College goes by really fast. One minute you're a freshman, getting settled, making friends, studying for finals, and the next thing you know, you're thrown into this big scary place called "the real world."
I've only been out of college for two and a half years, so I by no means am an expert on this real world. But, I cannot even tell you how much I have learned in this short amount of time. I've made great strides, both professionally and personally, and I recently shared the below advice with the ladies who are seniors in my college sorority. Hopefully it will be helpful for you, or someone in your life, too!
While job searching:
- Maintain your network--It is truly about who you know. Stay in touch with your former employers/intern supervisors. Even if they cannot hire you, maybe someone they know can. If you've already gotten your foot in the door and proven yourself, they will feel confident in bringing you on as an employee after your graduate. This I know firsthand-- I am very blessed that my last college internship led to the full-time position I'm still in today.
- Spend some time self-reflecting. What is your dream job? What are the steps it will take to get there, and how can you start achieving that dream with your first position?
- Tailor your resume and cover letter to fit the position for which you're applying. If a job posting outlines certain qualifications or ideal characteristics, be sure to show through your experiences how you meet their needs. No two jobs or organizations are exactly the same, so don't submit the exact same cover letter.
- Practice interview skills, and do your research. Be prepared to answer questions about your greatest strengths and weaknesses, why they should choose you over another candidate, etc. Spend time on the organization's website and talk to anyone you know who works for them-- you'll want to have as much knowledge about the company/organization's mission, objectives, and latest developments as possible before going into the interview. When you have an understanding of what they're trying to accomplish and are serious about wanting to be part of it, a potential employer will see that you've taken the time to prepare and are enthusiastic-- not just adding this to a long list of interviews.
- Keep an open mind. Your first job may not be exactly what you pictured, but you don't have to stay in that position forever. You have to start somewhere. The more experience you gain, the more opportunities you'll have to ultimately wind up where you truly want to be.
- Stay positive. You will find something. And if you've had a challenging time finding that first job, you'll be even more grateful when you finally land it!
And when you do land your first job:
- Be a sponge. Listen and watch those around you, and try to take in as much information as possible. Determine the company/organization's culture, and find your place within it. Observe how your co-workers and superiors approach their work, and model your own actions based on their successes and failures.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Obviously, don't waste valuable time bringing up things that you can Google or ask a teammate about offline, but your boss will hopefully appreciate that you are trying to see the big picture and understand their goals. Ask them to clarify their vision, and be ready with ideas about how you can help achieve it.
- Realize that you are going to make mistakes. Everyone does. Own up to them, and learn from them moving forward.
- Remember to maintain balance. Work hard, but do not ever let your job take over your life. You have to save plenty of time for faith, family, friends, hobbies, and just time for you.
One final secret: Learning and growing is a life-long process. You will never have your entire life all figured out, and unfortunately, things won't always go according to plan. But, I truly believe that God put each of us on this earth for a purpose and that we can all do something great with our lives.