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Career Advice for College Grads: Seven Tips for Success

Congrats grads! This is an exciting time for you, full of possibilities. Many of you may have plans or even a job lined up, but many of you may be asking, now what?


Here are seven tips to help you get ready for the working world:

  1. Get your resume ready.

Resumes should tell a story about who you are as a person and what your skills and talents are. Clearly, a 21-year old is not going to have the same resume as a seasoned pro, but employers know this, so don’t worry about impressive credentials. Just do the best you can with your experience so far and find things that highlight your strengths and skills. Click here to read what the pros at Harvard say a good resume should look like.

  1. Showcase your skills and responsibilities.

Any kind of job, internship, volunteer work, or affiliation should go on your resume. Whatever you did that reflects leadership and responsibility should go on your resume, whether it’s lifeguarding or babysitting or serving as chair of your college’s housing committee. Did your manager give you responsibility, like locking up at night, opening in the morning, or making deposits? Did you serve as membership chair for your sorority? Captain of the baseball team? Chairman of the campus recyclers? Include it.

Volunteer work should also go on your resume. Volunteering shows a level of social and community consciousness and commitment that many employers find valuable. It’s also good work experience, especially if you served in a leadership or managerial position.

And one last thing: never, ever lie, fudge the truth, or exaggerate what you did. Ever.

  1. Don’t be clever.

Resumes should be simple, easy to read, and written in a standard format. Don’t get fancy or creative. Don’t use fancy fonts or colored paper. You want to stand out because of who you are, not because your resume is kitschy. And always spell check.

  1. Use your college.

Your college wants you to be a successful alum, so most provide a career center or alumni network that you can use. These services can be a mixed bag, but they are always worth checking out. Many colleges offer career counseling, job fairs, and internship programs. Some will set up real or practice interviews for you, help you with your resume, and hone your interview skills. Many offer personality and skills tests that can help you focus on your career choices. 

You should definitely leverage the alumni relations department, especially at schools with a lot of school spirit. Most alumni who registered with the career center are more than willing to help new graduates. Usually, these alumni are broken out by profession and can be counted on to provide information about a certain field, advice on getting into it, and will review your resume. They may also offer internships, informational interviews, and invaluable contacts in your field. Don’t be shy—this is networking, and it is one of the best ways to get a job.

  1. Use your family and friends.

Network with the people around you. Does your roommate’s dad work for a company you like? Does your mom’s best friend have your dream job? Is there a professor who thinks you’re great? Does a friend or neighbor have a parent, sibling, or associate in your field? You may be surprised that your Aunt Mary knows so-and-so, who can land you a great job or at least an interview. Cast a wide net, and don’t be shy. This is what networking is all about.

  1. Don’t take the summer off. 

While this is your last summer of “freedom,” think twice about taking the summer off before you start looking for a job. There are millions of other graduates (and seasoned workers!) who are in the market. Look at the hiring cycle of your desired profession or industry. If you want to enter one that actively seeks college graduates, then taking the summer off is not a good idea. In other professions, entry-level jobs may open up all the time, so taking one last summer off may not be a big deal, but remember: jobs are scarce and the market is tough.

  1. Clean up your e-life.

One of the first things your prospective employer will do is Google you and search social media. If there is something embarrassing or unflattering they will find it, so take down any embarrassing or inappropriate posts. Drunk pictures and postings? Remove them. Salacious content? Strike it. X-rate videos? C’mon. Whatever is out there they can find, so do yourself a favor and clean it up.

Good luck!

Click here to see my Advice for College Grads segment on Let’s Talk Live! Visit our media page here to see even more.

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