If you've recently graduated, or are about to, the prospect of transitioning from the comfort and predictability of a student lifestyle to the dynamic unpredictability of the world of work can seem daunting.
Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to make your own school to work transition as smooth as possible. One of those things is to attend our annual student conference, Backpack to Briefcase, focusing on getting graduating students ready for transition to the workplace! In the spirit of Backpack to Briefcase, here are 10 tips for your own terrific transition:
1. Learn About Yourself
The first step to finding whatever it is you're looking for is to know, well... what you're looking for! Having a good understanding of your interests, personality, values, and most importantly your strengths and skills will enable you to look for something personally meaningful in the world of work. Not sure where to start? Try some assessment tools, or even better, come talk to a career advisor!
2. Learn About the World of Work
Researching your options is essential. This is a starting point for taking action, and can give you ideas on what kinds of possibilities might exist that make sense for you right now. There are lots of online tools to help you with this, but the very best way to do your research is to actually go out and talk to people in that field (also known as informational interviewing).
3. Do Something - Take Action!
No matter how great a plan you have, it won't do you any good unless you do something about it. In fact, you don't even need to know what direction you're going in order to start taking action! Leading career theorists tell us that "doing comes first, knowing second." So get off the computer and get out into the world! Know that it's okay - even encouraged - to make mistakes; just do it!
4. Sharpen Your Work Search Toolkit
When's the last time you updated your resume? Have you talked to a professional about your cover letter or any of your other application documents? What about an online portfolio? What are the best ways to ace a job interview? It's always good to get a second opinion, and you might learn something new and more effective! Don't leave your job applications to chance!
5. Ditch Your Craigslist Addiction
There's one major limitation to ANY job posting board, and trust me when I say it's a big one. Anywhere from 50-85% of jobs are never advertised! That means that if you only look at job boards or any other form of advertised postings, you're potentially limiting yourself to only 15% of the jobs that actually exist! Even worse, those are the jobs that are bound to have the most competition! There's gotta be a better way...
6. Start Building Relationships
Lots of people call this networking, but all they're really talking about is creating and maintaining professional relationships. You may have heard of something called the "hidden job market." Well, this is how to make it less hidden and more visible. Think your network of contacts is small? You might be surprised at how far-reaching it actually is. The reason for that is that networking is exponential - every person you talk to knows a whole bunch of other people that you could also talk to! That's a lot of potential job leads. Get out and start doing some informational interviews!
7. Get in People's Faces
Okay, not in an aggressive way or anything like that. But have you ever cold-called an organization you were interested in learning more about or wondering about job offers from? Generally speaking, the easier it is to send a message, the easier it is to ignore it. An email might go straight to an HR rep's trash, a voicemail might get deleted right away, but there's not much they can do if you take the extra effort to show up in person and make a great impression!
8. Lock Down Your Facebook Privacy Settings
Unless you want potential employers to know all about the awesome party you went to last weekend, it's safest to make sure your Facebook privacy settings are set so that only people you know and trust can see your full profile. It's also not a bad idea to start thinking about embracing a more professional image online altogether. For example, what would an employer think of your current profile picture?
9. Get on LinkedIn and Twitter
LinkedIn is a social networking site strictly designed for professional networking and job-seeking use. As such, it's got a wealth of great features that can help not just with networking, but also employer research, career exploration, and reputation building. Check out this LinkedIn tutorial site for helpful videos on how to get started. Twitter is also a great social networking tool for job seekers, though it can be a bit more complicated than LinkedIn.
10. Document Your Work Search
If you've ever been in a long-term work search before, you'll know that it's hard to know whether you're making progress. This is why documenting what you've done is so important! Keep track of your work search activities - the people you've talked to, the job postings you're interested in (they might disappear), when you contacted who and where, professional contact information, etc. Staying organized will help you feel on top of your game, and you'll be able to quantify exactly what you've done. Try to set a weekly schedule, including breaks and days off, to make life feel as much like work (and as little as unemployment) as you can!
Transitioning can be a lot of work, but who says it can't be worthwhile and meaningful? Start with the 10 tips above, and be sure to check in with a career advisor (they're free for up to 2 years after you graduate) before you start experiencing difficulties!