Hey you… I see you there, freshly graduated from university with your piece of paper, ready to go and make a difference in the world, but not really sure how to get started.
Especially if you have one of those airy fairy degrees like arts, communication, business, journalism… it might feel like you can do a little bit of everything but not anything in particular. Sure, you can write great assignments, but what good is that in the real, working world? Are you even hireable? The crickets you’re getting in response to job applications would suggest not.
If I could go back in time to when I was in your shoes, here’s what I would do:
Figure Out Your Life Goals
You don’t have to know what age you want to retire at, how many kids you want to have, or anything like that. But you should at least have some idea of what direction you want to head in. What gets you excited? Where would you like to be in 5, 10, 20 years’ time? How much money do you want to make and where do you want to live and spend most of your time? Because the kind of career you choose will have a MASSIVE effect on your ability to achieve those goals.
You will probably never have as much time again as you do right now (at least until you’re retired). Make the most of it by reading books on personal development and wealth creation. These will help you figure out your goals and how to achieve them, and you’ll probably learn 10 times as much as you did during your 3-4 year degree.
Stop Wasting Time Applying for Sucky Jobs
Trust your gut. Don’t be that desperate. If you know the job isn’t going to get you where you want to go, don’t waste your time applying for it. They’ll probably get that vibe from you anyway, so your chances of actually getting employed there is zero.
But Do Work Hard
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard or do menial tasks. These things are not beneath you! But be strategic about where you choose to work.
Build your network as much as you can. Connect with everyone you already know on LinkedIn. Find out what local business/professional groups exist locally and try to join a few relevant ones. Go to meetups. Don’t be afraid of being the only young person there – if anything, all of the old farts will be especially interested in you and admire your drive to succeed and do what needs to be done. And chances are, one of them could become your first employer post-degree.
Don’t undervalue yourself, but at the same time, know that your lack of experience is one of your biggest weaknesses. Find opportunities to apply your skills in real working environments by volunteering. In this phase, building your portfolio and your connections could be worth more than getting paid for your work.
Get a Mentor
You don’t have to pay someone to mentor you. It might be a matter of finding some online personality who is living the life and doing the kind of work that you want. Stalk them. Research them. Figure out what steps they took to get there, and start doing them yourself.
Build Your Brand
Honestly, the best way to get hired these days is probably through personal branding. If you don’t already have your own website, get one! A domain and basic hosting cost next to nothing, and you can start with a free WordPress template if you like. Start a blog that tells your story and shows what you know. Be aware of what your public social media channels look like to a potential employer or business who might work with you, and make sure your messaging and style are consistent.
There are plenty of other (and arguably better) ways to learn than what you grew accustomed to through university. Invest in online courses, choose topics that are interesting and useful, and follow the latest industry blogs and news pages.
Freelancing and running your own business may not be your eventual goal, but it can be a way to learn a lot on your feet and do some real work by earning a little money in the short-term. Look at some freelance job posting websites to see what kind of work is in demand and what might be a match for your skills. Then just put yourself out there and see what comes back! You might have to settle for a low fee to begin with, but if you can afford to, accept it as part of your learning experience as you build your skills, client list, or wait for a *real* job to come along.
Don’t Give Up
The weeks and months after graduation may feel like they’re dragging on and you might want to give up. Keep your long-term goals in mind and keep on doing what you need to in order to achieve them. Each step of your journey matters, including the phase you’re in right now. Try to enjoy it, keep a positive attitude, and know that your big break is probably just around the corner.
Best of luck!