Career Advice for Early Career Professionals

I recently read an article in Fast Company that shared advice from career coaches to job seekers. While the description under each piece of advice appeared to be targeted for people with more experience than the new graduates we work with at LaunchingU, the ideas themselves were solid and we do recommend you read the article as well. I thought I would take each of the nuggets of advice and connect them to college students and new graduates looking for that first job or an internship. 

LET THEM TELL YOU “NO”

You don’t get jobs you don’t apply for!

College students or new graduates are often afraid to apply for a job/internship if they don’t have every single qualification the company is asking for.  This is not the best strategy.

We ask our clients to make it a practice to apply for jobs when a. they are a complete and total fit, b. that they are perhaps over-qualified for but there is opportunity that they could grow with the company, and c. jobs that are a stretch, but they believe they fit the job criteria enough and they believe that they could do the job.  Then we work with them on how to sell themselves into each of these types of opportunities.

Also, when our clients get all the way to the end of an interview process and they are a finalist, but the company chooses someone else – clients often internalize this as showing them that they are aiming too high.  

Nothing could be further from the truth.  They were finalist candidates, and at that phase of an interview process much of what nudged the decision in someone else’s direction is out of their control.  We work with our clients to go right back at it because as the author BY GWEN MORAN  in the Fast Company article said: “Getting a ‘yes to every promotion, raise, etc. is not likely, but a ‘no’ is certain if we don’t pursue it at all.” 

YOU’RE HUMAN: ACT LIKE IT

First jobs can be scary. Often when young graduates go into their first professional role they are preoccupied with the fears that they are supposed to understand everything, and/or that they will make a mistake.  Believing that you are supposed to know everything and therefore not asking for guidance actually makes it much more likely that you will make a mistake.

When you are new on a job, especially when you are a very early career professional it is certainly ok to say you are nervous in a situation, or to ask for help. In fact, hiring manager’s often worry more that you won’t ask for help when you need it. 

We work with our clients to contract with their boss during their first 100 days to be sure that they understand expectations, know how the boss wants to receive communication and to ask for weekly meetings for the first 60 days.  We also help them set up meetings with people who are on their team or who they will interface with regularly to get to know the people they will be working with. 

BE A “GOOD LEAVER”

This is so important.  It is about being professional even if others or not.  Whether you are an executive leading a large organization or an early career professional just getting started, we all should be committed to leaving all work situations with our heads up, doing a good job, and setting the stage for whoever comes after us. 

For people just getting started in your career, this often starts with summer jobs. You are going to need to be able to call on ex-bosses from summer jobs, professors, coaches, advisors etc. for references. So it is important that you start early being count-on-able. In our work with our clients we know that they will need those stories of accomplishment and professional behavior, and solid references from these early roles, when they are looking for that first post-college job. 

YOUR NEXT STEPS ARE UP TO YOU

This is always great advice. As bad as the job or internship market may be, we work hard with our clients to understand that they are not powerless.  They are in control of how well they prepare.  For example they are in control of how well they prepare, how well they work their network, and the degree of research they do on each company. 

For new graduates, while you may need to adjust your starting point, and perhaps think more broadly about that first job, you do not need to give up your dreams and goals.  If that first job is not exactly what you wanted, you can always learn something, develop a new skill etc. And while you are doing your job search you can do something on the side that keeps your dream alive.  We had a client who wanted to work in marketing and had good internship experience and was well-prepared. Her first job ended up not being in marketing, but she and a partner created a marketing business aimed at small businesses and are launching this month.

 As new graduates are interviewing, they are often getting the question “what have you been doing while you are looking for a job.”  It is good to have an answer to this.  And as one of my clients said to me last spring, “I guess that getting pretty good at Fortnight isn’t going to cut it right?” Right.

NEVER STOP INTERVIEWING

I like this advice in general,but less so for early career professionals. For your first year, unless you are miserable where you are, it is less about interviewing and more about staying connected to what is happening in the industry you are in, or want to be in, and doing informational interviews.  Making connections with people and being curious about what other people are doing in similar roles within and outside of your company. Join industry associations and go to meetings.  Understand the trends in your field, which companies are winning and losing and why.  Keep track of some businesses or organizations that you admire and how they are doing. Get or stay connected!  

We also highly recommend you reach the article “6 career coaches share the best career advice they ever gotBY GWEN MORAN.

We are always here to help parents, college students and recent grads and can be reached at Sue@LaunchingU.com or at (603) 398-7278.