Welcome to the Workforce
I hit a professional low in the summer of 2010. I’d graduated from college six months earlier with a BA in journalism and some pie-in-the-sky aspirations of what was supposed to come next.
My diet was one third Top Ramen, one third mac and cheese and one third Subway $5 foot-long sandwiches. One weekend I sprained my ankle playing basketball and while hobbling down to the Subway to buy dinner, I knew shit was gonna hit the fan if I didn’t get a job by sunrise.
Your competition is just as eager and affable.
I’d had interviews here and there but didn’t know how to make a compelling argument for my skills, and I didn’t have enough experience to back them up. This is a common spot for recent grads. I still don’t know a lot about much, but here are some things I wish I’d known back then:
Nobody looks at your undergraduate degree as an accomplishment
A degree is proof that you can see something through to completion, and that you care a great deal about whatever subject you concentrated on–but that’s about it. The second you get some real life experience it supersedes your education as the leading metric for whether you’re a cool, valuable teammate or not.
Your career is a long, winding path
A miniscule fraction of human beings make it right away, and even fewer end up in the dream job they had in mind out of college. The struggle and refinement continues every single day, for the rest of your life, so get used to it.
Set more immediate goals
Folks who can tell you where they see themselves in five years aren’t living dangerously enough. Focus on what you can pull off in three months, six months, or a year. Make those goals bold and hard to reach because you’ll learn more from falling short than from overshooting them.
Remember that you’re selling and employers are buying
Your competition is just as eager and affable. From word one, you need to decisively explain how your contributions will more creatively and efficiently reach the company’s goals for the position. Focus your pitch on those needs and let the employer discover all of your interesting but extraneous skills later.
Don’t let yourself get kicked around
Being a flexible and generous team player is one thing, sacrificing any semblance of a personal life is another–regardless of your experience level or pay grade. Any manager who doesn’t acknowledge this doesn’t have your best interest in mind, and employment is a two-way agreement. Be kind to, but wary of, anyone who asks you to work for free.
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