31 Tips for the Newly Graduated College Student

Are you or someone you know about to graduate college and enter the workforce? If so, read or share these tips with them. Its a large collection of advice for the newly minted college grad. We asked for advice from our network, Here are their words of wisdom.

1. My advice for college grads entering the job market would be to not get overzealous with your spending simply because you have a recurring salary now. Make sure to spend less than you earn, and start using that extramoney to pay off any student loans or credit card balances you may have. It can be very hard to not feel entitled and spend more now that you makemoney, but paying off debt can be one of the best things you can do right out of college.

Chenell Tull, BrightCents.com

2. Get a mentor. Have someone who is experienced provide help and guidance to navigate the world of work, job interviews, conflict at work, work life balance, home life/work conflict. Ask a friend of your parents whom you respect or someone at church who is well established. You need to have an open and honest relationship with them and they'll help you avoid common pitfalls. Look for someone who has been successful and learn from him/her.

Holly Wolf, Chief Marketing Officer of Conestoga Bank

3. Network at every opportunity. Build relationships and create your network asap.

Genna Rosenberg, GennComm Communications

4. Ensure that any stated Objectives in the resume are tailored to the position. New grads often apply to various different industries, but many keep the same generic objective (or even worse, an unrelated objective) on each resume. For example, I've had candidates send me objectives that indicate a desire to obtain a management position even though they were applying for a non-management job (none of these received invitations to interview)

Josh Lindenmuth, Chief Information Officer of Payce, Inc

5. Your network of connections is your greatest asset; 80% of employment opportunities are not posted and, therefore, most often found through your first and second degree connections.

Meghan Godorov, Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement in the Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College

6. Start up a Roth IRA if work doesn't offer you a retirement plan OR if work offers you a retirement plan, contribute from Day 1 of eligibility.

Ronit Rogoszinski, CFP, Wealth Advisor

7. Keep learning. Finishing your degree is just the beginning - attend conferences, network with others in your industry and join sites like Lynda.com or similar to keep your skills fresh and stay on top of trends.

Mike Kennedy, founder of Esolvent Marketing

8. When you meet that decision maker, use your three most powerful tools:

  • Smile

  • Firm handshake

  • Eye contact Robert Beringer, MBA

Robert Beringer a Jacksonville, FL Career Services Professional with 30yrs exp

9. Build a powerful personal brand. Since career development has taken a back seat to profits (and everything else), very little discussion is ever offered on the subject. Your brand must communicate to management who you are and what you're capable of doing for them (i.e. making money, reducing cost and doing the crap no one else can do). Today's business world is truly a place where only the strong prosper. Your brand should communicate that you are one of those people. Otherwise, you're pushed aside to do the same job for as long as you can deal with it.

Todd Rhoad, Managing Director of BT Consulting, Inc.

10. Think about what you really love doing, products and topics that excite you, and also what you’re really good at, and find a job doing it! If you are passionate about the subject matter, your job will become your vocation, and it will be like magic, with your enthusiasm shining through. 

Genna Rosenberg, GennComm Communications

11. My best piece of advice for college grads as they enter the workforce is to do their research on potential employers. In addition to having a sound understanding of the business where you are interviewing, you need to understand the responsibilities of the position which are listed in the job description. Make sure you can speak intelligently about how your personal and work experience and personality make you a good fit for the position. It sounds simple but the majority of new grads I interview miss these simple steps. The ones who get this right really stand out.

David T. Waring, Editor of Fitsmallbusiness.com

12. Realize that the first job - and every job after that - is largely going to be about learning. Learn relentlessly from co-workers, leaders, customers, books, articles and every piece of material available.

Brett Farmiloe, Director of Marketing, TruPath

13. Hard skills (like programming or Excel) may get your foot in the door but soft skills (like building relationships with your teammates or choosing just the right tone for your email) will ultimately help you succeed.

Jeremy Schifeling

14. The best advice I can give a college graduate seeking their first job is, when they are going to a job interview, to leave their smart phone in their car. The phone distracts them from the conversation. People from my generation find it insulting when someone whom we are in a conversation with is distracted. Even if we are looking down at the phone ourselves. So treat the interview as one would a first date with Cameron Diaz pay attention, look her in the eyes and stay engaged in the conversation.

Jeff Bogart

15. My best advice for kids coming out of college would be to pay as much attention to their online presence as they do to their resume. People will think nothing of wavering over whether it would be best to use a colon or semicolon on their resume, but then never take a look at what appears when someone searches their name on Google. Over 90% of recruiters now use social media when researching candidates. College grads should take a hard look at their social media accounts, and get rid of the photos with the lampshade on their head at the frat party, as well as delete any posts that could use offensive or controversial language. Showing recruiters and employers that you are ready to enter the workforce with a quality LinkedIn profile, just may be the differentiator between getting your foot in the door, and having your resume put through the shredder.

Bill Fish, President of ReputationManagement.com

16. If you are e-mailing someone a resume, include 3 or 4 sentences in your e-mail. The intent is to demonstrate that you understand the position, are qualified, and are interested. Hiring managers won't usually read cover letters, but adding a few sentences in the e-mail is extremely helpful.

Josh Lindenmuth, Chief Information Officer of Payce, Inc

17. Learn to work smart.   Read and learn something new every day.

Genna Rosenberg, GennComm Communications

18. Find a mentor. Look to access the professional associations in your area that serves your chosen career. Go to several of their meetings. If they have a mentoring program, sign up. If they don't, you will likely meet someone who will be willing to be your mentor to help you get your foot firmly established in your new career.

