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5 Critical Steps For A Rewarding Career... For The Recent Graduate

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 Photo Credit chris_elwell / 123RF Stock Photo

Congratulations recent graduate (or soon to be a graduate)! It is truly a time to celebrate all your hard work, your dedication and your achievements! It is also the time uncover, discover, explore, learn and experience - so you are well on your way to head start a successful career! Here are 5 critical steps to be followed for a truly rewarding career and to stay connected to what is truly important to you.

1) Determine what you enjoy

You will often hear “follow your passion”. Passion is a very strong word, some of us are fortunate to know what we are passionate about, but for most of us it is difficult to figure out what our passion is. So what I would say is discover what you truly enjoy! Take a step back, look inwards and be mindful of your daily experiences to determine what tasks, processes, roles, activities you enjoy. Think about the industry you would like working in, and build from there (banking, consulting, technology, medicine, fashion, real estate, public policy, pharmaceuticals etc.). Once you know the industry, figure out the roles you would like. For instance: do you like marketing, analyzing data, developing product, forming relationships, sales, human resources etc. If it is the role that drives you then reverse your soul search and figure out what industries would you be the happiest in.

2) Understand & cultivate your strengths

It is commonly said “follow your heart”, but it is also very important to know and follow your personal inherent strengths. What are you naturally good at? What type of tasks and activities you do very well? What can you get better at? For instance: if you are very creative, then be in a creative role where your work is appreciated. Or if you are a relationship builder, you might want to be in sales or business development where it comes naturally to you and you can do it with finesse and you can do it much better than others. Working in an area where you play up your strengths sets you up for success!

3) Discover your weaknesses

As much as it is important to know your strengths it is even more important to know your weaknesses: (1) It will help you develop them further. (2) Secondly, so you don’t get stuck in a job where your weakness is the main requirement for the job. Because if you end up in a job which does not suit your natural tendencies and your inherent skills, it will be an uphill battle. For instance if you find a job in marketing and you are great at coming up with new ideas, but if you are not detail oriented, you will have a tough time executing your ideas successfully. There will be delays, balls will be dropped, and things will fall through the cracks.

If you are competitive and want to excel in your job then you will always be frustrated as the results will not be the same as what is expected or it will cause too much effort and heart-ache to get the same results that someone else who is more organized and is more detail oriented can get. Getting a little better is possible but changing your inner wiring completely, is easier said than done. Not impossible – but pretty difficult!

4) Learn, Explore & Experience

To determine what industry and functions you would enjoy and to discover your strengths & weaknesses, always be open to exploring, discovering and learning. Be a sponge, read, listen, and observe, experience. Speak to professionals around you: your employers, professors, your friends, your parents, their friends’, the parents of your friends, your relatives and neighbors etc. and ask them what they do. Ask them if they could connect you to someone else in a particular industry or function you are interested in. Ask people what are their responsibilities at work, what their day looks like, do they travel, whom they manage, what do they create or develop, what are the challenges and opportunities in their job/industry?

But don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions: what they don’t like, what keeps them up at night, what is the potential pay range? Knowing about the compensation is very important; For instance, many people find fashion to be very glamorous but get the shock of their lives when they realize how little the industry pays and how cut throat it is. If you had known about the pitfalls and challenges of an industry, you might have made a different decision for yourself despite loving one particular aspect of an industry. Learn about different industries and roles so you start developing a concrete idea of what you want to do.

Once you short list a few industries/jobs, then get a deeper understanding of the industry by doing internships and projects in the industry. If you can’t do an internship or a project, explore shadowing a professional for a few days. Be open to unpaid and volunteer opportunities too because many times that is an excellent way to determine what might be a great job for you or even better yet, what might be a great job but really not for you! And that insight is worth a million bucks! Furthermore, the skills and exposure you will develop will be invaluable in your next job and will be a great addition on your resume.

5) Develop that Relationship

Everyone needs mentors and you will too. It is important to reach out and connect, but even more important to nurture that relationship that you already sowed the seeds for. Some of these people could become your core group of mentors. When you seek advice from someone, follow up with a nice thank you note. Email works fine, but as I learned in business school, the best thank you notes are the hand-written ones. Furthermore, follow up twice a year with an in person meeting, email or a hand-written note, checking in on how they are doing and sharing information about what developments you have made. So that it does not seem like you connect only when you need something. Always ask how you can be of assistance to the person who advised you and also to the person who originally made the introduction. It is a circle of help that keeps us propelling forward – always be willing to help, connect, and advise as you progress in your career.