15 Career Advice Tips You Should Learn Before Graduation
Dispensing career advice is a little different in 2020 as millions of people throughout the civilized world get used to a new normal of working at home and using video conferencing apps to keep in touch with their colleagues.
Entering the workforce from college can seem a little daunting, but only if you forget the fundamentals. The truth of the matter is that there are 15 seasoned career advice principles that will keep you from going off the rails. In fact, they’ll put you on course for a healthy and successful career. Let’s examine!
1. One Job Is Not Enough
About 50 years ago, the American economy worked differently. You got in with a great company. You worked 40 hours a week. You saved for retirement with pre-tax dollars and 5-10% company match 401ks. Then, you retired off into the sunset complete with a gold watch!
It doesn’t work that way anymore. You can’t be guaranteed that your employer will still be in business in five years. And if they are, you can’t control whether they will downsize your job thanks to automation or required spending cuts. They’re not going to be loyal to you, so you don’t need to be loyal to them.
Yes, give it everything you’ve got at work. Yes, be a valuable asset. But don’t feel guilty if you have to ditch a job to take a better opportunity elsewhere. One job is just not enough to get through your career. It also stifles your earning potential.
2. Side Gigs Are Great For Building Skills
There has never been a better time to find and win side gigs for extra money. Not only are these great times for working online, but they also allow you to locate, learn, and hone much-needed skill sets that you will carry with you throughout the rest of your career.
Side gigs also sort of give you an idea of where companies are in their vital needs. Using your side gigs to guide future professional development will make you an even more valuable tool to your existing or future employers. It also is a healthy way of supplementing your income if your 9-to-5 just isn’t cutting it.
There is no real downside to getting a side gig. It could lead to more money, a future business, a better-paying job. You name it!
3. Hybrid Work Will Create More Financial Freedom
Side gigs such as freelance writing, cleaning houses, or walking dogs might not be temporary things or even skill-building solutions. They can be legitimate parts of your household income from now until retirement if you’re committed to the security of your full-time position.
Let’s say you’re comfortable where you are as a teacher, for example, but you know you’re never going to have all the things you want from that salary alone. You could take on more schooling, thousands more in debt, all for the shot at a job with a lot more pressure, or you could stay in your position, work on your side business, and make a healthy income doing the things you love.
Hybrid work opportunities are great ways of getting and staying ahead. They also can help you live the life of your dreams and be there more to support your family.
4. Real Networking Does Not Require Social Media
Another great piece of career advice is to focus more on real networking opportunities. No, more often than not, that does not mean social media. Facebook and other sites of that ilk are too focused on superficial follower counts and relationships (if you can even call them relationships). Very few relationships are going to grow due to social media alone.
Instead, you’ve got to get off the Internet and into the real world. Go to events. Schedule video conferences or phone calls. Exchange email addresses. Let people into the “real” parts of your life, and you will build the connections that matter the most.
5. Social Media Should Accommodate Not Replace
Yes, it sounds like we’re down on social media, but don’t get us wrong. It has its place. It can be a great place to start or join a conversation or learn whom the people are that you need to be talking to. But allow it to assist your networking efforts rather than replace them altogether. The more that you use it to set up meetings and be a thought leader, the better it will serve you in the long run.
6. How You Do In School Does Matter
Some people will try to tell you that grades don’t matter, but they’re only half right. The reality is that grades are not the only thing that matters. They do show employers how well you received criticism and further instruction, how serious you took your obligations, and how well you worked under pressure. Never a bad way to show you have what it takes!
However, grades do not tell the story about how you are on your own. What are the extracurricular activities or clubs you were involved with? Did you make good use of your spare time? These are things that you can use in conjunction with your grades to stand out, particularly when you have limited work experience. But grades don’t matter? Think again! They do. Everything that goes on that transcript does.
7. No Work Experience Is Not A Deal Breaker
No. 6 matters more when you find yourself staring at the central problem presented here. You have to apply to jobs to get one, but every listing says you need at least 2-3 years of work experience doing this-or-that. How do you get it if you’ve never had a job before?
For the answer to this, turn to your transcript. If you’ve used your time in college wisely, then you’ve probably got enough in your classwork, letters of reference, independent projects, and volunteer work to cover what you think you’re missing. Apply yourself now to these things and to healthy and relevant networking. Such activities will get you over the hump.
8. Listen More Than Speak
There is a temptation when you’re first starting out in a career to prove that you belong. No one can blame you. After all, you just took on a ton of college debt and spent at least four years of your life not getting any kind of monetary reward for it. You’re ready to get out there and show it wasn’t all for naught.