Susan Bender Phelps, Odyssey Mentoring & Leadership

19. Live below your means. Know exactly what you have to spend each month, and then spend less than that---Living below your means goes beyond living *within* your means. It means deciding where your money goes, instead of being influenced by whims, advertising, habits or peer pressure. If you don’t have a budget, find a simple budgeting template online or in any number of personal finance books. Then learn how to create and use one. Pencil and paper, or an electronic spreadsheet, can do the job; expensive software is not required.

Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Freedom Financial Network

20. Graduates today are entering a time where companies don't train their employees, provide career paths or even create an organizational chart to give them an idea where they can go. It's as if companies have abandoned career development altogether. Jobs can be found based on credentials that match needs but career growth requires a lot more than just doing that job.

Todd Rhoad, Managing Director of BT Consulting, Inc.

21. Write effectively and double-check everything! I do public relations, so for me it's important when pitching journalists, to do your homework before reaching out to them. Google their recent and relevant articles; check their Twitter feed, and make the pitch personalized. It’s the difference between making an impact or not.

Genna Rosenberg, GennComm Communications

22. Clean up your online profile.  As you enter the workforce, co-workers, partners and business contacts will look you up online, and may connect with you on social networks. Clean up your online profiles and set expectations with friends about what is or isn't ok to post. For example, posts at a bar at 1:00AM on a work-night may cause people to question your capabilities the next day. Consider how what you post online may reflect on you.

Krista Neher

23. Always differentiate. There are literally millions of college grads and sometimes hundreds of people applying for the same jobs you are. Focus on setting yourself apart, why you're the BEST option and what you do differently.

Mike kennedy, founder of Esolvent Marketing

24. For those that have access to a workplace retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) or a 403(b), sign-up and contribute up to the match that the employer offers. Many employers offer a match - meaning they'll match the amount you contribute-often dollar for dollar-up to a certain percentage. So contribute that percentage directly from your paycheck. It's like getting "free money" - hard to pass up. So don't! Eventually, strive to save up to 15% towards retirement, but when just starting out, at least get the match. While retirement may seem far away for young adults, it's important to start saving early and let the magic of compounding go into effect!

Fidelity Investments

25. The best advice for any new college grad entering the workforce is to not think of college ending as the end of their education or training.  As pretty much every industry evolves, things you learned might fall out of date, and taking a proactive, continuing education approach will keep you relevant no matter how the job market changes.

John Turner, CEO of UserThink

26. Expect and embrace change. it will be a defining theme for careers, for life in and out of organizations, and for remaining relevant professionally. It will also happen faster and with greater frequency than ever before. Change will be driven, in large part, by technology. When we fear change we avoid making career decisions that will ensure that our skills and experience are aligned with what the market needs most.

Except for criminal activity, virtually no decision we make is ever irreversible. Early on in your career practice makes perfect. It is easy enough to explain why we made a career decision and how we grew professionally even if that decision turned out not to be a highpoint. Learning and occasionally tripping lead to growth and insight. But that requires us to examine our decisions on a regular basis to determine if we are on track or need to tweak our progress.

Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide.

27. Communicate and connect with your coworkers in person. Meeting other people at your company/organization builds relationships and, subsequently, a sense of community for yourself, especially when you are in a new a city. For example, you could take someone out to lunch or coffee to get to know them and the nature of their work; ask them about their weekend, the pictures you see displayed in their office or even what excites them about working at the organization. Remember: Success is not just defined by the work you deliver but in the value you contribute to the personality and culture of your office. Being mindful of the impression you give personally will help you be successful professionally because you will want your coworkers to be happy and the desire to work with you.

Meghan Godorov, Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement in the Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College

28. Create tangible evidence that you are key player. A personal brand can only be powerful if your accomplishments backup its message. Creating a path of successes validates your claims of performance. If I say I'm a great communicator, I better have have a trail of presentations and associations that would convince anyone that I'm a great speaker. This could include being a member of toastmasters, presentations at professional organizations, webinars, and other contributions to your field. This element of your brand is the constant investment in self. You don't wait on others to give you the opportunity, you make it for yourself. This way your brand communicates real success, not just that you've worked in a job for x number of years.

Todd Rhoad, Managing Director of BT Consulting, Inc.

29. If you have the choice, go for job and career fit above anything else. Money doesn’t buy happiness; job satisfaction does. There is so much pressure on college grads to be successful, but what does success really mean? Is it getting a high paying job? A high status one? Or is it getting a job where you thrive? When people try to fit themselves into a mold in which they don’t belong, they find themselves stressed and burned out after a very short time. Getting a job that is right for you --your personality, work style, values, and interests—is one of the keys to a happier, more successful life.

Dr. Joanie B. Connell, Ph.D. Founder of Flexible Work Solutions

30. Be coachable, do not resist feedback and strive for a greater understanding to grow professionally and personally.

Brett Farmiloe, Director of Marketing, TruPath

31. When entering the job market, it is not about your degree. It is about the skills you can bring to the employer. I tell graduates to think about the car commercials they have seen. They never describe features - "It is black. It has four doors. It has a stereo system." Instead, they sell benefits. With great music in the background, we see the wind blowing back the driver's hair and hear some version of, "This car will make you stand out." The employer's goal is not to hire more people just to have more to manage. The employer is trying to solve a problem, and your job is to demonstrate that you are the answer to that problem. So you are sending messages like, "Here's how I've demonstrated in the past that I'm a quick learner. That will save you time and money,” or "Here's the evidence that I can take a project from start to finish, so you won't have to worry about projects you give me not getting done on time." You are marketing your benefits not your features.

Aaron Basko is Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management and Career Services at Salisbury Universit

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