By Anastasia Warren
We’re all here trying to get a degree, to get a job, to make a little money and to have some sense of security — to do all of those things, while also trying to follow our passions, be happy and live a life we’re proud of.
It’s not easy to figure out where to start, but many of us look to that first job that will tell us “hey, that was worth it, and everything is going to be OK.”
So, in a world overwhelmed with unemployment numbers, a general fear of the future and fierce competition — how can this be done?
How do we, as soon-to-be or recent college graduates, land our first “real” job? Well, I’m here to help based on some of my own experiences.
1. SET GOALS — GET TO WORK
Write down goals for yourself. Do you want to save money to travel? Jot it down. Do you want to start a blog? Throw it on the list. Do you want to land your first full-time job? Bold it.
I have a list of 20-plus goals on my wall in my bedroom. Some are specific, some broader. They change monthly, weekly, even daily — but one thing remains consistent, and that is the need to work for them. The goals force me to remember that there is a reason to get up and work hard each day — whether that’s to one day see my novel published or simply to land my first job.
2. CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES
Quit making excuses. Quit saying that your resume isn’t nearly good enough, that you can’t find a job and that you’re experience is lacking.
Start taking initiative. Start volunteering for positions in your field, create positions for yourself with companies, and start doing things that will make your resume speak for itself.
Initiative — my favorite word. If you want more experience in the social media marketing world, get in touch with nonprofits or other organizations that might need help. If you want more experience writing, take online webinars, start a blog or submit to different publications. If you want more experience in the medical field, set up a day to shadow.
Don’t be stagnant. Make your own opportunities. They don’t always just throw themselves at you, and they shouldn’t — take initiative and create your present moment so that it is setting you up for a better future.
3. MAINTAIN YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Everything you create should be a direct extension of yourself. The material you submit to potential employers should be authentic to you, your goals, and your values — and it should be the best version of you.
Keep your LinkedIn, resume, cover letter, online portfolio and different social media platforms up-to-date and job-ready. You never know when something will come along, don’t ruin your chance by not being prepared. Everything counts, and in order to make it to the interview, you have to brand yourself in a correct and appealing way.
4. BE GRATEFUL
Working is a privilege. Opportunities are a privilege. Having an education is a privilege.
Act like it.
Work is not work when you remember just how fortunate you are to be there. Each morning that I have a hard time remembering why it’s all worth it, I remind myself just how grateful I am to be where I am today, to have a job to go to and to have opportunities to learn and to grow each day.
So take a couple unpaid internships, work hard and remember that a grateful mind leads to a state of calm, and a state of calm leads to great things in your work — that I can guarantee.
5. KNOW YOUR WORTH
Be confident in yourself. Know the value you bring to each project you work on. Know the work you’ve put in, and know that you are a valuable and desirable potential employee.
Call me crazy, but I genuinely enjoy interviews. An interview is when you get to go speak with other professionals in your industry about things you have studied, things you want to learn more about. You know what you know — lay it out as best you can in the interview, and if it’s not the right fit, well, then it’s not the right fit. The outcome? You just spent an hour talking about your field and bettering yourself for the next opportunity that comes around.
6. REACH OUT
Connections, connections, connections. Reach out to professionals in the community. Shoot an email, make a phone call— set up a coffee date. Professionals are people, and many people love to help, to see aspiring professionals and students eager to learn.
Connect with individuals in your field and outside of it. And don’t do this solely for the potential benefit to your future — do this also to pick their brains, to genuinely learn more and to figure out exactly what direction you want to go.
This process doesn’t have to start with the CEO of a major company. First, head to the career center, your professors, job fairs and other resources on campus — that’s why they’re here.
7. TAKE IT DAY BY DAY
Stop freaking out. Do the best you can. Put your best self forward each day. Trust that by giving each day your all and focusing on the present, you are setting yourself up for your future.
Make a plan of attack for applying to companies, for reaching out and for building yourself into an employable and in-demand professional. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work out, and remember that with hard work, remaining true to yourself, and knowing your worth — you will be OK.
In my life, nothing started to fall into place until I let go. Nothing started to fall into place until I trusted that focusing on my current situation and setting myself up for success as best I could each day would get me where I needed and wanted to be — even if I didn’t know exactly where that was.
Anastasia Warren studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.