Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Career advice for recent graduates

Recent college graduates new to the workforce frequently make mistakes that can harm their careers. While it is good to learn from your mistakes, it is even better if you can learn from the mistakes of others. Here are some tips that will help make the transition from school to work a little smoother:

Technology is no substitute for spending time with people. Technology plays a critical role in today's workplace, and recent graduates are generally comfortable using that technology. However, technology can never replace face-to-face interactions with others in the organization. Learn to be equally at ease speaking and contributing at meetings. Management makes judgments about your leadership potential based on how you present yourself when you are in their presence. Recent graduates tend to be very comfortable communicating via e-mail and instant messages but can be reticent in person. Career advancement requires personal contact and building relationships. Hiding behind your keyboard is a career-limiting strategy.

Take responsibility for your own career. Too often, young people find the first job they accepted isn't exactly the job they thought it would be, so they leave and look for another job.This cycle can repeat itself until it ultimately begins to negatively affect an individual's career. Rather than change jobs, a better response might be to seek out additional responsibilities in areas where you have an interest and can add value. In that way, you create the job you want.

Never stop learning. What you are doing today can quickly become obsolete. Employers are always looking for individuals who are adaptable, and they frequently hire and promote people not because they can do every aspect of a new job, but rather because they are convinced the individual can learn whatever he or she needs to learn in order to do the job. So, take advantage of any training opportunities your organization offers. Continuously seek out learning opportunities.

Develop interests and friends outside of work. In addition to building and nurturing a network within your organization, seek out and maintain a diverse set of friends outside of work. Too often, people trap themselves within their organization and their industry. This can cause you to miss out on career opportunities. You never know where the next great opportunity will present itself or what information will prove critical to your future success.

Many people seek out friendships strictly based on their perceived career utility. Because people recognize what you are doing, that is often counterproductive. Keep in touch with individuals because you are genuinely interested in them, not only when you need something. Help them even when there is nothing immediately in it for you. That way, they will be more likely to think of helping you anytime an appropriate opportunity arises without your even having to ask.

Volunteer for assignments where you will develop new skills. Take courses at local universities and online. Constantly seek to develop yourself. Keeping up with trends in your field and continuous learning not only will keep you marketable, but also will advance your career.

All advice is not equal. Be careful where you seek advice from. Everyone feels free to offer you career advice -- your aunts, your uncles, your parents' friends and even your friends who graduated just a few years ahead of you. Make sure the advice you take is not only from someone who is knowledgeable, but is applicable to your specific situation.

by Lee Miller