There’s so much anticipation and excitement leading up to college graduation. With your future at your fingertips, the last thing you want to deal with is an uncertain job market. Many employers are not hiring right now, making it difficult for new grads to find jobs and delaying the start of their careers. You didn’t get to choose the recent economic disruptions that happened leading up to the summer after your degree, but you do get to choose how you move forward.
My advice is: Start now. It’s not the perfect situation, but those are rare. Now is the time to set goals, send soft reach-out emails and prepare for success.
Employers will likely understand there is a reason to have a break in your resume. You are being afforded the opportunity to plan your career. Do not squander or be careless with this time.
Set measurable goals, and find people who’ve mastered them.
After college graduation, I expected to skyrocket into an executive position. It was frustrating when I couldn’t get there. All the years serving as class president in high school and college, being in leadership, and putting in hard work did not prepare me to feel like a failure. Accepting that you will not always be exactly where you want to be will make you more successful: Resilience and grit breed productivity.
There are a lot of fantastic resources about how to make smart and measurable goals, but I advise you to consider it from the angle that works for you. If you’ve never been able to master journaling or bulleted lists make you cringe, consider the type of organization that works for you.
What’s important is you do your research. Look at companies you admire and their top leadership, and work backward. Look at where the leaders started, and find the steppingstones in between. Setting realistic goals for your future and for your first post-graduate job means being honest with yourself about what you’re capable of and what you truly hope to achieve.
Get uncomfortable — and stay there.
Disliking discomfort is universal. How you sit and process discomfort in risk taking is what matters. The risks I’ve taken on my professional journey always felt like giant hurdles at the time, and then as “part of the plan” in hindsight. In college, you learn how to learn — how to study, analyze and retain — and in work, you learn how to persevere through the tough stuff.
It’s likely that your first job out of college will involve doing work you don’t like doing. This could include inputting data into spreadsheets, cold calling sales prospects, taking notes from The Wall Street Journal or Financial Times for daily updates for clients, monitoring the market and even coffee runs. Challenge yourself to set aside time each day to master the tasks that aren’t easy for you, and you’ll be a better employee when you start.
Build a network with empathy in mind.
Now is the time to develop strong relationships. Reaching out to new, exciting contacts might seem productive, but take time to assess who is currently in your life. People who are your age and level are the ones you’ll grow and later lead with. Take time to get to know them and their goals, and find commonalities. You never know who you’ll work with later in life.
If you’re going to go for the soft reach-out of someone who is potentially out of your network, understand how to connect with them. People are often surprised to learn how many individuals I’ve met connecting over Twitter, which is big in the finance world. Just a hello on LinkedIn can be useful. And given the world of venture capital and private equity, sometimes Instagram can be quite useful because it allows others to see what you’re about.
Your goal might be to learn about new contacts’ companies or work, but consider them first as people. How can you help them? What can they learn from you? And once you finally connect with them, don’t forget to listen and take notes. Opening a conversation with a contact is not a one-and-done process.
Embrace the power of organizations.
Before and during college, you’re naturally associated with groups and organizations. It’s less natural in adult life, so take the time now to seek out or create organizations that will elevate you.
For example, in 2015, I started a book club for finance professionals on Meetup.com, and we read books like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Organizations like the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall, GetGlobal and the Milken Institute gave me the insights to better service the world I live in personally and professionally. And always consider ways of giving back, such as through organizations like Kiwanis International and volunteering at homeless shelters.
For me, it was also very important to find apolitical organizations that discuss policy on all sides of the spectrum. I believe the key to successful business lies in understanding people as they are and how they got there. If you can meet people where they are, even if they’re different from you, you’ll be better able to understand what they need and how to keep them as clients.