College graduation is a time for big celebrations. While this accomplishment may mean that one phase of your life is ending, another adventure is just beginning. Making the move from college student to employee takes time. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to lay the foundation for success in both your first job and your future career.
Soft skills are competencies that aren’t related to a specific job but that are still strongly valued by employers across industries. Examples include skills like time management, communication, teamwork, adaptability, and creativity.
Sometimes called “transferable skills,” soft skills will benefit you now and into the future. As you prepare for and begin your first job, look for opportunities to practice these skills through internships, volunteer activities, and projects and tasks that include communication and collaborative components.
As you get settled into your new role and workplace, a host of questions and concerns might arise. How can you find work-life balance? Should you pursue a professional certification? How can you manage difficult conversations and situations with co-workers?
Look to your existing support network of friends and family, and try to identify possible mentors in your field. You might also join a relevant professional group or association, many of which welcome students and young professionals with reduced fees and special programming.
There are a lot of ways to find side projects that you can use to hone your skills and have something to talk about during interviews. You can do freelance work, reach out to a local store owner who could use your help, complete online design challenges, or look for internship opportunities.
Oftentimes, you’ll have to do these things for little to no money. These projects, however, will be the foundation of what sets you apart when landing that interview. Leverage the real-life results you get from these projects to make your resume more impressive.
Another benefit of taking on side projects is that you will connect with people who could potentially become your mentors. Having someone there to give you direction as you navigate the first steps in your early career can help you overcome the confusion and stress of finding that first job. A mentor will also give you valuable feedback on your work.
Put yourself out there and meet people in different positions and levels in the industry you’re interested in. This is important because some open positions aren’t publicized at all. Your connections can also introduce you to potential employers and give you insider tips that can give you an edge.
You’ve worked hard to graduate and to get that first job after college. Life is a series of transitions, and your experience with this particular shift will help you navigate those that follow. Take the initiative now to prepare for success so that you can hit the ground running. Remember that you have a lot to offer, but also a lot to learn.
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