June 15, 2018

Career AdviceProfessional Development

The Top 7 Things to Do to Build a Good Foundation After Graduation

By: Patricia Simpson Rausch

Has it hit you yet? You’re finally done with school. First off, congratulations! I’m sure there were a few people who didn’t think you were going to make it. You might even be one of them! I kid, I kid. But seriously, you should be proud of yourself–but only for a minute or two for there is much work ahead to be done!

I’ve met with thousands of new grads over the past decade and most of them looking for a job post-graduation have one thing in common: they aren’t completely sure what to do to find a first job that helps jump-start their career. Lucky for you, I’ve been keeping notes and following success stories. Here are seven tips to help you get a leg up on your competition.

1. Get a proper resume in order – Much like you need a license to drive a car (yes, libertarians, even if it’s just a way for the state to take our money), you need a resume to job hunt. Make sure you talk to experts (like the job bank teams at The Heritage Foundation or Leadership Institute) who can help you not only put your job history on paper, but also show you how to properly highlight your accomplishments and set you apart from the rest of the pack.

2. Reach out to your connections and let them know you’re actively looking for a job – You know the whole “I didn’t know they were single” thing? The same thing applies to a job search. You must let people know you’re looking if you expect anybody to show interest in your talents. Make sure you shout it from the rooftops that you’re in town and you’re actively looking for a job. And be sure to not just limit it to contacts in your field. Anyone who can vouch for you or has a vast network should also know to be on the lookout–just be sure they have an idea of the type of job you’re looking for.

3. Have active profile on LinkedIn so recruiters can find you – This is similar to the immediate past point. Recruiters need to be able to see you in search results, so make sure your profile is listed publicly. If you don’t see value in a completed LinkedIn profile, you’re doing yourself a severe disservice. Every recruiter utilizes sites where they can see the most about candidates, and LinkedIn is at the top of that list. Just remember, it’s where your professional brand is on display, so keep the headshot clear of any college shenanigans.

4. Research, research, research – Constantly be Googling organizations, offices, and companies in the area to learn as much about them as you possibly can. It’s from these sites where you’ll learn mission statements, major projects, and job openings. This means, if you apply and get called for an interview, you’ve already done the basic research and you’ll be able to answer the typical first question of, “What do you know about us, and why do you want to work here?”

5. Have references in order – The rule of thumb for references is make sure they know they’re listed, they know you personally, and be certain they’re going to give you a positive review. You’d be amazed how often I’m listed as a reference by someone who I don’t know or would never give a positive review for. It’s simply laziness on a jobseeker’s part. Don’t be lazy.

6. Networking is friendship by another name – If you’re looking at networking as simply a way to get your next job, you’re doing it wrong. You should look at it as making professional friends. The next time you’re at an event, walk up to two people standing together and introduce yourself. It’s likely they already know each other, and it will be easier to slide into an established conversation rather than trying to awkwardly bring three strangers together on one topic. It might seem awkward at first, but you’ll eventually find it to be quite easy and rewarding–plus, you’re meeting two people for the price of one conversation!

7. Always. Be. Networking – Sure, you have a killer resume and everyone knows you’re looking for a job (because you took my advice in #1 and #2, right?), but you still need to be cultivating and growing your network. I know it’s difficult to try to meet new people when you’re flying solo, but that isn’t an excuse to not try. Many organizations, AFF, Heritage, and LI included, all have event listings on their websites and social media pages. Be sure to follow everyone on social media so their events show up in your feeds–that way you’ll be able to go to at least one a week. It’s the very minimum you have to do to meet the people today who might be able to help you tomorrow.

Bonus – Attend Welcome to Washington!
If you’re looking to join the career race inside the beltway, there are few events in Washington, DC, that help prepare you for your job search quite like Welcome to Washington. Make sure you put it on your calendar, and I’ll see you there! Oh, and the recurring nightmare where you didn’t actually graduate from college eventually goes away. I promise.

From the editors: The Summer 2018 Welcome to Washington event will be held on Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 pm at The Heritage Foundation (214 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC). Co-sponsored by America’s Future Foundation, Charles Koch Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Leadership Institute, this event will feature a panel of DC insiders who will offer advice on navigating the job market in Washington and discuss their paths to professional success. Check out more details and RSVP here