what you choose to do after college.
People want to work with and help people they know. Attend as many in-person networking events as possible. This includes networking parties, community groups, and professional groups.
You can start with social media, but make a real-world connection.
Don’t haphazardly go out. You need to be strategic. Be picky about organizations, groups, and parties. Before you attend a networking event, do your due diligence and have a clear purpose.
What do you want to accomplish at the event? Do you need to build your contact list? Are you looking to meet a specific person or people?
If there is an attendee list, research people and make a list of the top five people you want to walk away knowing.
Bring your business cards. Yes even in the modern era, business cards rule in the networking world. Make sure it has your name, phone number, email, LinkedIn account, and either your title or general area of expertise.
You’re at the event and meeting people and the number one question American’s ask is: “What do you do?” Spend time crafting your answer - the elevator pitch. Keep it upbeat and positive. No one wants to talk to Debbie or Donnie Downer.
If you want to build your contact list, it is important that you collect as many cards as possible. Then, do what most people don’t -- use them!
Here’s a special tip that I once received from an old manager: write notes about the person on their business card. What do they look like? Did they mention family? What charities are they involved with? Write it all down as quickly as possible without them knowing you are doing it. The next day, all that info could be gone or confused with another person.
Once you have collected business cards, look people up on LinkedIn and invite them to connect. In your note, be sure to mention where you met them and either follow up with a personal inquiry or offer a link to something they might find interesting. Note: a personal inquiry would be if they mentioned their daughter missed school because she was sick - you could say, “Hope your daughter is feeling better!”
Check your social media profiles. If they are publically unprofessional, you will not be called or hired. Several Human Resources executives say that the first thing they do when researching a potential candidate is to look at their social media because it says more about a person than a piece of paper. Don’t completely wipe everything out, but curate an image of the professional you.
Have a resume that stands apart from everyone else. What are your extracurricular activities? Where can the HR executive find proof and more of the story? Post a video on YouTube or pictures on another social network. Include these links on your resume. Remember that this makes you a person to the HR executive rather than a piece of paper… and people like to work with people.
Interview as much as possible. It’s just like dating. The first date is awkward, but the more you practice, the better you’ll be at them. Before you apply to the company you desire, give other companies a trial run.
If you are given multiple offers, use this to your advantage and tell the companies that you are reviewing a few offers.
Be polite to everyone. That girl might be the receptionist, but she can quickly become your greatest enemy. Most people don’t realize that the interview starts upon your arrival at the company. What are you reading while you wait? It might matter.
Ask questions. All companies will ask if you have any questions. Come prepared! You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Strong questions also indicate that you have researched the company and prove that you are a worthy candidate because you are taking the interview seriously.
Finally, what does your handshake feel like? What does it say about you? Shake someone’s hand and ask for feedback.
Discover more about your handshake with this article “What Can a Handshake Say About You?” on TheWorkBuzz.com.
4. Learn to Sell Yourself
No matter your industry, you are in sales. In order to land a job or get a promotion, you have to sell yourself.
The best practice is at networking events, an improv class, or a Toastmasters International chapter.
Discover something you have to offer the world. If you are not already actively involved, get involved. Travel the world and donate your time.
“Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character.” - Pulp Fiction
Invest in yourself because you are your biggest asset. Never stop learning, keep reading even though school is over. Take influential people out to a meal or coffee. Buy one great suit with shoes to match.
5. Know Your Industry Better Than Anyone Else
Read industry papers and keep up on current trends, as well as, forecasting trends, but don’t be a know it all. This will allow you to speak up and prove to your boss that you are knowledgable.
Laugh at your boss’ jokes, but keep your nose clean because you don’t want to alienate your co-workers.
Speaking of your co-workers, as much as it might pain you to join them for lunch once a week. Do it. Just do it. There is nothing worse than finding out the problems in the office are being blamed on you because you’ve isolated yourself and made yourself an easy target.
Don’t trust your co-workers too early. The office is a political battlefield and just like high school there are cliques. You don’t want to join any one clique too earlier and be ostracized by the others. Unlike high school, you don’t necessarily want to be in the popular group. This is your career and livelihood.
Step out of your comfort-zone. This is the time to take risks, so volunteer for a project that scares you. Being pushed lets you grow and find creative solutions.
Didn’t land your dream job or a job in your field? Use off-hours to explore your passions and do things that can help you land your dream job. If you're not moving towards your goals, no one will do it for you.
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About Lisa McTigue
Homelessly Home: Wandering. I take my coffee with a side of sunglasses. Prefer short conversations and verbose thoughts. Co-founded MINIvivo.com, recommended by travelers. As a freelance writer, I cover travel, small business, and buying local. For over ten years, I developed film, television, and new media content in Hollywood. Featured in The New York Times, AmericanExpress OpenForum, Intuit Small Business Blog, and The Washington Post.