Seated among rows of graduates in their caps and gowns, I overheard a conversation that hit all too close to home for me. It was two students who were waiting for their turn to be awarded at the graduation ceremony.
“So… what plans have you got after we’re out of university?”
“I don’t know.”
I breathed in deep and let out a sigh. We were in the same boat, riding along the waves of uncertainty into a new land called Adulting. There were so many options out there that it seemed impossible to start. The things I had to do before I was ready for a job, piled up like a mountain before me.
I’m glad I made the trek up that mountain and got over it. If you want to transition smoothly as a university graduate into your career, it is beneficial to read career advice telling you what to do. Just the same way, you need to know what to avoid doing. We’re laying it out clearly for you in our 9 career tips do’s and don’ts.
1. Explore your options
By the time you’ve completed your degree, you should’ve locked in a niche industry to work in. One of the things you can explore, though, would be the company to work in. The first of our career tips is to generate a list of companies you’d like to send your application to. You can create this list by attending a career fair or browsing on job sites such as LinkedIn and JobStreet.
The second thing to consider would be the type of commitment you would give to the job. Not all roles need to be full-time, 9-to-5 jobs. There are plenty of options that don’t require your fixed hours. Part-time jobs, freelancing, and commission-based positions are also feasible options that allow you more control over your time, effort, and results.
2. Expand your horizon
If you feel like you’re not ready to settle down and secure a job immediately, then spend some time learning about the world beyond your degree and university years. Next, on our list of career tips. Seek an internship opportunity in a different country that lasts for a few months. Although you’ll be paid relatively less money as an intern, you’ll be rewarded with greater global awareness and a renewed perspective when you return home. There are many programs and organizations which host these for university students.
However, if an international internship is not accessible to you, you can still opt for some volunteering work locally or globally. Taking this step will broaden your horizon and a general understanding of how the world works before going into a career. You may even find out what your passion could be.
As one of our most important career tips, We cannot stress enough the importance of a good network. Relationships and networking do not be that way, because even peers can develop into working partners and friends. Networking takes time to deliver results, so you may not see the need for it at the moment. However, in the long run, a reliable network can lead you to multiple opportunities where you can add value and have value-added to your career.
Keep a lookout for events, conferences, or seminars that you can attend. Yes, virtual webinars count, too. As long as you put yourself out there, introduce yourself, and exchange contacts, you’re building a network already.
4. Build your resume
People make the common mistake of updating their resumes only when they’re applying for a new job. By this time, they would’ve forgotten what they managed to do during their past career or job. Building your resume is a constant work in progress. When you’ve managed to land your first job, continue to update your resume by keeping track of new responsibilities.
Keep a working document or spreadsheet to detail the skills you have learnt on the job as well as the achievements you and your team have made. Continually reflecting on your progress and goals will save you a lot of time and encourage you to do better at your work.
5. Continue to develop yourself
The learning doesn’t stop after university. In fact, you’re just about to start! University graduates are well-equipped with theory. However, they usually lack experience in practice, which can be made up for. As you prepare for your first job, look out for professional development opportunities. Attend conferences, workshops and classes which will help you develop your job skills and soft skills. These will add value to you professionally and socially.
6. Monitor your online presence
The internet has made information more accessible. So, anything you post up on the internet can be seen by potential employers. As one of our more controversial career tips- Before posting, commenting, liking, or following any public social media brand, think twice. Unfortunately, every action will create an impression on your professional side and reputation.
On the other hand, you can create a positive online presence by staying active on LinkedIn, which is an excellent way for you to stay updated on conversations in the industry and make connections with relevant people.
1. Neglect your health
In the pursuit of career development, it is easy to get sucked into the burnout culture that seems so praiseworthy now. Working extra hours, hustling, and sleep deprivation are glorified because the busier you look, the more successful you are.
Your mental and physical health should be your main priority. It can be extremely dangerous to sacrifice these to your work. So, set time boundaries for yourself to avoid burning yourself out. Check-in with yourself, a counsellor, or a close family member or friend regularly who can give you advice or act as a sounding board. Now onto the second on our list of career tips!
2. Ignore the terms of service
Before you decide to take the job, exercise reviewing the terms of your employment contract and asking questions about it. Too often, fresh grads are too excited to start their first job and will take anything that is given to them. Don’t get too keen and ignore the terms of service which might not play out too well for you as an employee.
Don’t sign the contract and agree to your terms until you have checked, and are satisfied with the following items: job description and responsibilities; remuneration (salary and allowances); start and end of the contract; termination by either party; medical benefits and working hours. You should check these to avoid being exploited and also to show that you know your worth.
3. Stay in a fixed position
Things are bound to change. Nobody expected the turn of events in 2020, including the Covid-19 pandemic which has flipped most industries over. Digital services and skills are needed now more than ever, which nobody knew could come so early. So, as you are making decisions for your early career, consider what you can for the foreseeable two years coming. Don’t make plans that would be concrete for years down the road. Stay agile and flexible so that you can adapt to any changing conditions around you.
Starting on your first career promises an exciting journey where you will learn more about yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses, preferences, and working styles. So, if you’re intimidated at the thought of your career after university, prepare yourself with some things you should do and avoid. You’ll be better equipped to climb the mountain like I did and come down, ready for another hike. As a fresh grad, I was intimidated at the thought of networking and meeting key players of my industry. However, I learned that networking and meeting some great people didn’t have to be intimidating, and the only way to get used to it, as they say at Nike, is to just do it. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and even become remarkably good at it. Don’t believe us, well get out there and see for yourself.
What are some of the best career tips you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments below!
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