The next wave of college graduates will be stepping into the world of work over the coming weeks. Some already have jobs, some are job hunting, and some have pushed aside the thought of a career until after finals week. No matter where you stand on the job front, you can all benefit by updating your vocabulary with a few words that can help you push through difficult times on the job hunt, on the job, or in all aspects of life. These words to live by are:
Grit. Persistence. Challenge.
As you transition and settle into new job territory, remember to revisit these words during the many transitions that are ahead. Just like in your college years, you will be confronted with the unexpected, work long hours, get stressed out, and sometimes be tempted to take the easy way out. But as many of you discovered in your college years, persistence will be invaluable as you learn, grow, and find yourself by standing strong to embrace challenge. As you approach the working world remember the words grit, persistence, and challenge as you come across some of the common career challenges and milestones, especially on days that test your patience, sanity, and chosen career course.
- Stay at your entry-level job for at least two years. Why do you think it might be important to stay for more than a few months or a year at your job? While you build relationships with people who could be a future reference and create a solid job description to put on your resume, the most important thing you do is build real-world experiences and learn real-world skills which become the foundation for everything else you do. It is hard to learn anything inside of two years. But for quick starts who are well beyond the learning curve, the second year can be the time when real skill and contributions are made laying the groundwork for more responsibility and sometimes inventing a whole new job function. Before quitting your job prematurely, or checking out and coasting on autopilot, ask yourself how you will benefit by seeing your job as a challenge to be mastered, mentally jumping over all of the obstacles on the way.
- Set yourself apart. Once in your job, show your uniqueness, your extraordinary work ethic, and your desire to learn. Whether it’s staying late, taking on a heavier work load, or bringing more ideas to the team, you need to tap into that “extra” energy that sets you apart. You need to use your grit, persistence, and desire for challenge to make a difference in your work environment, on your team or with your ideas. Figure out how your unique abilities can improve your company and bring forth measurable results.
- Keep learning. The end of a college career doesn’t mean the end of your learning career; in fact, it is just the beginning. You’ve spent eighteen plus years learning how to seek knowledge, and now it is time to be a self-motivated learner. Technology will continue to change many of our industries, and as you become a seasoned worker, it’s important you are open to change and willing to learn new ways of doing things. Continue being a valued team member by blending your years of experience with a desire to keep learning and stay up-to-date. When you bring these new insights to your work world, you improve the overall mission and scope of your team, department, or company.
Whether you’re joining the ranks in corporate America, a small business, or the growing number of young entrepreneurs, your journey won’t always be easy. But you will never know the potential of your capabilities if you don’t stay the course and take on the challenge to grow, contribute, and put some “skin” in the game as they say in sports. There are many opportunities out there, but the first step to achieving them is to make yourself available by making a commitment. Moving too quickly, being bored, being scattered, or wanting to race through your first few years without notable achievements are all potentially costly moves for long term opportunities. Be fluid, enjoy yourself along the way, and keep a healthy pace as you follow your goals.
Congratulations Class of 2012! Go out and change the world one day at a time.