Launching your career? 6 tips…

head-1556566_960_720We all know anecdotally finding the right role for you is not an easy task – and studies show that it takes on average 6 months to a year for students to find a job suitable for a graduate’s skill and abilities. In fact, while having an excellent GPA may help you market yourself in your field, it doesn’t guarantee much.

While I’m no expert, I’ve always been good at carving out opportunities for myself where I can truly shine – I don’t generally run on the beaten path, I put myself in valuable positions where I can prove myself uniquely. I don’t compare and compete with others in their field – I fuel my own passions and do my own thing. I truly believe there are jobs, opportunities out there for everyone– and you don’t need to be a VP or Exec of a school association or be a part of seven student associations to stand out. Do what you’re good at, using your unique assets and you’ll be much more employable (to the right organization!) than trying to do what everyone else is doing.

There are many things you can do to help strengthen your chances of finding something valuable and mitigating the risk of graduating with no prospects. Don’t lose hope if your search for a job takes much longer than expected, or is much more difficult than you feel is fair. In all honesty, when it comes to finding a job – good things come for those who are willing to wait, and willing to plan.

1 – Develop online business-savvy. Recognize that you represent yourself, that opportunities are indeed everywhere, including outside your direct field, and that having an online presence is incredibly important.

LinkedIn: Everyone should join. This is not an overrated idea. It’s not just business students that need to join LinkedIn to form connections, everyone should! Whether you’re a graphic design student or a budding software developer or early childhood educator… Everyone should have a professional online presence that is easily accessible, represents you authentically.

2. Say yes to more! Cultivate a sense of adventure in your career. More events, more opportunities, more new stuff. A lot of people are overly cautious and come from a place of “No”. Saying “No, I’d rather not go to that event because I’ll be the only one there and Sara won’t come with me,” or “Nah, not feeling like going to that new restaurant launch night, it’ll be too busy”…It’s important for new grads to start speaking from a place of yes.

For example, a friend in Marketing invites you to a Marketing Professionals event. You’re nowhere near marketing – you’re in interior design. Why go? Well, first off, why not? Practicing your networking, soft skills one-on-one communication skills is incredibly important, and you’ll meet contacts. It’s common knowledge that it’s not always what you know, more often it’s who you know. Go to that wine-tasting tour, make friends, talk about your passions and practice selling yourself. It’ll always come in handy.

3. Dreaming of being a temperamental artist? Reconsider that. Starting from now, never burn bridges. I think a lot of people fall into this trap inadvertently, including me. We are human, after all, and as social animals we can have tension, conflict. But practice being neutral about people, or pausing before judging them (not easy, and I’m 100% guilty of doing this as well. But we can start to try not to).

Don’t send mean, overly critical emails. Don’t bad-mouth your fellow students. Don’t call your teacher a hippopotamus. Don’t let your opinion of somebody change your behavior or treatment of them.

You never know where these people will be one day – your boss, a coworker, a member of a board you need to impress. Trust me – people overhear, infer and bad vibes will stay.Cultivate a reputation of being professional, likeable, and non-judgmental. This will help you in the length of your career.

And again, I need to take my own advice on this one, because sometimes people do just drive you crazy and I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m exceedingly imperfect, just like you.

But it’s something to keep in mind and it is something I’m working on. Because, honestly, just as much as I think of a classmate as being a bit of a tool, others probably think that about me.

4. Dress for Success – if you’re coming to school dressed in sweats, old baggy t-shirts and hair in a bun every single day—it’s not a character flaw or a moral problem. What it is – a clear message of unprofessionalism on a daily basis to your peers.

It just doesn’t show confidence to the naked eye. You do not come across serious about yourself, committed to your career…generally, it just gives a bad impression about you. Not saying it’s right, but it’s generally easy to fix and makes a difference. No need to wear heels, dress pants and a blazer every single day but your look should be approachable, confident, authentic, and professional – like you take care of yourself.

People should be able to imagine you in the role of your chosen career. The attire will be different for each field, of course, but you want to show the world that you’re serious about your learning, career, aim for high roles.

5. Ask your loved, trusted ones in your life for feedback – do you mumble? Speak too fast? Would they hire you? If they say no, don’t be offended. Ask them why not and have an open-mind. It’s not a personal attack – plenty of amazingly talented, skilled, experienced people don’t put out a good first impression in interviews or in events because of something they themselves don’t notice.

Assure the people in your life that you’re not going to be offended, that you’re willing to make a change, and to be completely honest. You never know – their answers may surprise you. Even though I come across confident, many close friends have told me that my insecurities are easy to spot. It was a pretty uncomfortable thing to hear, and I was plenty defensive, but since then I’ve been able to eradicate many of those tell-tale signs.

Another example – people have told me my whole life that I wear my expressions too easily on my face. This started off as being a cute descriptor when I was younger to becoming kind of cringe-worthy to being full-blown detrimental. Since then I’ve been able to change, a little by little, but if I never heard this, I’d never know.

6. Seek to meet people a few steps ahead of you in your field, ask them for guidance. Many of us have career role models who are incredibly successful in their field with a proven track record. Will you be able to call them up, offer them lunch for a mentoring session? Probably not – they’re successful, busy as hell and probably have 10 people every single day offering to buy them lunch. No – you should ask people a few steps ahead of you.

Maybe your best friend’s sister, who has gotten a contract with CBC and does cool projects on the side. For her, it’d be a bit of an ego-boost, she could probably relate to you and your current struggles, and she’d have time for you and relevant guidance. Find these people, learn from them and their mistakes and build a relationship with them.

These are just some things that have helped me achieve some level of success in my career. I hope to learn more and would love to hear your thoughts! Do you have any tips for how to find a great role for you and build your network?

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