So you survived four years of late-night cramming sessions, emotional breakdowns during finals week and 2AM library “hangouts” with the roommates. Now you have an official degree, and the business world awaits. But landing a job in your field of choice after graduation is not as clear-cut as it used to be. In today’s market, the competition is fierce, qualifications are steep and positions are limited.
“Entry-level” now means “3 to 5 years of experience”—a major obstacle for someone whose career is just getting started. Instead of feeling discouraged and directionless in your job prospects, however, take the following action steps to take your skills to the next level and impress in every interview.
Let Go of Fear
According to a 2016 fears survey, the number one fear of Americans is failure—in fact, 31 percent of respondents admitted to feeling anxious at the thought of making a mistake, experiencing setbacks and enduring personal defeats, all of which are realities of being in the working world.
Don’t let this fear overwhelm you. When this happens, you stop taking necessary risks or sharing innovative ideas with your team because you’re scared of failing or sounding “dumb” or uneducated on the topic. This ultimately keeps you from chasing your dream job or taking a promotion.
Make it happen: Be confident in who you are and what you can offer. One way to boost your confidence is to meditate with postive affirmations: I am smart. I am capable. I have what it takes to excel in my career. Another tactic is using “power poses” to boost your confidence right before an interview or important meeting.
Have a Professional Portfolio
You can showcase your academic merits, unique skill-sets and creative ingenuity through an online portfolio. This helps you stand out as more than just a resume when applying to jobs because it gives them a sense of your distinct personality, according to the Monster College blog.
Creating a portfolio also boosts your web presence and personal brand, making it easier for job recruiters to find samples of projects, written communications, presentations and letters of reference by searching for you online.
Make it happen: Buy your name’s domain name (JessicaThiefels.com is mine!) or use an About.Me or other online portfolio builder. Showcase any work related to the field you hope to be in, and keep it organized (more about that in a minute). Don’t forget to put a link to this on your resume and LinkedIn page.
If your side of the dorm room was always a mess and you’re constantly forgetting about plans, it’s time to get it together. Organization is a top five job skill in 2017, according to TopResume, and for good reason:
“Simply put, organization is a skill employers are looking for because it leads to efficiency and transparency. If you are a person who respects and follows some method of organization, it makes it easier for your company to understand your work process,” explains Tyler Omoth of Top Resume.
Being organized is less about you and more about your employer—it shows that you take pride in your work, that you can be counted on, and likely be able to prioritize effectively.
Make it happen: Take stock of your life and consider how you can bring more organization to the job hunting process, your apartment or bedroom and personal relationships. The more organized you are in your personal life, the more likely it is that that skill will transfer to the workplace.
Build a Network
Don’t underestimate the power of relationships to get your career off the ground. In a business economy where success is often determined by the people you know and contacts you make, having a professional network is of the essence.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, offers strategies for building your network from scratch: conduct informational interviews, attend business functions and use social media.
Make it happen: Set appointments to meet with people you know, or those you don’t, at least twice each month. Ask them to coffee and let them talk about how they got where they are, share any advice they have, etc. Don’t forget to look for networking events in your area, which will allow you to meet a wide range of people in just a few hours.
Have a Mentor
Whether you’re a new hire in the corporate world or still job hunting, enlist the guidance, advice and insight of a mentor. In a mentorship dynamic, the older or more experienced person invests their time or resources into grooming you for professional growth and success. That means it’s crucial to find someone who you have a natural rapport with.
Management Mentors suggests “being clear about what you’re looking for, what you need in a mentor, and what personality or communication style works best for you.” Remember: this doesn’t need to be someone new. Perhaps someone you already work with or have a good relationship with can mentor you.
Make it happen: Consider your current rolodex to see if anyone might be a good mentor fit. If not, keep your eyes open as you build your network. When you know you’ve met the right person, ask if they’d be willing to mentor you; 9 times out of 10, their answer will be a resounding, “Yes!”
Your Career is Just Starting—Buckle Up
In this increasingly competitive job market, it’s critical for recent graduates to set themselves apart with in-demand expertise, a strong work ethic, self-assurance and valuable connections. As you step into the real-world post-college, and break into the early stages of your career, focus on honing these skills. You’re taking your first steps toward a fulfilling and exciting career—so get excited, the rest of your life starts now!