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Oh, how soon we discover that college graduation is about far more than the cap and gown, pomp and circumstance or left-sided flip of the tassel. It’s about making decisions that will shape the rest of your life. The saying, “Hindsight is always 20/20” has never meant more to me than it does right now. After spending 14+ years in corporate recruiting, I didn’t truly understand a thing about “adulting.” If I knew these 10 things when I was on the hunt for my first grown-up job, I’d be much further along.

  1. Applying online is the least effective way to secure a job. While this is the most common job search method, it’s certainly not the most effective technique. This is due in part to the integration of applicant tracking systems (ATS) into application processes for employers around the globe. Instead of submitting your information into the “black hole” of the Internet and never hearing a single peep, try nurturing your professional and personal networks. You’ll quickly learn that your job search success is more about who you know and who knows you versus spending countless hours pecking away at job applications. Employers are more likely to hire candidates who have been referred by their current high-performing employees. With that in mind, reach out and connect to see who can put in a good word for you before you apply online.

  1. Try part-time or temp assignments to gain experience in your field. Although your end goal may be to land a high-paying, full-time job, it doesn’t always work out that way. Switching things up a bit and entertaining part-time or temp work may be viable options. My first recruiting job was a 1-year contract assignment with a major automotive manufacturer. Contract and temp assignments can offer opportunities to gain experience, make more money, work a flexible schedule and give your desired industry a test run. Consider it as crawling before you walk. 
  1. Your first job isn’t always your dream job. At some point before graduation, we’re fed all of the grandiose ideas about how much money we’ll make and how fast we’ll land jobs. Then we have to come to terms with our unrealistic expectations and make some hard decisions. The very first job in your field may be a stepping stone to greater things. You may have to accept a position outside of your field of study just to make ends meet — and that’s fine. Be open to trying things that aren’t etched in stone or by the book. For some, the first job completely flips the script and ignites passion in an area they never dreamed of working.
  1. Digit dirt lasts forever. Over half of employers admit to checking social media profiles and denying a candidate employment based on what they found in an Internet search. Don’t be the person who relies far too heavily on account privacy settings to prevent snooping. In the land of screenshots, nothing is safe or private. Think twice and post once is a rule of thumb. If you don’t want your parents, pastor or employer reading your posts aloud for all to judge, don’t post it. Mutual connections make it easier for others to see your comments, shares, and photos — especially if you’re tagged. In search of help cleaning up your profiles, visit here.
  1. A financial wellness course can be a lifesaver. On college campuses nationwide, credit card companies are preying on students and their lack of financial knowledge. Don’t get caught up. A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of free webinars to help you generate wealth, eliminate debt and save for emergencies.
  1. Document goals and progress for greater accountability. Accountability is something we all struggle with at some point or another in our careers. Documenting your goals on paper or via vision board may give you the push you need to stay on track. Seeing the progress you’ve made with your job, finances and relationships is fulfilling. Start small with a list of 5 goals. Create another list of actionable steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Then, reward yourself for the job well done as you mark those items as completed. Empower yourself to make changes your future self will thank you for one day.

READ MORE: Coping With Depression During Your Job Search

  1. A mentor can help shape your future and career. A mentor is someone who can inspire you to reach beyond the norm of your comfort zone. Think about your career goals and leaders who most closely align with that vision. This person has been there and can offer real-life examples of what obstacles you may face and advice for overcoming them. Some of the benefits of mentorship, for women especially, include navigating leadership roles in male-dominated fields, avoiding career plateaus and finding personal and professional balance.
  1. Take a chance and relocate. Cutting the cord from the family and friends you grew up with is difficult for many college grads. If your hometown doesn’t have a favorable job market for your career choice, relocation may be your best option. Evaluate ideal locations for your dream job if you’re not tied to your hometown. So many companies are willing to pay for moving expenses, but be sure to do salary and cost-of-living comparisons before you abandon ship. Even if your pay is desirable, you could be setting yourself up for financial failure because you didn’t factor in the cost of transportation, entertainment, and housing.
  1. You can negotiate your job offers. Many of us will accept a job and later have “buyer’s remorse” because we feel underpaid and undervalued. Negotiating your job offers can help you regain some control over the hiring process. Knowing your worth and not being afraid to ask for it can make all the difference in your job satisfaction. The pay may be set, but don’t forget about other perks and benefits. Some companies can’t afford to pay you more but would be flexible with vacation days, work schedule, parking and job title. Everything is negotiable to a point. The answer will always be no to a question you don’t ask. For a guide to negotiating the salary you deserve, visit here.
  1. Monetize your talents and create multiple income streams. A lot of us are just sitting on our talents and allowing them to become stale instead of monetizing them. Creating multiple streams of income adds stability. If you’re good at something or are skilled at something that benefits others, you can develop a side hustle. By not capitalizing on your gifts, you could potentially leave thousands of dollars on the table each month. Find that one thing people don’t have the time or knowledge to do and they’ll pay you for it. The Internet offers several opportunities to start a business with very little overhead and connects you with people around the globe who need what you’re selling.

Even if you graduated college over a decade ago like I did, it’s not too late to apply these tips to your overall career vision. Starting small and making simple changes to your life’s plan can help you maximize your long-term success and profitability.

Is there something you wish you knew before launching your job search?

Ashley Watkins, Career Coach and Nationally Certified Résumé Writer with Write Step Resumes, LLC, provides high-quality résumé writing, interview preparation and career coaching services to help job seekers get more interviews and salary offers. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via www.WriteStepResumes.com.


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