Career Advice Getting Started

Congrats on your Graduation! Now Read This

Written by Miranda Pennington

There’s a peculiar sinking feeling that often follows the exultant glee of donning a cap and gown, seeing your diploma for the first time, and updating your resume to include your new graduate status.

Ronda Lee, a blogger and first generation college and law school graduate, has several tips and suggestions to help you take the steps that come next! Wisely, she observes that “You never know who will be the person who will lead you to your next job, client, or big idea. . .Many times jobs are filled before the posting because the hiring person sent an email to friends and contacts asking for names of potential candidates.” Even more important, she frames networking as a mutually beneficial relationship, rather than a series of awkward one-sided coffee meetings. Be generous with your contacts, pass along opportunities that aren’t right for you, and trust that it’ll come back to you with long term benefits. When saying goodbye your classmates and professors, it’s crucial to be gracious and lay the groundwork for future relationships. Your mentors may be the ones writing your first recommendations; your classmates may be the gatekeepers who interview you before the hiring manager does. Write thank you notes. Return emails. Don’t burn bridges!

Once you’ve landed that first job out of college, a team player’s attitude is crucial. Manage your time and be self-sufficient–but don’t be so caught up that you forget to ask questions when you’re confused. Communicate clearly and courteously with everyone you come across–there’s no substitute for a good track record as a conscientious and responsible coworker! Be flexible and willing to adapt, especially in the beginning of a new position where your responsibilities may be in flux. If you become known as someone who’s ready, willing, and able to take on new tasks and complete them successfully, you’ll have standing with your employer when it’s time to advocate for yourself, your skills, and future opportunities.

Millennials have a reputation as being cocky or unwilling to pay their dues–having a self-driven, entrepreneurial spirit is a terrific thing, but make sure you’re willing to learn the ropes before you start breaking new ground. Find mentors who will call it like they see it–even when it’s hard to hear–and take advantage of your alma mater’s career center resources if you need support at any page of job-seeking or early employment.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.