It’s May. If you close your eyes and listen hard enough, you can almost hear “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in harmony with a collective sigh of relief from parents and an occasional squeal of excitement from graduates eager to set foot in the real world.
As such, now is as good a time as any to offer advice to our new graduates who will soon enter the workforce.
1. Present Yourself Like the Professional You Want to Be
After one of my first post-college interviews, the potential employer pulled me aside to offer some advice: “Lose the purple lipstick. It’s unprofessional.” My first thought was “Purple? This isn’t purple! It’s mauve!” I later pulled out the tube in good lighting. I’ll be darned if it wasn’t the shade of Grimace.
I was mortified. But more importantly, I was lucky that someone had shaken a little bit of that collegiate overconfidence out of me. I needed to be reminded that the way I had presented myself in college was not appropriate for the real world. In addition to tacky lipstick, young professionals should ditch casual clothing, short skirts, flip-flops, super-tight skinny pants, revealing tops, and other unprofessional attire.
Remember: if you dress like a college kid, employers will probably treat you as such. But if you dress like a professional, you’ll likely be taken more seriously.
2. Clean Up Your (Social Networking) Room
I hate to sound like your mother, but you really need to clean up your room — your social networking room, that is. Online behavior that was fine for a college setting may not necessarily be acceptable to a potential employer.
Scrub your social media sites of inappropriate posts, comments, and photos. If I had a dollar for every employer who passed over a candidate because of something unsavory that was found online about him, I’d have a yacht docked next to Richard Branson’s.
And while you’re online, make sure to join LinkedIn. It may have seemed pointless in college; but from now on, it will be an invaluable networking tool if you use it wisely.
3. Don’t Job Jump
Cliff Clavin fun fact for the day: Did you know that the average job tenure is seven years for Baby Boomers, five years for Gen X, and only 18 months for Millennials?
This is a troubling trend for employers. After all, why would they want to hire someone who will leave shortly after he has been properly trained — and perhaps even before he has started adding real value to the organization?
But it’s also a troubling trend for recent graduates. Why? Because staying on the job for a year and a half doesn’t give them an opportunity to actually dig in, build a significant portfolio of accomplishments, and truly make a difference. After all, you don’t want your knowledge to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
Many of the nonprofit hiring managers we work with won’t even talk to someone whose resume screams, “I jump jobs with the frequency of a cheap ham radio.” Don’t let that be you!
4. Try Not to Reinforce the Millennial Stereotype
In a recent discussion with friends about managing people at work, I got an earful about Millennials and how challenging some of them can be. Among the complaints:
- Millennials need constant praise and rewards – One friend complained of an entry level staffer who wanted to be “rewarded for coming to work on time, completing tasks in a timely manner, and taking only a 30 minute lunch.” The take-away? Don’t expect accolades for meeting basic expectations.
- Millennials feel entitled – Another friend told of a junior level staffer who thought he was ready for a senior management role — despite the fact he was struggling to perform the duties of his current role. Make sure you’ve mastered your current role before proclaiming your ability to run the show.
- Millennials are more comfortable in front of screen than a human – One friend lamented that the art of in-person conversation is lost on Millennials. Email is efficient, but know when to walk down the hall and have a face-to-face conversation with a co-worker or boss.
5. Remember the Importance of Reputation
If you interned or participated in a conference, workshop, or seminar in the liberty movement during college, you’ve already started sharpening one of the most useful arrows in your career quiver: your reputation.
The good news: if you worked hard and produced quality work, people are talking about that — and it will likely help you land a job in the future. The bad news: if you slacked off and copped an attitude, that news is traveling twice as fast.
With every new job, project, and relationship, you’ll have a chance to build your name. If you develop a positive reputation now, it will open countless doors for you throughout your career.
Claire Kittle Dixon is executive director of Talent Market.