Five Steps to Consider when Transitioning from Recent College Grad to Employee


College graduate.

Congratulations! You are going to graduate from your degree program soon and it’s time to celebrate. With this important milestone, there are likely some significant and exciting transitions on the horizon. Whether you are beginning a job search, changing your career, or advancing to new heights, you’re about to embark on a journey that will present dynamic opportunities, but also new experiences that may not be entirely familiar.

To ease any growing pains, lean on these tips and recommendations in order to successfully move forward with your goals as a brand new college graduate!

1. Make Your Job Search a Priority

You have spent the last several years planning and preparing for your college graduation. Now is the time to make your job search a priority. Establish a routine that allocates specific time to your job search.

If you’re not currently employed, be sure to get your day started as if you have a job already: get ready for day, dress in business-casual clothes, and arrive at your desk at a predetermined time—even if your “desk” a laptop on your kitchen table! For those who are currently employed, schedule your jobs search activities as if you would for a dentist appointment or workout at the gym. Ensure that you devote enough time in your schedule to make your job search successful.

If you’re not sure where to start, a good place to begin searching for job opportunities is—it’s not only popular place for employment opportunities, but it’s also a great way to do occupational research. Simply enter your job search criteria and your location. Then, job opportunities matching your criteria will appear in the search results. Review these positions carefully and try to pinpoint levels of experience, necessary certifications, and any pertinent technology or software skills. Work to find trends: are there skills, tasks, and duties that frequently appear in these posts? Make a list of common requirements and use it as a guide when you update your resume.

2. Update Your Resume

Create a master resume that spotlights your interpersonal skills and learned skills, as well as any past work experience related to your field of study. If you need assistance writing your resume, take advantage of the resources offered by your college. The majority of colleges and universities offer career development services to both students and alumni. When you schedule a career advising appointment, a career advisor can help you create your master resume and offer tips to find job opportunities in your area.

Be aware that in today’s job market, most online job boards use software to filter through the hundreds of resumes submitted. It searches for specific keywords and if you haven’t included those keywords, your resume will not be considered. In order to play the job search game, you want to be sure employers are viewing your resume. Only about 10% of resumes submitted to job applications actually prompt an interview. Therefore, it is in your best interest to customize each resume to specific job applications.

Once you complete your master resume, put it to the test! There are a range of resume scanning tools (such as Resume Worded’s Targeted Resume, SkillSyncer, Jobscan) that will help you determine if you have included the proper keywords in your chosen career. Be prepared for success and improve your technology skills.

3. Improve Your Technology Skills

Most employers are searching for candidates who are proficient with Microsoft Office and are experienced with specific software programs. Technology changes daily so in order to compete in today’s job market, keep your skills up-to-date and be willing to learn new programs to suit an employer’s needs.

Check out LinkedIn Learning to find out which specific software programs are required for the specific job you desire. Learn what is necessary and brush up those skills prior to applying for a position.

You may also want to explore user groups to connect with like-minded individuals who are interested in mastering the same technology as you. Here are several popular technology platforms that have vibrant user group communities:

  • Salesforce
    Cloud-based customer relationship Management (CRM) software
  • Adobe
    Multimedia and creativity software products
  • WordPress
    Free, open-source content management system (CMS) for building and maintaining websites
  • Drupal
    Free, open-source content management system (CMS) for building and maintaining websites

These groups have a reputation for being highly supportive. You’ll not only get an insider’s perspective from other users learning and using the same software, but it also serves as a natural and fulfilling way to build your professional network.

4. Network

Many job opportunities are only available by word-of-mouth, making it vital to nurture your network of colleagues, friends, and business acquaintances.

Networking can take many forms. You can network in person at social gatherings and business events. For those new to networking, start with your local Chamber of Commerce or local Young Professionals Organization. They’ll have a calendar of opportunities for you to select. For more targeted opportunities, consider joining a professional association and network with people in your specific career field. In HR, for example, joining a professional organization like SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, is essential.

Online networking opportunities are also beneficial. You can find various online groups with similar interests or career goals on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

Networking can present opportunities that you may not have previously considered. If you currently work in payroll at a car dealership, you could meet someone within an entirely different field, such as nonprofit, who needs an employee with your exact set of skills. Be open to new directions, network with confidence, and don’t be afraid to consider all options.

5. Consider All Options

Nontraditional Work Experiences, Advanced Degrees, and Changing Industries

If you are concerned that you may not be able to find your dream job immediately, or if you haven’t decided on a career direction, consider a nontraditional pathway, such as an internship, volunteer role, or AmeriCorps service.

While many think that internships are exclusively for students, that’s not always the case. If an internship provides you with the experience you need to move towards your career goals, it’s a viable and worthwhile way to get your foot in the door.

Volunteer positions and AmeriCorps service offer on-the job training and experience which will help you decide your career path. Internships and work-study programs offer more than just work experience. Some are paid and some offer college credit.

For some recent grads, additional education and training is a natural next step. Fields like public service, human services, IT, and Marketing may require certifications for more lucrative, upper-level positions. Not only does certification help give your candidacy a boost, it also helps you specialize or deepen your industry knowledge. You may want to pursue a graduate credential, such as a master’s degree or graduate certificate. When choosing a graduate program, you’ll face dozens of decision-points that will guide you towards the right college. You’ll want to consider testing requirements like GRE and GMAT, affordability, online master’s degree course options, completion time, and more. If you need to take out student loans to finance your master’s degree, borrow smart and only take out what you need.

And if your job search isn’t yielding results, widen your scope. For example, a degree in business and career experience in retail doesn’t mean you need to stick with retail forever and work your way up to management positions. If your in this position, informational interviews and job shadows can help get more insight into specific positions or learn in-depth information about the field. Plus, these forms of casual and informational networking can often lead to excellent industry connections and possibly even a future job offer.

Other industries offer exciting positions that will value your background. Career advising is an excellent way to consider these options and think differently about how you can further develop your career. Remember: learning doesn’t end when you get your diploma!

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This blog was originally published in May 2019 and was updated to reflect emerging trends and best practices.