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From Campus to Corporate – The ‘Smart’ Way to Get Your First Job

Most people claim that your first job is simply that – a first job. It may not be a dream job but it’s a ‘stepping stone’ for your future career. Fortunately, your first job can be your dream job if you take the time to evaluate your options. Instead of settling for the first offer you receive, take a step back and consider the opportunities and setbacks associated with the job.

According to the Department of Labor most college graduates are staying at their first job for two years or less and then moving on. A majority of individuals leave their first job for these reasons:

  1. It is not a good fit
  2. There are no opportunities for growth/advancement
  3. It’s in the wrong field
  4. It’s a toxic environment

These situations can be avoided if new graduates take the time to research and evaluate the job market. The best advice comes from those who have gone through the process themselves. Being 6 months out of college, I by no means am an expert, but I have gone through the process and I hope that any one of these pieces of advice can help even just one college graduate land their first ‘dream’ job.

  • Know your brand. Be your Brand. Share your Brand.

Nike. John Deere. McDonalds. What do all these names have in common? They’re brands. Branding is an essential part of the marketing strategy. As a recent college graduate, you have your own brand; YOU. How are you going to market yourself to employers? What do you want them to remember about you?

The most important thing, I believe, is to be honest about everything. Know what you are good at AND what you can improve on. It is okay if you do not know what you want to do. It doesn’t mean you don’t have goals, you just have minimal experience and that’s okay. Some jobs aren’t always a good fit. You will be rejected and you will make mistakes. However, the way you respond to stress, the process you use to move forward after rejection and the way you solve problems are good indicators of how well you will work in a business environment.

  • Robust Training is a Must!

To be an effective employee, one must have the proper training. If an employer is willing to invest their time and money into you, it’s worth it. A successful company will have a training or development program in place for new employees. A training program should introduce new employees to their role, the company’s culture, expectations and goals. Ask employers about their training program. Is it a 90-day learn all? Will they send you back to school or require you to take specific courses? Will they have a mentor for you? A company is only as strong as its weakest link, and if the weakest link isn’t trained, how successful is that company?

  • It’s Not Always About the Money.

Although money is important, it shouldn’t be the only driving factor that one looks for in a career. Know what you’re worth and be fair. Don’t settle for minimum wage but don’t act entitled; find a balance between the two. Create a budget with your monthly expenses and use it as a starting point to find the amount of money you would have to earn to satisfy your expenses. Next, go online and research the position, the company and the industry you are looking at. Look at the average compensation and compare it to your budget. Use this information as a starting range and negotiate around it.

Lastly, don’t just look at monetary value. You are going to spend more time at work than anywhere else so it’s important to look outside of the box. What does the company’s benefit package look like? Is there opportunity for growth or advancement? What does the company culture look like? What sets them apart from their competition?  These are benefits and characteristics that are generally overlooked by recent graduates, but can make a difference in their future.

  • Have a Diverse Resume.

Get an internship, focus on your G.P.A, get a part-time job and join a student organization. It may sound like a lot of things to get involved in, but employers are looking for students who are well-rounded and can manage their time wisely. Whether it’s an internship or a student-lead organization on campus, don’t say no to any opportunity. Although it may not sound interesting at first, try it anyway. You will be surprised how something out-of-the-ordinary could be a good fit for you.

GPA is important, but a solid work ethic goes a long way. It’s important to focus on your education and do the best you possibly can. However, employers will not base their decision on grades alone. You could be the smartest kid in class with a 4.0 G.P.A, but if you have no ‘soft skills’, employers may turn the other way. The majority of ‘soft skills’ employers look for are transferable skills that are used in almost any part-time job; even McDonald’s.

For example these skills include, customer service, making decisions, showing commitment, time management, leadership skills, holding yourself accountable for your actions, the ability to work under pressure and team building. Having a part-time job not only works on the development of ‘soft skills’ but offers many other benefits like extra money, learning how to budget your finances, networking and real-world experience. Being able to balance having a part-time job and being a full-time student is challenging but the balance is different for everyone and if you can find yours, you’ll be a step ahead of your competition.

        Change is never easy and the transition from college to corporate is not any different, but it’s a change that is necessary for recent graduates. It’s critical that graduates use the advice and information available to them to make smart and informed decisions, especially for their first job. The only way to make the transition easier is to be proactive by narrowing the gap on uncertainty.