Back To Career News

4 Ways College Grads Can Gear Up for a Successful Career

Topics: Career Advice

It’s that time of year again: graduation season! The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that more than 1.8 million relieved, exhausted, and exuberant college students are gearing up for graduation day this year. However, transitioning from college into the “real world” can leave many new grads feeling uncertain, lost, and a bit frightened as they take their first, tentative step in their lives as career professionals. If you’re a new grad looking for a little guidance in what the heck to do now, here are four great ways to prepare for success.


(Photo Credit: Luftphilia/Flickr)

1. Work on building your personal brand.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

As I mentioned above, you’re one out of millions of students who are graduating from college, so you’re going to want to figure out ways to stand out from the crowd when it comes time to land that dream job. Nowadays, simply having a degree doesn’t guarantee you anything in life. Therefore, it’s incredible important to develop your personal brand to ensure that you’re differentiating yourself from the competition.

You need to understand that value you bring as a professional, but be careful not to come off as conceited or overwhelming when “selling” your brand. Figure out what is your unique selling point and learn how to communicate your skills and strengths in a unique and appealing way. You don’t have to be the loudest and proudest to get noticed by potential employers, because that will only hurt your brand in the end. Remember to be confident, not cocky. Use these tips to learn how to effectively identify and communicate your personal brand so that you can be confident when presenting yourself to employers.

2. Construct a career plan.

For starters, don’t let money be the driving force behind your career decisions, because, despite what you may think, more money doesn’t always guarantee happiness.

“Your emotional well-being – or the pleasure you derive from day-to-day experiences – doesn’t get any better after your household is earning roughly $75,000,” writes Kevin Short’s at The Huffington Post, in reference to a 2010 Princeton University study.

What has been proven to “buy” happiness, however, is purpose. A survey conducted by Thomson Reuters found that 70 percent of the 1,000-plus professionals who were surveyed indicated that they preferred a job that they enjoyed over one that pays well. Therefore, find a career and company that suits your wants, needs, and personality – not one that you think you’ll like once the paychecks start rolling in. Be sure to use PayScale’s Salary Data & Career Research Center to conduct some research on the companies you’re interested in, as well as use PayScale’s free Salary Survey investigate what you’re worth in the job market.

3. Spruce up your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Your resume is one of the first things a hiring manager or recruiter sees, and they spend a mere six seconds viewing it, so you better make a quick and lasting first impression. In order to do so, be sure to spend adequate time constructing a resume that properly showcases your candidacy, because it could make all the difference when it comes to landing the career of your dreams. If you don’t know where to start with updating your resume, then begin by focusing on these six parts, and also keep in mind these eight mistakes that will surely get your resume tossed in the trash.

After you’ve updated your resume, it’s time to do the same for your LinkedIn profile (and if you don’t have a profile, then you need to create one ASAP). Ninety-three percent of recruiters use social networking sites to find candidates, and they’re looking for a few key elements to be included on your profile (see here). In other words, you’d be wise not to neglect this valuable tool for job searching and networking. There are some tricks for making a knockout LinkedIn profile to ensure that recruiters and hiring managers are noticing you and your achievements, and not passing you by. Take your time and do it right the first time, because it only takes a few slip-ups on your profile to make a recruiter lose interest.

4. Mentor up and network like crazy.

Now that you’ve cleaned up your act online, it’s time to get out there and make a name for yourself by networking. One of the best ways to build your career is to grow your professional network with new contacts and a mentor or two. A good mentor will help you navigate through the early (and ambiguous) years of your career, and also act as a sounding board for many of the difficult decisions you’ll come across – and, trust me, there will be a few doozies along the way.

If you need some guidance on how to find the right mentor for you and your career goals, take a look at these tips, and be sure to steer clear of these common mistakes that professionals make when seeking out a mentor. 

Lastly, I’d like to congratulate you on your amazing achievement of graduating from college and wish you the best of luck in this new chapter in your life. The world is your oyster, so get cracking!

Tell Us What You Think

How else are you preparing for your career after graduation? Share your advice with other graduates on Twitter, or share in the comments below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
Read more from Leah

Leave a Reply

Notify of
What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.