Be careful, though. You’re entering an environment where there will be many people with more education and more experience who are stuck under a glass ceiling. Perhaps they’ve topped out on pay or opportunity. Maybe they’ve been under-valued and overlooked. Respect the wisdom of others. Never put them beneath you. Listen first, speak later. And really consider what people are saying to you before jumping in with your own ideas.
Using restraint will ingratiate you to your co-workers. You’ll also learn something valuable in the process. Something that will help you a day or a month or maybe even years down the road.
9. Keep Pride In Check
An idea you had that you really believed in gets rejected. You’re not sure why. It should have worked. What are they, crazy for not listening to you? Well, maybe. But that’s not your call to make. In life and business, you can’t always have it your way even when things seem to make perfect sense from your point of view.
It’s possible you don’t have all the facts that you need. It’s possible that you’re overlooking a key concept that would invalidate your idea. Try to approach every suggestion as an opportunity to contribute and learn. When you do this, your contributions will carry more weight because you’ll be wiser and more articulate in your approach.
That old saying that pride goeth before the fall. Lot of truth to it!
10. Practice Beats Talent
You’re either born with it or you’re not. That’s a belief that those who truly excel have an inborn talent that makes it all possible. Well, yes and no. More on the yes in a moment, but let’s focus now on the No.
The Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers details how those at the tops of their respective fields got there by putting in the time and work more than by simply getting out of bed each morning. Ten thousand hours, Gladwell states, is what it takes to get to the pinnacle of your profession.
Many people don’t put in the time that it takes to be successful at something. They get frustrated too easily and job-hop or major-hop or quit because they didn’t get the promotion. Strengthen your muscles of perseverance, and you will go much further in life than you would otherwise.
11. Talent Still Matters
Talent certainly matters when it comes to baseline expectations. A freshman in college with a 2.0 GPA probably isn’t going to have a career in quantum physics. That said, talent only gets you in the game. It doesn’t put in the hard work needed to compete with others of same or better talent or those with less talent who work a lot harder than you do.
It’s up to you to be aware of what your true talents are and to cultivate them to the best of your abilities. How do you do that? Well, college is a good time to start! Take finding a major seriously. Make note of any skills or talents that occur naturally to you and see what you can do to cultivate them.
12. Always Leave Well
Not every job is going to be your dream job. Not every boss is going to be fun to work for. Not every colleague or co-worker is going to be fun to work with! No matter.
Whatever you do, always leave your jobs professionally when the time comes to get out of there. Don’t give anyone the ammunition needed to assassinate your character. The more capable you are of mastering the graceful exit, the better your resume will look because you won’t have to end up hiding jobs that would result in a bad reference!
13. Maintain Past Work Relationships When You Can
You never know when those past work relationships might yield fruit. Today’s fellow stock person might be tomorrow’s store manager who remembers what a great work ethic you had on truck day. Don’t undervalue any relationship no matter how “small” it might seem.
And yes, that extends to college part-time jobs. These often are a breeding ground for career skills and relationships that will stay with you for many years to come. And with Facebook and other social networks being the way they are today, there’s really no excuse for being unable to keep in touch and maintain your awareness of old work contacts.
14. Be Ready To Lend A Helping Hand
“That’s not my job!” How many times have you heard someone complain about having to do something at work that technically wasn’t their responsibility? Maybe you’ve made that complaint yourself. While it can seem unfair and sometimes go unnoticed, lending a helping hand will cultivate a spirit of fairness.
That’s also something you should remember as you move up the career chain. Always be willing to pay it forward to someone else. Whether you have special training or access, you can teach someone or offer them opportunities that show you remember where you came from. And as their success builds, they will remember you were there for them as well.
15. Always Update That Resume
True story, the most recent resume on yours truly’s hard drive is dated to December 2018. That’s because finding gainful employment brought on the laziness. But what happens if one day, like so many Americans, I find myself without a job? Having to go back and do a deep dive to fix that resume is the last thing I probably want to worry about.
It’s far better to keep your resume current so you have to make little or no changes when the time comes that you need it again. Besides, having an always-updated resume will give you a chance to quickly apply for positions while you’re still employed, which, as it turns out, is the easiest time to find a job.
Following This Career Advice Will Prepare You For The Next Chapter
You can never get too much quality career advice, and following the items on this list will advance yours at every turn. That said, we know it’s not complete. What are some of the tips and lessons that you have heard that you find to be of the most benefit? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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