Recently, I read an article giving advice and tips to young graduates and one of the points made was “know what you want”. When I first read it I was actually a little surprised that point was even there. To me, it did not sound helpful. At all. How many graduates can say with certainty that they know what they want? In my experience – very few, at least in my circle of friends. In fact, most have no idea about what they want but have an inkling about what they do not want. I for one, knew even while getting my bachelors that finance, accounting, and economics were all not for me. I could get through them, but it was always a struggle, and I did not enjoy the process. Long story short, after reading that article I decided to write my own in the hopes of convincing just some graduates who don’t know what they want – that it is okay.
I graduated almost a year ago and I guess now is a good time to share some advice as I look back over the whole experience of being a fresh graduate. As a disclaimer, I can’t guarantee anything. I can just share my experience and the advice that I would’ve liked to see when I was graduating (if only to know that someone else was also in my shoes).
So how did I feel when it was time to graduate? Conflicted. On the one side – I was happy to be done, officially have a higher education that nobody could take from me, excited for the potential of what life could bring. On the other side – I was nervous, even somewhat stressed. I had no job lined up even though I had been trying for months. Endless applications, tests, cover letters, and very few interviews. Discouragement and lack of motivation came in frequent waves, followed by a short surge of motivated applying. I think there were 2 main reasons for my stress. First – I did not want to go back to Russia and search for a job there. Having lived in Europe for most of my life, I really did not see myself fitting back into my home country. Second – I was doubting my abilities. Did my degree and work experiences not amount to anything? Why didn’t I stand out from the large pool of applicants? And the dreaded one – could I have done more?
I feel like unless you have a job lined up after graduation or are 100% sure what you are going to do like perhaps travel for a while, or help your parents with their business – then you are in this mildly terrifying state. And you can’t really rest because in your head there are the constant job search questions and thoughts. I know that’s how I was. Now, almost a year later, I think I’ve definitely learned from the experience and can share with you some tips if you, just like I was, are a little terrified.
This might be easier for some than for others, but I do think it is essential. You may not have to make a list of all the places you are applying, but the things you definitely should do are the following:
- Actually schedule your applying time into your calendar. Set out a specific amount of time every week or every other day (depending on what your schedule is like) that you will dedicate to searching for positions that interest you and apply to them. If some days you don’t feel like filling out the application form – just bookmark the offer and come back to it on your next session, just be sure to check the deadline.
- Create a separate email folder for emails from recruiters and about your applications. You should be able to quickly find what you are looking for if a recruiter calls you. This is more for those applying to many positions. If you have your eyes set on one specific one and don’t want to apply anywhere else, then this one’s not really for you.
- When applying to a position, make sure to keep a notebook or a word document with information about the position, but mainly the company. What things interested you, what questions may you want to ask? It makes it a lot easier to prepare if you get invited to an interview.
Find ways to de-stress and distract yourself
I think this should come naturally to most, but the difficulty you may face is actually letting your mind rest from the job search too. What I found myself doing even when I was resting was my mind often going back to the fact that I had no job lined up, so I had to find things that would distract from that. What I found optimal was either watching series (going into another reality is always a great distraction), reading or being with friends, especially those who have set a strict policy of not talking about how the job search was going. Try doing the things that usually make you relax and make sure to do them too and allow yourself not to feel guilty about them.
Of course, this is better to start as soon as possible, not right before graduation. Take every opportunity there is to network with people outside your immediate circle. Go to alumni events, university gatherings, perhaps presentations of industry leaders that accumulate the people interested in similar topics. Also, don’t forget career fairs that your university may be hosting and other conferences that you can attend to meet people from the industry. After attending an event, make sure to leverage LinkedIn – add people you’ve met with a personalized note and try to keep in touch just by interacting on the platform. You never know when an opportunity may arise.
Optimize everything there is to optimize
Go through all of your social media channels and delete anything and everything that presents a poor image of you. Then, go on LinkedIn and fill out that profile to the max. Add your publications, projects, certificates, write a summary. A great place to start if you need inspiration is Social Media Examiner’s post on optimizing your LinkedIn profile. Also, try typing the following into Google “best LinkedIn profiles of [insert job title here]”. For instance, if you are into digital marketing you could type “best LinkedIn profiles of digital marketers”. A bunch of articles will show up and you can take inspiration there! Just inspiration – please don’t copy.
I recommend LinkedIn optimization because I had first-hand experience with how helpful it can be. I was contacted by two recruiters via LinkedIn with me putting no prior effort into applying for a position whatsoever. It just supports the point that recruiters do indeed search for candidates on LinkedIn!
Remind yourself that it’s okay not to have it figured out
Honestly, this is probably the biggest one. I could not for the life of me, wrap my head around this until after I had started working. Once I had a position, I realized – this is the time to try things out and see what you are into. Sure, it helps to know what you are interested in (digital and content marketing for me) or not interested in (any kind of accounting), but it is also normal to not be 100% sure in which case – this is the time to figure it out. Start by identifying the things that you know you don’t want to be doing – this process of elimination is what will help you pinpoint the fields and areas that you actually want to explore.
I am here to tell you that very few graduates are actually certain of what they want to pursue. Most struggle even after they found a position because they then start to psychoanalyze whether or not that was a good move and what to do next, how to get everything possible out of this position and how to move up the ladder. So, just trust that things will work out eventually and don’t forget to have some fun along the way.
This post originally appeared on Maria’s blog.