Career Advice for New Grads

In the decade since the financial crisis and recession, college graduates were often faced with a grim reality: they had unlucky timing. With few exceptions, they encountered a tough job market, sometimes with piles of debt owed for a diploma that was supposed to help make the transition to adulthood easier.

The good news is that over the past few years, the labor market has vastly improved and 2018 graduates should be able to parlay those degrees into decent (or good enough) first jobs. That means I can provide graduation advice that is a little less utilitarian (“take the imperfect job”) to the more hopeful.

To do so, I turned to some of my most trusted sources. They come from varied backgrounds-some started with a big leg up in life, others came from nothing. To ensure that I got the real deal, I promised not to reveal their names, just their industries.

A Financial Services Executive:

Whenever I am asked to provide advice to young workers, I think of tennis great Billie Jean King’s comment, “Champions adjust." Graduate, you have a long career ahead of you and as much as you want to micromanage each turn, I promise that there are going to be strange twists and unlucky breaks. Your job is not to predict them, but to adjust to what comes your way.

That brings me to another quote -- from Louis Pasteur who noted, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Your ability to navigate the above-mentioned twists and turns will be greatly enhanced with ample preparation.

Finally, for those who are working in large organizations, aim to stand out and fit in. Be known as someone who over-delivers, but also be willing to help your colleagues, join internal networking groups and be part of the culture.

A Former Wall Streeter-Turned Entrepreneur:

As you head into new careers, environments and adventures, think about what you can control versus what you can’t. For those things you can control, nail them! Three things you can always control are: 1) your attitude - bring the sunshine and positive energy to your team every day; 2) your curiosity - be a sponge and learn everything you can, and ask questions; 3) your eagerness to help - roll up your sleeves and offer to help your colleagues with anything. These are great ways to differentiate yourself and encourage people to in invest in you.

A Fortune 100 Company Executive:

I know new graduates want to advance early in their careers, but start by chasing skills, not levels; it will serve you better in the long run. As you develop those skills, remember that it’s a long way up and a short way down - how you treat people from day one of your career matters because as your career progresses, your colleagues will remember. 

Figure out a few ways that you will maintain an external perspective. There is so much information out there, you need to find a few credible sources to educate you on your industry and help you do your job and perform at high levels.

Finally, individual contributors must be leaders too. Coming out of college, you are not likely to have people reporting to you but that doesn’t mean you can’t lead. Leadership is about behavior, not structure.

To finish this advice column, my dear friend, a successful media executive provided this gem: “I live my life everyday with the intention to be of service and to be of support to others. I don’t always succeed but the more generous of heart I am, the more I seem to reap.”