One of my top passions is working with new college graduates to help them start their careers quickly and in a good direction. So I was very pleased to be asked to interview for an article covering career advice aimed at recent and soon-to-be college graduates. We covered graduate studies, internships, career networking, LinkedIn, helpful websites, interviewing, and more.
Since many of my readers are — or have family members who are — such graduates I am sharing an excerpt of my interview below.
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR RECENT OR SOON-TO-BE GRADUATES TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN CHOOSING WHETHER TO EXTEND THEIR EDUCATION OR DELVE INTO A PROFESSIONAL CAREER?
ROBIN: I work with a lot of new grads. I do not recommend you going and furthering your education right away unless you want to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a pharmacist — a profession you cannot do without that higher level of education. Most employers would prefer you to work a couple of years, and then decide if you want to get an MBA or master’s degree. The second part of that, too, is that you may go to a company that has a tuition reimbursement program. So, you can actually earn your masters while they pay for it. That is another advantage.
Also, most students graduate and have a very small view of the world and where to work, and do not know what to do. From not knowing what to do, they will say “Okay, I guess I will go to graduate school,” but that is not a good reason to go to graduate school. You go to graduate school because you cannot do the job unless you get that advanced degree.
You will need to look at what industry you want to be in, what your interests are, and what your best skill sets are — those are the things that will help you make better decisions on whether to approach a future in extended education or in the workforce.
QUESTION: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR RECENT OR SOON-TO-BE GRADUATES WHO DID NOT GET ANY INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE?
ROBIN: A lot of people graduated during the past few years who could not get internship experience. I think that that has been a real game-changer for a lot of students. Many of them are looking for internships now, which is a very good idea, but the thing that they don’t think about looking for is a contract role — contractors are temporary agencies that place you in a big company where you get paid well, experience, but no company benefits. For new graduates, this is often a really good way to get experience better than an internship, and it pays better.
Next, you create the resume, and if you have no work experience in the field, list your name, qualifications, and then your education. Then, list the courses you have taken that are related to what you want to do.
Next, add academic experience — not jobs in college, but things you learned in classes. What did you learn in a class? Did you work on projects? Did you write papers on certain subjects? It allows you to look at the good skills you have developed in an academic setting and to apply them to the world of work.
QUESTION: WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO RECENT OR SOON-TO-BE GRADUATES SEARCHING FOR A SPOT IN THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD OF THEIR FIELD?
ROBIN: Most students and newer graduates hate to network — big, big, big mistake. Many jobs are found through networking: talking to people, talking to friends and family, talking to other college students — especially if you had friends who graduated ahead of you and are working at different places.
Networking is not necessarily using people, but basically talking to people to get information about the company and what job opportunities are available. Keep in mind that many organizations offer a bribe of money to employees who hire friends just because of their referrals.
When you are searching in your field and start talking to people who work in the industry, you start hearing a lot more about what it is really like as opposed to what you imagined. So, talk to a lot of different people for insight. If you want to be in healthcare, talk to people in healthcare. If you want to be in tech, talk to people in tech. If you want to be in financial services, track down people there.
Further, you can find people who graduated from your college or university with your field or in a field of your interest, just ask to talk to them for fifteen minutes. If you get that opportunity, tell them what your major is, offer to send them a resume if you have it, and then prepare 3-5 questions, because you will only have enough time to ask that. Respect their time, and at the end of fifteen minutes, offer to end the discussion, and then if they decide they want to continue they will.
Afterward, be sure to send them the nicest thank-you note you’ve ever written, because if something becomes available in their organization, now that you’ve made a connection with them, they will be likely to send your resume to their HR or hiring manager.
QUESTION: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE JOB SEARCHING THAT IS APPLICABLE TO ALL FIELDS OF WORK AND STUDY?
ROBIN: I believe that every new graduate, or someone about to graduate, should have a Linkedin profile. It should be as complete as possible: the headline including that you are a new graduate, what you major in, and the job titles you are interested in.
For many students, their college or university does not teach them how to prepare a Linkedin profile. If you go to robinryan.com and look at the bottom of the page, you can see that I have an e-guide that is free and walks you through it. I think that is what can help anyone the most, especially because recruiters are on Linkedin every single day. That is where they are going to find you and reach out to you about the job opportunities you do not even know anything about. That is how many new grads are getting opportunities — in checking that Linkedin profile.
Obviously, new grads are not expected to have fabulous experience because they just graduated. However, you can take what you have done and put it out there in a professional way. I think that is important.
QUESTION: WHAT RESOURCES SHOULD RECENT OR SOON-TO-BE GRADUATES UTILIZE?
ROBIN: Digital Portfolios are only needed if you are a creative person in photography, advertising, or UX. Most others don’t need digital portfolios.
I am not a fan of any kind of video resume — but you need a resume. Some jobs require a cover letter, but others don’t. You have to look into each individual place for that information.
Also, success coaches are not as important as career coaches in order to get your career going. Success coaches are people who are going to help you when you are there.
What I find as a career counselor is that one is better off looking for a mentor inside their company, and if that is not available, to join the professional association related to their field. They usually have programs where they have a mentor willing to work with a new graduate to really help them develop their skills, deal with work problems, teach them how to handle politics, and things like that.
Recruitment agencies are usually doing contract or temporary work, so you want to recognize the difference when looking at all of those.
QUESTION: WHAT ARE SOME HELPFUL WEBSITES FOR RECENT GRADUATES TO USE FOR JOB SEARCH? IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL OUR AUDIENCE?
ROBIN: One website I like for recent graduates is glassdoor.com because it has a lot more job opportunities listed there for people who have less than five years of experience. That is my first choice.
Then, if I am interested in tech, I’d go to builtin.com. It advertises all kinds of tech jobs, mostly in startups, small, and medium-sized companies. These jobs still are great jobs, so that is a good place to look.
If you are in technology, or even marketing in technology as you don’t have to just be doing the coding part of the field, indeed.com would be my next choice.
Linkedin itself probably has the least amount of entry-level jobs versus the other sites.
QUESTION: IS THERE ANY OTHER ADVICE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR AUDIENCE?
ROBIN: Interviews are hard. This is not casual — you are not talking to your friends and you should definitely be paying attention. You have to be terrific on Zoom or whatever platform interviewers are using — that means having good eye contact, that you have written out answers to questions, and that you are prepared and ready to the point that you can engage with the interviewer — because most of your interviews will be online.
The other thing you will likely find out is that some companies use a technology where recruiters will send you a link with questions, and ask you to record yourself on video answering the questions and send it back to them. The recruiter looks them over, picks the good ones, sends those to the hiring manager, and from that they make a list on who they are going to interview. A lot of bigger companies started using that. It is a way to screen and screen fast — so keep that in mind.