3 Lessons in Moving from College to Career
Transitioning from a full-time student to a full-fledge working professional is no easy feat. While the first year out of college can be an exciting time, it also comes with its fair share of anxiety and uncertainty – grappling with the stress of job-hunting (if you haven’t already snagged a job), learning to manage your finances (on a shoestring budget), and so on.
Thinking back on this transition, now with a year of work experience under my belt, here
are three lessons I’ve learned, which I hope will help others as they find their way out of
school or summer internships and into the “real” world.
1) Build your Personal Brand: To set yourself apart from the pack, you need
something more than a polished resume, which chances are if you’re just graduating
will probably constitute of some internships here and there and a (very) long list of
extracurricular activities. Therefore, crafting your story and enhancing your digital
footprint are pivotal. Building your brand entails blending your personal and professional life, particularly on all social media fronts. For example, take advantage of Instagram to showcase a hobby that displays your job-related skills in a non-professional light, or use Twitter to share worthy articles and timely news that pertain to your industry, field-of-interest or other aspects of your identity. You can also –and should-
repurpose any great content in your LinkedIn profile. The goal is to show employers your unique and consistent promise of value and, hence, that you’re not just another face in the crowd.
2) Work for Free: I kept going back and forth on this, because I know that it can be a
bitter pill for recent graduates to swallow. After all, you didn’t go to college for
four years and incur student loans to work without a paycheck. But I do think that if
you don’t have a job lined up after graduation, working for free is worth considering
– at least for the time being. Whether it’s through a side job such as blogging or an unpaid internship, it will help you gain that much-needed experience, make valuable connections (I cannot stress the power of networking enough!), boost your portfolio and stay active and learning while you land that paid opportunity.
3) Make Learning a Lifetime Pursuit: Although the last thing you probably want to
think about as you sprint out of the classroom is going back to school, remember
that education really is the most powerful tool you have for career advancement
and, most importantly, to remain relevant and competitive in today’s continually
shifting landscape. If grad school is not feasible for you, there are always cheaper
and less time-consuming options out there, including crash courses, one-day
seminars and conferences – most of which companies are willing to pay out.
Nowadays, you also have several free or reasonably-priced online, at-your-own-
pace training tools, such as Lynda.com or Coursera.org, both ideal for people with
hectic work schedules. Regardless of what you opt for, aim to stay curious, flexible