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6 Career Tips For New Graduates

6 Career Tips For New Graduates

Because higher education doesn’t bridge the gap between curriculum and real world demands, many millennials are drowning in student-loan debt or being under-utilized in the workforce. In order to combat the famous catch-22, “you can’t get experience without having experience,” fresh graduates are investing in more higher education in hopes that another degree will provide answers to the age-old question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

So, how do you get experience without having any? The first step is to identify the most strategic first job available – one that sets the foundation for a sustainable career and gives you the tools you need to reach that next step. Easier said than done, right? With employers who are sometimes hesitant to hire new grads, and no real direction, getting that first gig requires new graduates to get creative. My advice? Take control of your career by getting a variety of experiences early on – even if it’s unpaid internships or volunteer positions, seek out help – such as a mentor in your desired field – to guide you through the process.

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Here are some tips for starting your career that they didn’t teach you in school!

1. Be strategic about your first job.

View your first job as a means to accomplishing a specific goal. If you graduated with a general degree and aren’t sure how it relates, no problem. Approach this first job through a self-exploratory lens to help you better understand your likes and dislikes. Find out what duties and responsibilities you gravitate towards. Working on short-term assignments is a great way to get a variety of experiences, and once you’ve figured out your niche, you can use this knowledge to assure employers that you know what you’re looking for. Employers are much more interested in real-world applications versus theories, so if your goal is to get as much experience in your field as possible, find a role that gives you a wide range of exposure.

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2. Don’t commit to more education before mapping out a career plan.

Hold off an investing in more higher education until you’ve done your vetting. Believe it or not, your major doesn’t always translate into the dream job you envisioned in college, so it’s best to clock some time in before committing to more years of school. Once you’ve done that, write down your goals, and be honest: is a higher degree required in order to take you to your final destination or could you get there sooner with online courses, night classes, or specialized certifications? Then and only then does the university of your choice deserve your money.

3. Seek out experts to guide your career journey, not mom and dad.

Despite their best intentions, family and friends make bad career counselors. Forget the fact that most people are unaware of the vast movement in job creation today. Your parents are most likely traditionalists who are still driving “doctor,” “lawyer,” or “teacher” into your mind. And because they want what’s best for you, their advice comes from a place of emotion rather than logic, which means it’s completely biased. Do some research, get on LinkedIn, and start networking. Find experts and thought leaders in your field, and ask how they achieved their success. They’ll guide you through the process and help you grow your professional network. Get your resume out to various employment agencies in your area, and, if you’re eager to see some results, try a career coach for a more personal, hands-on experience.

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4. Rely on science rather than intuition.

Career assessments are incredible tools for answering the “I don’t know how my skills, experiences, and behaviors are relevant in the business world” problem. I know what you’re probably thinking – “Isn’t that the stupid questionnaire I took in high school that told me I’d be a great mechanical engineer or bus driver?” There are some incredible behavioral assessments out their backed by researched-to-death data that employers use on their candidates in order to make better hiring decisions. Our favorite is made by TTI Success Insights. It uses your basic human tendencies, such as how you communicate with others and what motivates you in life to tell you which work environments and occupations you’re best suited for. These underrated tools have been instrumental in my success in helping new grads find their career passions and land entry-level positions they love.

5. Think “specialty.”

The more you can acquire in-demand skills, the more marketable you become in the talent world. Go on Indeed.com to find out what specialty jobs are related to your desired field and are located in your area. Take note of the amount of entry-level positions available. You’ll want to see a high number since that signifies a talent shortage. Look at the job descriptions, and build the skills you need for that level. My daughter did this by working in one department of human resources while volunteering in another. This catapulted her career by an entire workforce level because of her diverse experience at such a young age.

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6. Consider these in-demand occupations.

Forbes just released The 10 Most Promising Jobs of 2015, based on stats courtesy of Glassdoor, and none of them include doctor, lawyer, and teacher. Instead, Physician’s Assistant, Software Engineer, and Marketing Manager were some of the highly-touted roles. Be open-minded to new opportunities, research all the new and exciting jobs out there, and talk to people on the front lines. Believe me, your background is much more pliable than you think.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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