Maximizing Crunch Time: Five Tips for those about to Graduate

The following is a guest post by Matt Cheuvront. Matt is an Internet Marketing Developer/Designer and master of ceremonies over at Life Without Pants. Follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

You’re about to enter into the “real world”. Pretty scary stuff, I know. So far you’ve had it all planned out for you – go to class, work your part time job, out to parties on Friday, Saturday, and (sometimes) Sunday night. Life’s much easier when the road is paved ahead. And now, in a couple months, you’re going to have to take a turn off the beaten path and start “figuring it out on your own”.

To say the least, it’s no easy task. Maybe you’re like I was when I approached graduation – I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life – and it terrified me. I felt like I had done all of that school and it had provided me with no real sense of direction. In fact, I feel more confused than ever.

Or maybe you DO know exactly what you want to do, but don’t know how to get there, don’t know who to talk to or how to get your foot in the door…

In either case, this is it…Crunch time. One of those defining moments that requires a lot of hustle, a lot of dedication, and some tough skin – it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows, you’re going to get denied, but you’ll also, if you stick with it, find whatever it is you’re looking for.

Here are five “tips” for those of you out there about to enter the “real world”.

Don’t jump right back into school

I am not against higher education – not at all. But what I have seen time and time again is people turn to school as an escape route – not ready or willing to see what the career world has in store for them, they decide they “have to” go back for their Masters. My plea to you is simple. Think about it. Think before you take the leap and make sure that’s the direction you want to go in. Don’t assume that more school will figure everything out for you, and don’t use it to delay working a full-time job. There’s a lot to be said for self-education and life experience.

Start a blog

You will not find a bigger advocate for starting a blog – not only from a personal standpoint, but a professional one as well. Regardless of the field you are looking to get into – a blog can be your ticket to three VERY important things: Learning, networking, & skill building. By starting a blog, you put your ideas out there, and hopefully, you maintain an open mind and surround yourself with other people who are smarter than you. Learn from them – network with other bloggers – ask questions – and work on adding skills and experience to your own “resume”. Even if you don’t think you’re a great writer or think you have nothing to say – you’d be surprised what happens when you start having faith in yourself and take even a small step out of your comfort zone.

Network with everyone, everywhere

This one is simple. If there’s a networking event in your city – go to it. Grab a friend so you don’t have to feel awkward not knowing anyone. Whether it’s a professional event or a group getting together for beers, there’s never harm in getting out there and meeting new people. Go buy yourself a box of cheap business cards (or hell – make some of your own) and hand them out. Exchange e-mails, phone numbers, blog URL’s – whatever. Knowing a lot of people from diverse backgrounds is extremely important – and you never know when someone can help you out, or point you in the right direction of someone else.

Apply for jobs you are unqualified for

You’re scouring job boards, rifling through Craigslist, and everything you see is asking for 3-7 years of experience, right? Man do I know what that feels like – it’s tough to find something that’s in line with what you want, and what you think you’re worth (even coming straight out of college). The bottom line: Don’t sell yourself short – apply for jobs you aren’t technically qualified for. If nothing else, a few HR reps will probably be impressed that you’d be so bold as to even send in your resume. “Requested Experience” isn’t set in stone, and you don’t have to limit yourself to ONLY entry-level work.

Don’t be afraid to “settle”

Settling is an ugly word, isn’t it? I can’t stand it really, but I think it makes the most sense here. You’re probably reading a lot of books and blogs, talking to a lot of people like me who have “been there” recently – and they’re telling you to shoot for the stars, and accept nothing less than the absolute best.
I’m not a dream-zapper. Quite the contrary actually – I’ll be the first one to tell you that you should go out and get exactly what you want. BUT, there are also “real life” things that come into play. You’re out on your own, you have to pay the bills, and you may be supporting other people. It’s OK to take a job that isn’t 100% ideal. It’s OK to work a position that’s essentially a “just a paycheck”. Just remember these three things:

1. Money is money – and unfortunately, it’s a necessity. Never discount a good old fashioned paycheck.
2. Attitude is everything. Approach EVERY opportunity with a positive attitude, open mind, and a desire to learn SOMETHING from your experience.
3. It isn’t forever. That job you “settled” for doesn’t have to be forever – in fact, you and I know it won’t – because eventually you WILL find that amazing job you always wanted. Maybe you’ll figure out you want to be your own boss and you’ll start a company. Take the experience for what it’s worth and do everything you can to hustle and find something better.

God Speed and good luck to you my soon-to-be real-worlders. It can be a scary place out there, but luckily, there are a lot of people out there who are more than willing to help.

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.

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