June is an exciting but nerve-racking time for many graduating seniors. Recent graduates experience all sorts of emotions when approaching graduation day and the following weeks and months after. First, there is the “Woo hoo! I never have to take a final exam ever again!” Then, there is the “Wait, what am I supposed to do with my life now?” Give it a few weeks later and it’s, “So this is what the real world really looks like? I wish I was still in college.” As a recent graduate myself (I earned my degree from UW in December of 2010), these emotions are very familiar to me. I’m sure that many of you can think back to your graduation time and remember the same experience.
For those of you who are nodding along with what I just said, this post is for you. So, now you’ve graduated (congratulations!). What’s next? Well, I’m guessing that you’re probably going to start looking for jobs and start experimenting with future career paths. For many students, the journey of finding your first “after college” job seems more difficult than climbing Mount Everest. With all of the conversations around the country’s unemployment rates and the depreciation in the value of a college education, finding a job can seem even more impossible.
Here is my advice:
1. Figure out what you want in a company, manager, and position.
Get over the job title. What you end up doing once you’re hired is always going to vary anyways. Instead, what traits you value in a manager? What kinds of work environments and teams do you mesh well with? What are your strengths as a person? Company culture is more important than ever. At the end of the day, you will also be hired (or fired) for who you are as a person, not just what you know.
After thinking through some of these questions, start your job search by looking for companies that align with your culture as an employee. Prior to working at thinkspace, I worked for lululemon athletica, which is a yoga clothing store. You got it; I went from selling yoga pants to office space and business support services. Pretty random if you ask me. However, the relating element is the fact that both companies are invested in community. To me, community is everything and I knew that my next job had to be aligned with this value of mine.
2. Get active on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Take a deep breath…It’s time to make your Twitter account public. However, you might want to audit what you’ve already tweeted to your friends about last Friday night. In fact, you might as well create a new account and start fresh. Twitter is designed to be public and it’s a fabulous tool for self-branding, connecting with random strangers, staying up-to-date on what’s happening in the world, and finding a job! Twitter allows you to follow and tweet with companies, CEOs, recruiters, and people who could be valuable mentors to you. Get started now.
I learned about thinkspace on Twitter. However, I came in direct contact with Peter on LinkedIn (I had my LinkedIn account as my website on my Twitter page). Peter sent me a message and asked me what my plans were after graduation. Peter is also a UW alum, so I was excited to chat with a local entrepreneur. After about ten messages back and forth, Peter invited me into thinkspace for an interview. Initially, I wasn’t asking for a job when connecting with thinkspace online. However, after a bit of authentic conversation via social media I learned more about thinkspace and became immediately interested.
LinkedIn is a great tool. It provides an appropriate network to connect with your professors, coworkers, friends, your parents’ friends, and your classmates over the past 16 or so years. LinkedIn is a living digital resume that doesn’t take two hours to perfect and reformat on word. LinkedIn also notifies your network when you update your profile, which can be extremely valuable when transitioning between school and work.
I could go on for hours about these two online networks as well as several others. Just take my advice, don’t wait to get started.
3. Attend networking and startup events
Now that you’re done with school and have started your job search you probably have much more free time than you were use to having in the past. I recommend attending local networking and startup-focused events in your city. Here in Seattle there is some form of a networking event happening every single night. Attending events is a fabulous way to build your network, meet new companies, make some friends, and try new things. You never know who you’ll meet and you never know who that person knows. Get out there!
4. Join your Alma mater’s Alumni Association
As a recent grad it shouldn’t cost you much money to join your school’s Alumni Association. For me, it was about $30 to become a member of the University of Washington’s. Alumni Associations will usually grant you access to different career services and alumni-only events.
5. Create something
Stop stressing about your lack of experience, or your boring resume. Your stress is worthless. Instead, start a project. What are you interested in? Do you enjoy writing? Start a blog. Have you always wanted to learn how to design websites? Well, now is the time to learn. Your options are endless. Document your project and create a portfolio for yourself. You never know when you might land upon a new passion, and it never hurts having something to show a future employer.
In conclusion, finding a job after college can be challenging. However, it can also be a fun and rewarding experience. Traditional school might be over, but the world will always be your classroom and once you stop learning, you start dying.