Smart Career Advice For New College Graduates

First steps for the Class of 2015

New college graduates will have a better chance of success if they listen to those who have already experienced what they’ve been through.

Even if you’ve waited until graduation to start looking for a job, it’s still not too late to find something fantastic in your field.

Here is the best advice from career experts on what the Class of 2015 needs to know to make the most of their degree.


Network, network, network

Network: Networking is where it is at when you graduate college. If you haven't already, clean up your social media for prospective employers and dive into LinkedIn. That is where you can post your accomplishments, work history, etc., and start to gather contacts. Reach out to your parents’ contacts and get to know them. Sometimes getting a job really can be about who you know. When you take the initiative to approach someone in a company or industry you'd like to work in, that can speak volumes. Ask for a coffee meeting or for a tour and while you want to get a job, you can also gain valuable contacts and knowledge just by seeking out mentors too.

Communicate Effectively: Communication is key. Studies show a large part of your financial success is due to your interpersonal skills versus technical knowledge. Millennials are no strangers to social media or texting, but personal interaction is key.

Be A Team Player: College is perfect practice for building interpersonal skills and problem solving skills, especially when you're assigned a group project. A similar dynamic takes place in the office that will require you to work together, listen attentively and collectively make a decision. Remember this.

Introduce Yourself to Co-Workers: Don't assume that your new boss will proactively introduce you to everyone you need to know to quickly become productive and integrated at work. Go beyond your initial team mates to introduce yourself to cubicle neighbors, office administrators, and anyone else you think you'll interact with in the future. As a newcomer you momentarily have the opportunity and justification to introduce yourself to just about anyone.

Remember Names: One of the best ways to make a great “second” impression is by calling people by name the next time you meet them. Listen carefully for their name during the introduction, repeat it to get it into short-term memory, and write it down as soon as you can. Study your lists of names, test your recall, and review your lists before meetings and other work events. Most of us have bad memories for names - accept it and make a real commitment and effort to learn names when you're new.

Ask Questions: Unlike school, the answers you need to be productive at work are rarely found in a Google search. They're inside the heads of your co-workers. Don't be afraid to approach co-workers you've just met (or haven't met yet) and ask your questions. Ideally find a “buddy” to whom you can easily and comfortably ask anything.

Build Relationships with Mentors: Proactively start and nurture relationships with people older and different than you. Your success at work (and in life) will be dependent on your ability to build productive relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds. Right now most of your friends are close to your age. Going forward you'll be co-workers and teammates with people who will be decades older than you. You'll become friends and sometimes drinking buddies with the grey-haired and the married-with-kids. Embrace the experience for both the challenge and the wonderful opportunity it represents.

Focus on Improvement: Focus on “getting better” instead of “being good.” No matter how much education you have, there will still be plenty to learn in your first job after graduation. You'll be less stressed and more successful if you approach new roles and tasks as an interesting learning opportunity instead of a make-or-break test of your abilities. Focus on improving instead of avoiding mistakes. Ask for constructive feedback, and mindfully observe what you do with an eye toward getting better. Be patient, humble, and persistent, and you'll not only succeed but have a fun, rewarding career doing it..

Don't Set Unreasonable Goals: It really is a marathon not a sprint so do not set arbitrary goals like being named 30 under 30 or 40 under 40 because it may take you longer than Mark Zuckerberg to hit your stride and that's okay. Most people take many detours on their career path before finding their true calling. Don't be disappointed if you get to 40 and are still exploring because the journey really is a great adventure so enjoy it.

Don’t Stop Learning: Finishing college is not the end of your education, you will be a student for the rest of your life so never stop learning new things. Your education is just starting to get really interesting and the grades don't matter anymore. Be a sponge for knowledge and enjoy the learning process.

Balance Everything: Make time for friends, exercise, hanging out, etc. It will never be as easy as it was in high school or college to round up a group of buddies to play but do not let that stop you. Baking playtime into your life is really important so make it a priority.

Watch Your Health: Do not take your good health for granted. Take good care of yourself. Everything in moderation. Your body is not as forgiving as you age.

Be Kind: Silly pranks and behaviors can be hurtful so always choose kindness and take the high road. You will never regret it. Let stuff go that doesn't matter. Don't burn that bridge.

Sources: Ryan Naylor, founder of; Stacia Pierce; Keith Rollag, professor at Babson College; Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls.

Tagged in: career advice, college graduates, class of 2015,


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