Career Advice for College Grads

by Scott Kuethen
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I met a family while on vacation recently, and ended up giving some career advice for college grads. Since it applies to anyone starting out a new career, it’s worth sharing.

The bright young woman I met–let’s call her Kaylee–had done a lot of things really well. Wisely, she was taking a well-earned vacation before starting to work full-time. She had just gotten her degree in architecture, so she’d already done an internship at an architectural firm. Although her interest lay in designing residences, Kaylee had been pigeon-holed into simply making endless corrections to faulty blueprints. While she was grateful for the experience of practicing Revit, the new architectural design software, she sincerely hoped that in her new job at another firm, she would be given more creative assignments related to design.

My Career Advice for College Grads

Running a staffing agency has given me the opportunity to watch some people succeed and others struggle. Whenever I can smooth someone’s path, I’m happy to share something I’ve learned. Here are three tips I gave to Kaylee:

What are your key accomplishments?

Now that you’re a career professional, you’ll always be updating your resume. Alongside your resume, you’ll want to keep another running document that you can add to as you progress in your job. Every time you do something well, you’ll want to record it in this document. Particularly, try to write down what a measurable difference your contribution or effort made. Did you save the company money? Perhaps you beat a deadline, or developed a more efficient process. Whatever it was, if you record it now, when it’s time to update your resume to apply for your next job, you’ll have this document to refer to. Your resume is more likely to catch your future employer’s eye when you list a few key accomplishments.

What do you want to see on your resume?

Always think about what experience you want to have on your resume in the future as you build your career. After you’ve been at your new company for a year or two, you’re bound to start getting job offers from other firms. Keep in mind that many recruiters don’t always have your best interest at heart as much as they want to get paid for placing you. I always tell candidates to think first about what is best for their career. It’s not always wise to jump at what seems like a great offer, because ultimately, employers like your resume to reflect longevity, persistence, and loyalty. A better approach is to go to your boss and say, “I’d really like to get experience in the area of ______. Can you help me develop my career in that direction?” Chances are, your boss will want to keep you and be more than willing to help you get the experience you want to see on your resume.

What does success look like to your new boss?

My next career advice to college grads can make or break your success in your new job. Here at our staffing company, we offer what we call the Great Start Tool to our employers, who don’t always grasp its importance. But you, as a new employee, can use the same idea to help your boss help you succeed.

When you take a college course, the professor gives you a syllabus that shows what you have to do to get an A in the class. Unfortunately, employers don’t always think through the same process or give career advice to college grads! As a recruiting firm that places new employees regularly and wants them to succeed, we developed the Great Start Tool after I read Michael Watkins’ book, The First 90 Days. He had observed numerous Harvard grads fail in their new jobs at a higher rate than they should have. Watkins researched this phenomenon, and we used the principles he gleaned to help us create our tool. You can reverse engineer our Great Start Tool to ask your boss what you need to do to be seen as a success in your job.

Creating your own Great Start Tool

Here are three highlights I listed when recently giving my career advice for college grads. Ask your boss to tell you these things, and you’ll be able to proceed more confidently in your new job:

What SMART goals do you have for me? SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In other words, what does your boss want you to achieve, how much, how often, and how soon?

Who are my key relationships? Get the name and title of each key person with whom you’ll be interacting, plus their role and how they fit into the organization. Understanding who you’ll be interacting with will help you hit the ground running.

What behaviors will help me be a good fit? Just because the company values are posted on the wall doesn’t mean they are lived out day to day. Should you show up early and work late, or is that frowned upon here? Get your boss to explain the “tribal norms” so you’ll know how best to fit in with this company’s culture.

For the full list of questions to ask your boss, read Start Off Your Job Right below. Check out Watkins’ The First 90 Days App too.

Amtec actively serves customers all over the United States who seek top professionals with well-rounded skills. If we don’t have the most current version of your resume, please click here to post it, and visit our job board while you’re at it! You or a friend might be a good fit for one of our open positions.

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