4 Ways New College Grads Can Help Jumpstart Their Careers

Group of graduate students holding their diploma after graduation
Many millennials who are graduating from college this spring face a new, exciting chapter of their lives. They may have had jobs when they weren't in class, but it's likely those positions were intentionally short-term.

Now, they're looking at starting careers, which means dealing with the classic (and frustrating) job search catch-22: You need experience to get hired, but you need to start your career to gain experience. Here are four ways to overcome that.

1. Make Smart Use of Social Media

Employers are increasingly trolling through job applicants' social media pages to help determine if they want to spend time interviewing them. This means you need a your social persona to reflect you as being someone who is both professional and likable.

Also, you should establish yourself on LinkedIn (LNKD), if nowhere else. The next step is to leverage all of your social media platforms to establish yourself as a subject matter expert in your area of focus. Here's how:
  • Get actively involved in groups and conversations that are relevant to the field you want to get into.
  • Use keywords in your bios -- but write in a way that shows you're using your own voice. You can get creative or clever, as long as you're smoothly working in those relevant terms. Being eye-catching, and even making someone smile with a smartly worded one- or two-sentence bio, is a good thing.
  • Fill out all fields available to you (and again, write in your own natural voice so you don't come across as stiff or stuffy).
  • Demonstrate your knowledge with the content you post. Tweet thoughtful questions and then engage with industry leaders on relevant topics. Share interesting articles pertaining to the field you want to work in on LinkedIn. Consider starting a blog where you can contribute your own thoughts in the form of valuable, informative posts for readers -- and then show off your work when applying for positions.
2. Get Your Foot in the Door With a Smaller Company

Starting off within a smaller company structure will allow you to take on more responsibilities and learn new skills faster, which can lead to your career arc rising more rapidly. With fewer people in your workplace, your ideas, suggestions and hard work are more likely to be noticed by top managers -- and rewarded.

3. Do Some Strategic Volunteer Work

Recently, there's been a lot of debate over unpaid internships, and whether they are exploiting young people, or giving them a shot to prove their worth. But if you're not OK with doing unpaid work for a company that doesn't mean much to you, you can avoid the issue and buff your resume by volunteering for a cause you care about.

The key idea here is to make your efforts strategic. Are you looking to break into marketing? Volunteer to help the fundraising team at your favorite nonprofit. Want to get into finance? Volunteer the skills you learned in school at a charity that needs help with accounting or bookkeeping.

In short, volunteer in a way that let's you put to work the skills you'll use in your ideal career -- and then include that experience on your résumé when you start applying for entry-level positions in your chosen field.

4. Be a Go-Getter and Make Your Search Proactive

Don't sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you. Do your research and compile contact information and email addresses. Reach out to companies you'd want to start a career with, and take the initiative to start the conversation.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Ask how you can help, if that's appropriate (it may not be an effective strategy for a corporation, but a small business or entrepreneur may appreciate the offer) or what you should be doing to make yourself a better candidate.

Making the first job move shows that you're passionate, enthusiastic and ready to get to work.

One final thought: You can always be your own go-getter. There's never been a better time to explore entrepreneurship. Instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to give you the green light to begin your working life, take control and jumpstart your own career by working for yourself.

Sophia Bera is a financial planner for millennials and the founder of Gen Y Planning. You can sign up for the Gen Y Planning newsletter for more tips on millennials and money.
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