New Grads: How to Get Your Career Started After College

Graduation day is nearly here, and your excitement is rapidly transforming into terror. Becoming a working woman sounded great in the hypothetical, but what about in reality? There’s so much to do and you don't even know where to start, let alone where you want to end up.

Before you spiral into a panic, stop and breathe. You don't need to have your whole future planned out right now. Take these steps to get started in your career, and as you gain experience, you'll develop a clearer picture of what your dream job looks like.

Find a Path

The biggest mistake new grads make is waiting for inspiration to strike before chasing a career. But waiting for the perfect opportunity wastes time and kills your momentum. Rather than stressing over your perfect career, find a job that suits you and make the most of it. It might not be your forever career, but most women switch jobs three to four times between college graduation and their 30th birthday. By doing something, you build your resume and your confidence so you're prepared when that perfect opportunity comes along.

Polish Your Resume

There's nothing worse than realizing you can't fill a one-page resume. Before you send in a blank sheet of paper, take a closer look at your skills. You may not have job experience (although your on-campus job totally counts), but you probably developed valuable skills in your volunteer gig or while leading a campus organization. 

Don't merely list experience and expect employers to make the connection to their open position. If you really want to convince employers your skills are transferable, you need to frame them the right way. Focus on accomplishments and keywords, not a list of your duties.

The right format also helps your resume look polished, rather than bare. Search for professionally designed resume templates that make creative use of white space to design a resume that's modern, visually appealing, and easy to read. That way, you can include all of the vital details without adding fluff just to fill space.

Land an Internship

Having trouble landing an entry-level job? Rather than taking a dead-end job to pay the bills, look for an internship in your desired field. Some internships don't pay, but many do. Check with your college's career services department, search job boards, and reach out to companies you'd like to work with. An internship is the ideal way to get your foot in the door and start making valuable connections in your field.

Network, Network, Network

Speaking of valuable connections, networking is easily the most important thing you can do to help advance your career. There's a lot of truth to the saying, “It's not what you know, it's who you know.” Companies are more willing to take a risk on you if you have a glowing recommendation from someone they trust.

Networking is also one of the scariest parts of your career search. However, networking doesn't have to mean cold calling strangers and praying they'll meet you for a coffee. Start with your professors and campus connections and ask if they have industry contacts they can put you in touch with. (Yes, your parents really were onto something when they told you to meet your professors.) If you feel awkward networking, just remember the people you're reaching out to had to do the same thing to get their career off the ground.

Banish Imposter Syndrome

If you're constantly second-guessing yourself, so will everyone else. That's why it's so important to not let imposter syndrome rule your job hunt. If you don't try for the jobs you want because you think you're not perfectly qualified, you'll never get them. Even if you don't check every single box for a job you want, apply! The worst that can happen is they say no.

As a new grad, there's so much pressure to have everything figured out. But what your career counselors aren't telling you is that most people are winging it, at least at first. As long as you're taking steps forward, you're headed in the right direction.

Image via Pexels