Walking down the street, you may notice throngs of students in their caps and gowns. It might remind you of the expectations families, friends and professors had for you when you graduated--and how you were filled with anticipation of journeying into the unknown.
Were you over-the-top enthusiastic? Or did you feel uncertainty, fear and dread?
It's good to reflect on your career journey to see if this is where you intended to be. And if a recent graduate contacts you and wants to know about your career path, it'll be useful for them to hear your experience and wisdom. You don't need to have all the answers--just sharing your path will be helpful.
Here are six tips to keep in mind as you try to set a clear path to build your career and future--or restart the career you have now:
1. Make a plan.
To reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, make a plan. Be strategic about it and write down the goals of the day with specific action steps you will take to meet those goals.
As you go through the day, check off your accomplishments. Writing "get a job" each day isn't helpful--that's one of the overarching goals, and the steps you're taking will lead there.
2. Network a lot.
Getting connected and staying connected is critical if you want to expand your possibility of choices. You never know where a good idea or introduction can come from, so it is a good idea to strategically plan where you want to connect with others. You can stay within the field you want to be in, as well as, areas that are tangentially related because it may expand how you are thinking about your career.
In all my years of consulting and coaching, all of my client work has been through introduction by someone in my network. Sometimes, I'd just be sharing what I was up to, and a colleague would ask me to submit a proposal to work with her organization on a related topic. My intention was relationship-building--and the outcome was a new client.
3. Conduct informational interviews.
Identify people who you admire and want to emulate. Try to contact them and ask for 15 minutes of their time for an informational interview.
Explain that you are starting out, you admire who they are and what they do, and you would like to know more about how they got to where they are. It's important you stay within the frame of learning about their lives and not asking for favors.
However, you can ask them if there is anyone else they think you should talk to. They may connect you with one or two more people, and they two more people, and so on.
4. Give back.
You may find it challenging to stay connected with those you have met because you are not sure what to say is the reason for you reaching out to them. One good way is to send them useful information.
For example, if you see an article or event going to happen that is related to what you were discussing with them you can send them a heads up about it. They will appreciate you thinking of them and you will be demonstrating good listening skills and that you paid attention to what they were saying.
5. Stay active.
Find a balance between staying home and preparing for your action steps with going out and being social. You know how much of each you will need depending on how extroverted or introverted you are.
So, introverts, push yourself to have a certain number of social activities in your plan and extroverts, plan time to stay at home and collect your thoughts on next steps. It takes the combination to be strategic and successful.
6. Seek a mentor or coach.
During your informational interviews you may develop a good rapport with someone. After the interview if you stay in touch with them and they are responsive, you might ask them if they would like to mentor you.
They can only say yes or no and you made a move to seek what you need. A coach, on the other hand, will be able to provide you structure and feedback that could be invaluable.
As a coach, I've asked questions and shared insights that seemed minor to me, but made a big difference in how my client took next steps. Once, a client was describing some of his activities outside of work to me, and I saw his eyes particularly light up about a youth coaching gig.
"Your whole demeanor seemed to change," I reflected to him. "What do you think that was about?" Long story short, he realized he really liked working with young folks--and become a coach for early-career professionals.