When I graduated, I got a ton of great advice from my professors, alumni, friends, family members and more. They sent me links to open jobs that they thought I would be a good fit for, gave me feedback on my cover letters and website copy, and propped me up with kindness, support and well-wishes before, during and after the walk across the stage.
But there are the things that they don't put in the inspirational cards in the "Graduation" section of Hallmark. Here are a few of the things I wish I'd known--advice I'd give to my just-graduating and just-starting-out self. Here's hoping it saves some of you, or the graduate in your life, a bit of stress along the way.
Getting A Job Will Take Longer Than You Think. That's FINE.
You'll apply to more than 100 jobs, and get turned down from almost all of them. Many will never get back to you; this is not personal, so don't take it that way. A few will interview you--several times--before they say "No, thanks." That's OK, too. You're not a failure and you're not worse off than the rest of your peer group; most people just don't talk about these things because they worry that they will look like failures. Keep following up with people; As you'll soon come to know yourself--emails really CAN get lost in a full inbox. Keep on keeping on. It'll happen.
Borrow An Address For Your Resume. It's NBD.
If you're applying to jobs out-of-state or otherwise far-from-home , either strip your address off your resume, or borrow an address from a nearby friend or relative. This way, you don't get put in the "we're not paying her moving expenses" pile without getting a second glance. And stop freaking out about doing it: if they ask about "your" neighborhood in the interview, just say you're staying with your friend/relative while you find a place which is a normal thing to do. It will be fine.
Also, don't over-design your resume with a fancy program on the school computers. Most online application systems can't read it, and you'll have to enter it all manually. In a year when your student subscription runs out, you'll have to re-build it from scratch in Word anyway and this will prove to be very stressful. Keep it simple.
Read "Lean In," And Then GET LEANING
Seriously. Don't wait for 15 people to recommend it. Pick up a copy of Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. It will inspire you to apply for a job that you would have thought was out of reach, and you'll actually get it. It will motivate you to join a professional organization for women in your industry, which will earn you an award, introduce you to new friends, offer a rewarding volunteer opportunity, and a connect you with several women who will become your mentors and champions. You've got this girl.
Keep In Touch With Professors. Seriously.
They really do care about your success, and they really do want to hear where you end up and how they helped you get there. Thank them. You'll be glad you did; You'll maintain relationships with some of your professors that will last for years. They'll make introductions for you, give you career advice, invite you to events on campus and off, have fascinating conversations about the state of the industry and someday they'll make introductions to students for you to mentor, thus completing the circle of life.
Start Paying Off Loans ASAP, Even If You Don't HAVE To.
This one sounds crazy, I know. Even when they give you a 3-6 month grace period after graduation where you don't have to pay anything, do everything in your power to pay as much as you can then. The interest keeps growing and it capitalizes, and you'll wish you made even a few measly payments to keep that number from growing. Live without cable for a while, pack lunch from home, and don't go out every weekend. It'll be worth it, and way better for your long-term success.
- Don't break the bank for a fancy diploma frame. You probably won't hang it up for a while anyway.
- Plan reunions and meet-ups with school friends. It gets harder the longer you wait.
- Get an nice pin or other accessory with your school name or mascot for interviews and networking events. You never know when you'll find fellow alums who are eager to meet and help.
- Maybe don't hold your phone up and record yourself walking across the stage. It WILL be an epic selfie, but it will also ruin everyone else's photos of you...