A Guest Post By Amy Stevens, Florida State University, Public Relations Major
The education you have received in college has been valuable. Yet, no semester-long course or scholarly professor can emulate the experiences gained in the so called ‘real world.’
So how do students prepare themselves? How do you make yourself stand out against the 1.9 million other graduates competing for a place in the professional world? How do you learn the skills not taught within the confines of a classroom?
With less than three months until Spring Graduation, there is no better time than now for soon-to-be graduates to begin transitioning into the professional world.
While 1.9 million graduates may seem daunting, it can also mean you are not alone. There are 1.9 million other people going through exactly what you are. Feeling the same emotions. Experiencing the same highs and lows. I, too, am a part of that 1.9 million.
Here are some tips I have learned along the way and how I am currently setting myself up for success.
1. Remember Your Personal Brand
How you present yourself to the world tells a story. Every social media post. Every résumé bullet. Every conversation with someone in your network. Your own personal brand must always be at the forefront of your mind, especially as you transition into the professional world.
In order to build and maintain a personal brand, I suggest students start with a proper social media presence. Look at the social media platforms you already use. Do the photos on Instagram represent you in a negative light? Do you use overtly aggressive language or share blatantly offensive (i.e. racist, homophobic, sexist) opinions on either Facebook or Twitter? If so, you might want to consider giving your social media platforms a clean sweep. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions and photographs, begin to view your view your social media presence as a way to professionally present yourself to future employers.
If you think future employers cannot find your profiles, think again. Just because your social media pages are on private does not mean someone cannot find that photo of you on Spring Break two years before your 21st birthday.
2. Take Your Résumé One Step Further
Résumés only tell one side of the story. Each bullet point is strategically written to describe what you have learned in prior experience and what skills you can provide to a new company. Unfortunately, your résumé is competing against the 1.9 million other graduates. So how do you tell your whole story while simultaneously making yourself stand out?
Create a website.
It may seem like a daunting task, but it is actually a lot easier than you might think. Platforms such as Wix and Weebly are user-friendly and full of unique design options. Once you have chosen a design template, customize it to your liking and begin to upload some of your previous work. Did you write a great press release at a previous internship? Was one of your class assignments top of the line? A personal website is a perfect way to show employers your experience stretches further than a few bullet points.
3. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone – Network!
Speaking with people you do not know may seem uncomfortable at times. In the professional world, it is crucial you step outside your comfort zone. Job opportunities, career advice and professional relationships regularly occur when you talk with professionals in your industry.
The easiest way to successful begin your network is to create a LinkedIn profile. This platform allows current and future professionals to brand themselves to future employers. Upload a professional headshot, add some experience and begin to connect with people you know.
Do not be afraid to reach out to professionals for insight, advice and job opportunities. Remain professional, understand that time is precious and always thank people for their help. A large part of building a personal brand is being polite and nurturing connections.
If face-to-face communication is more your style, search for a professional networking group such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) that has a local chapter. You can meet with professionals, find job opportunities and share career advice.
4. Find the Perfect Job Position
While you may not jump into a CEO position straight after graduation, there are still some incredible entry-level jobs out there. You just need to know the right place to look.
Hit ‘refresh’ on job sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed. These websites update in real-time when employers post new jobs. Often you can immediately apply by uploading a résumé and cover letter. If you know the specific company you hope to work for, look directly on their website.
Be sure to get your application in as soon as possible. Remember the number of people you are competing against. If you take too long to submit an application, chances are the company has already interviewed and hired someone who submitted it earlier.
Another way to find jobs is to use your connections. Professors, previous employers and family friends are all people who can potentially help you find a job. By establishing a large network and nurturing your connections, you never know when an opportunity can come your way.
Entering the professional world can be scary. Be prepared. Do your research. Present yourself well on social media and in public. Be polite. Just breathe. You have your degree and some experience. All you have to do now is package it up nice and pretty and show the world what a rock star you are. Good luck!
Amy Stevens, Florida State University, Public Relations Major