Spring brings a fresh start, especially for people finishing their education and entering the workforce. It has been a long time since I have been in that situation, so I talked with a young professional, Hannah, about her experiences as she finished college and moved into the workforce.
She shared the following perspectives. Note that these hold true regardless of the route you are taking into the workforce.
As a foundation, focus on relationships. If you are still in school, make the effort to know your professors and other instructors. They will have some of the most in-depth information about your strengths related to going into the job market.
This relates partly to your knowledge and skills. But they will also be able to comment on your communication skills, ability to work as part of a team and overcome challenges.
To leverage their knowledge, you need to ask. Don’t let nerves hold you back; your teachers are committed to your success and are there to help. Request a written letter of recommendation that you can use whenever you apply for jobs.
Think about your classes and what you really liked. Imagine applying those skills or working in those settings. It will help you narrow down the jobs you should apply for.
Take advantage of all the opportunities your school offers. Get internships, both to learn what you want to do, and what isn’t a fit.
Think analytically about the skills you have learned throughout all your experiences. All jobs teach you something and you just don’t know what will resonate with a potential employer. Remember, every single job has some aspect of customer service, so if you worked in retail or fast food, put it on your résumé with pride.
Same with extracurricular experiences. Sports, clubs, social justice, or political engagement all help round out your résumé.
Now on to finding jobs. Start early with networking. Expect to talk to a lot of people about your hopes and interests. Hannah noted that you should, “Focus on what excites you. But at the same time be open — don’t close doors.”
What does networking look like in this case? Start with your professors. They are a great source of connections.
Your parents will know people, and so will your friends’ parents. Then there are people you know through faith communities and your hometown. Start making lists and have a summary ready to share about what you want to do. Be willing to go outside your comfort to build your brand.
Get on LinkedIn. This will help your network grow and then you can mine your connections’ networks for contacts.
The day will come that you land your job. Once you are there, get involved! Get to know people, learn all you can, and take advantage of the social aspects. Before you know it, like Hannah, you will be established in your field and it will be your turn to help the next wave of emerging people get their start.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.