Tips for young women: how to jump-start your career after college

Tips for young women: how to jump-start your career after college

Tell me about yourself? When asked that standard interview question, how would you, a recent female grad, answer it?

Could you articulately describe yourself as an adaptable team player? One who could apply her education and experience to solve problems, set priorities, deal with uncertainty and interact with others? If you can’t, getting that first real-world job post-college is going to be a challenge.

To conduct a job search that jump-starts your career, recent grads must have the right skills, solid connections, leadership presence and realistic expectations.

Having and using the right skills

In today’s highly competitive business environment, hiring criteria favors individuals who can “contribute to a changing workplace and help companies and organizations succeed and grow.” More than 75% of employers participating in an Association of American Colleges and Universities study say they want recent graduates to solve problems, set priorities, handle ambiguity, and deal effectively with others.

In your resume and in interviews, clearly state that you know how to put your skills to work. Suppose you’re talented in using technology to find information. Rather than merely listing the technology you know how to use, give specific examples of how you’ve used technology and information to solve business problems.

Connecting and networking

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Connections are the new currency of the workplace, and LinkedIn is a useful tool for capitalizing on them. A robust network is an essential requirement for tapping into the job market. Having a professional LinkedIn profile can open doors for meeting people who are already working at companies that may interest you or for finding volunteer opportunities that allow you to gain the applied skills that employers want. Join groups pertinent to your career or industry and participate in discussions to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and ability for helping businesses grow.

Showing up well

Employers want employees who have leadership presence. Don’t think of leadership presence as some magical or mystical innate quality. Actually, it’s the end result of some very doable items:  preparedness, confidence and knowing your stuff.

For recent grads, all of these items can be demonstrated through two things:  having a professional resume and a polished online presence.

  1. Young women can use a well-crafted resume to communicate their business acumen. A resume entry noting, “Revised the supply ordering system for a local non-profit that resulted in a 45% reduction in office expenses” sends a powerful message of applied knowledge, which is just the kind of information employers want.
  2. Make your digital footprint a friend, not a foe, to your personal brand. More than 70% of employers have rejected candidates based on online checks. William Alner of Kingsgate Recruitment says that recruiters actively look for reasons not to pursue candidates. So make a favorable first impression by cleaning up your online items: removing inappropriate posts, drinking pictures, negative comments about a job, discriminatory remarks, etc.

Managing your expectations

Graduation

Lastly, go into your job search with realistic expectations. See your first job as the beginning step in your career. “Prepare to begin humbly” is wise career advice offered by writer Jim Tankersley. The 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey revealed recent grads expect formal on-the-job training programs, high salaries and feel over-qualified for available work. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In For Graduates (a companion book to her famous Lean In) sensibly advises adopting a mindset of “What can I offer?” in lieu of “What can I get?”

Here’s to your success

Making connections, showing up well and fostering realistic expectations are critical success factors in getting your first post-college job. What is even better is recognizing that getting into the habit of doing these things will serve you well throughout your career. Having meaningful associations, leadership presence and reasonable expectations are timeless components of ongoing career success.

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