Three Tips for Graduates: How to Navigate What Comes Next

By: Lily Mathews | May 11, 2015

Whoa. Graduation is looming and you’ve got a ton of end-of-semester activities to tackle, not to mention family descending on campus to wish you well as you move into a new chapter of your life. But hard as it might be to fathom, now’s the time to focus on what comes next – because a good transition plan can set you on the right post-graduation path. Here's some advice to get you started.

1. Cultivate connections – now.

It's time to start tapping into your network. What’s that you say? You haven’t even graduated yet, how could you even have a network? Everyone has a network – just look around at the people you interact with regularly. It’s not only about spotting the people who can help you land a job, it’s about building strong relationships.

“We are all connected in surprising ways, so never pass up the opportunity to have a conversation with someone and share your passion for making the world a better place,” says career coach Katie Kross. When you’re job searching, or when you need an assist, that’s when your relationships become your network. So drop a note to your former boss, chat up your next-door neighbor the next time you pass by, talk to friends and family ... and their friends.

2. Soft skills matter: learn how to listen and collaborate

Sure, you’ve got a shiny new degree and can do financial forecasting with your eyes closed. Maybe those Excel skills make you a whiz at data analysis. Yes, hard skills might get you in the door, but critical soft skills like negotiation and communication can make or break your career advancement. Being able to build consensus will get you far too, but it takes practice.

Fortunately, your job might be the best training ground. Look for opportunities to lead meetings. Practice active listening skills. Talk to people from other business units and learn what makes them tick. In the workplace, being able to gain buy-in and align different interests is a skill worth its weight in gold.

3. Understand that the workforce won't feel like school

In school, expectations are clear: you know your assignments, your schedule, and your grading criteria. For better or worse, that’s not always the case at your job. You might be responding to four different people, each with their own goals and agenda, and priorities might shift dramatically one week to the next. In order to thrive, get ready to flex an extra dose of adaptability and good humor.

Furthermore, as a student you were likely surrounded by school clubs and prospects to connect. In the workplace, these opportunities might be fewer and far between, so it’s critical to seek out ways to maintain connections – perhaps through Net Impact’s chapters.

And if all else fails...

You could always take the advice of "Happy" Gilmore (but we wouldn't necessarily recommend it):

The truth is, your next steps might be daunting. But the beauty of it is that your post-graduation experience is what you make it. You might not make this transition again, so make the most of it -- and remember to enjoy it.

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