My inbox floods in waves. Every May and every December I get a few dozen emails from recent graduates who are frantically trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives. For some reason they think I have an answer on how to get a job. I don’t.
But over the past few years I have learned a thing or to about work and my career and what I want out of work and my career. And there’s a list a mile long of the things I wish I had known after graduating college, things that only come from experience and making stupid mistakes.
Lesson 1: Get over your fear of falling.
It’s been 3 years now since I graduated Davidson College and if I knew right off the bat that I didn’t have to get a ‘safe’ job and the only way to be happy is to do what your gut tells you that you really love than I would have done things differently. I wouldn’t have settled for a boring office job, but I’m glad I quit when I did and traveled when I did.
Lesson 2: Get published.
If I had known how valuable this blog would be three years down the line, I would have started in college. Even if your job doesn’t involve writing, WRITE. Not a great writer? Learn. Seriously, the ability to have people from all industries in all countries to be able to see your work/thoughts/skills is worth the few hours you’d spend a week writing. And it doesn’t have to be a blog. This can be your school newspaper, someone else’s blog, your local paper, a community leaflet, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Point is, people will want to see that you’ve gone the extra mile and have ideas worth listening to. Plus, I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what my degree was.
Lesson 3: Start small.
When I was looking at jobs for the big publishers, they wanted other publishing experience, even though I was only 21. So take publishing for example: find boutique, weird, quirky or niche publishing houses (or websites!) and start there. That’s not to say you can’t go big, but in terms of being “realistic”, small is good. Plus, I LOVE working for small companies. You get heaps more experience and – surprisingly – the pay is often better for newbies.
Lesson 4: NETWORK YOUR FACE OFF.
Emailing strangers is a good place to start, but won’t be enough. Join MeetUp groups, email every industry leader in your area, join a professional organization, shell out for conferences, read top blogs and contact the contributors. Then connect with them on LinkedIn. You do have LinkedIn, right? These are the people who are going to help you get jobs and vouch for you. If any of them are near your school, invite them for a coffee. Meeting in person is ALWAYS better than email. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.
Lesson 5: Hire a resume writer.
I used social media to get a job and I’ve been using it since. But don’t underestimate the power of a good resume. I hired Jenny Foss of jobjenny.com and had the guys at Loft design it. They both blew my mind. My resume is the best thing since sliced bread and every job I’ve applied for has at least asked me in for an interview since then. My newest job in San Francisco called me for an interview within 12 hours of sending my resume. I was offered the gig less than 2 weeks later.
While I want to say that I would have saved myself a lot of grief by following these lessons three years ago instead of now, sometimes you just gotta make mistakes to really drive a lesson home. What was the dumbest career mistake you ever made?