Over the last six (6) weeks, I have been speaking with students from various tertiary institutions across the country; who are about to graduate somewhere this year. For most of them, their greatest dilemma is navigating a career path after school. While some are clear about where they want to be after school and what they need to do to get there, for others it’s like searching for the Holy Grail – a very daunting journey.
The truth is that our educational system has over the years taught students little or nothing, when it comes to issues relating to how to prepare for the a job (and keep it). Issues relating to the job market are either not given prominence or at avoided by students until its too late. Thus, we have a sad situation where students are presented with opportunities but not able to make the most of it or fail to flatter.
If you are tertiary student about to graduate, I believe these career secrets might help you position yourself strategically to make the most out of life after school.
1. Identify your personal brand
Everyone has a personal brand, whether you like it or not. Your personal brand is how other other people and professionals perceive you. Thus as a yet to be graduate, your goal is to build a clear personal brand that showcases the problems you solve. That way, when someone (or some company) is having that particular problem, they’ll know and be able to reach out to you for a solution. Companies are looking for graduates who are solution oriented and so you must have that disposition.
Your personal brand must emphasize your values, interest, passion, performance and potential offerings prospective employers can expect from you. The brand you communicate through your social media presence shows your career promise. You must be able to figure out the problems you solve and the skill sets you use to solve those problems. These skills and attributes must be promoted, so people begin to associate you with those things.
Building a personal brand strategically will position you as the go-to person once people or companies need someone to get the job done.
2. Take advantage of voluntary internships
During the long vacations, many a student after a tiring academic semester will want to sit at home, eat and sleep (what is mostly referred to as “Adidas”) or possibly do a binge session of their favorite series. Thus, instead of using the opportunity the 2-3 months break affords to gain some work experience, it is often “wasted”.
In my opinion, internships are often a great way for you to gain experience and work in a particular career or role for a short period of time. You will be able to make sure that this career is for you while making an impressive entry on your CV and also making connections within the industry you want to break into.
In most cases, completing an unpaid internship could be the only option but benefits pay off later in life. Personally, i take every opportunity i get to advise students to take up voluntary internships. Apart from gaining work experience and transferable skills, voluntary internships helps students to;
– Explore a prospective career path
– Gain practical experience, by applying methods and theories learned in classes
– Network with professionals in your field, for references and future job opportunities and
– Develop new skills and refine others.
3. Cultivate your Network (do so consistently and constantly)
Building professional relationships in and outside of your field will not only allow you to learn more about the industry, but it will also increase your chances of networking your way into new opportunities.
Before completing your course, make sure you build a very good network of friends who share common interest and aspirations with you. Individuals such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were able to realise their dreams because of the good network of friendships they established and leverage on while in school.
Again, make an effort to attend networking events, reach out to other established and accomplished professionals on LinkedIn, and chat with professionals working in your industry on social media. Cultivate your network wisely and ensure that you also network with professionals from other backgrounds. The fact is that you never know who someone knows, and you never know what opportunities will result from those connections.
4. Request for mentorship
The term “mentor” comes from The Odyssey. Odysseus entrusted the care of his son, Telemachus, to Mentor when he set out to fight the Trojan War. The best mentors will help you learn and grow by sharing their knowledge and wisdom with you. In this way, you can benefit from their experience without having to suffer the consequences of gaining that experience firsthand. As the old saying goes, “a mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight”.
Mentors are positive people by definition and it takes a positive person to give of himself of herself to help another, so as to learn, grow and succeed. Thus when you are looking for someone to be your mentor, look for people who have the title, position, or experience you are trying to get. Don’t set your sights too far off. Think about your next few career goals and look for people who match, preferably people you know personally or could easily meet.
You can ask a friend or someone in your professional network to connect you with someone in their company who is willing to take on a mentor and has the position you’re looking for.
5. Have a good attitude and be enthusiastic
Before leaving school, make sure that there are some attitudes you make a second nature. Enthusiasm and a good attitude is very necessary if you want to get ahead of the pack; as a positive outlook can go a long way in the business world.
Prospective employers and other professionals who might be looking to rope you into their teams admire optimism in young graduates. If you are exuding a negative and snarky attitude about a job or during job search, it will show. Therefore, make an effort to stay positive, even when opportunities are not forthcoming.