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Career Wisdom for the Class of 2018 that Works for Seasoned Professionals

Career Wisdom for the Class of 2018 that Works for Seasoned Professionals

The Class of 2018 list of commencement speakers included celebrities like Oprah Winfrey at USC Annenberg, Michael Bloomberg at Rice University, Queen Latifah at Rutgers University, and Sheryl Sandberg at MIT. Brown University awarded Sting an honorary degree, along with his wife and activist, Trudie Styler. He serenaded the graduation crowd with an a capella version of “My One and Only Love,” which he dedicated to Styler.

While the style and wisdom shared by the myriad of commencement speakers around the world varied, the common denominator indicated that the Class of 2018 is the succession plan for the future. The world is yours to shape, protect, and develop.

The iCIMS 2018 job outlook report indicates the job market for new graduates is strong, especially for those with STEM and Business majors. Other academic areas are also desirable, but the path is not as linear from degree to career field. These 2018 graduates need to be distinguishable in order to be hired.

As 2018 grads head into the post-academic world, they have an opportunity to design their career destinies. I share this wisdom to help you find your way in the world-of-work. While this may seem like newbie advice for the first-time job seeker, it also applies to the seasoned professionals looking to make a change or advance in their career.

Be a solution-provider.

It’s easy to go into the job search focusing on what you want. While that is important, you must also be a solution-provider. In the new normal of a gig economy, you may land contract or temporary work that leads to full-time, permanent work.

Be industrious and lead with, "I believe I can help you with..." and provide a solution to an organization’s challenge.

Be a skills agent.

It’s okay if you still don’t know exactly what you want to do career-wise. This is the time for informational interviews and test driving. But, you must have a clear picture of your professional strengths and competencies so recruiters and employers can help you fit into a role the organization needs. Don’t focus on job titles, but rather on concrete skills and examples that illustrate what you do well.

Minimize e-mail.

You understand the power of networking, and now you are on a mission to e-mail as many people as you can to get the ball rolling in your job search. STOP!

Busy professionals get hundreds of e-mails a day. Distinguish yourself by picking up the phone. Leave an articulate voicemail if necessary, and use a script until it becomes second nature. The goal is to eventually meet in-person, but a phone call is the best way to set yourself apart from the myriad of others in the job hunt.

Are you on LinkedIn?

With 500+ million members (that number grows daily), LinkedIn is the number-one professional networking resource today. Recruiters and headhunters troll the site regularly searching for new talent. Fill out your profile in total, use a professional photo, compose a compelling summary statement, and seek out recommendations to endorse you for specific skills and accomplishments. Participate in discussions, write a LinkedIn blog, and use this tool often and to your best advantage. A dormant LinkedIn account will do you no good.

[Related: Women are Shooting Themselves in the Foot on LinkedIn]

Take a risk.

Perhaps your dream job doesn't materialize right off the bat, but another opportunity does surface. Take a risk, try something new, and expand your comfort zone. You may just find something you love and an accidental career you never would have considered otherwise.

The greatest risk is not taking one at all. You have nothing to lose by failing forward and recovering with a teachable moment that will serve you in the future.

Focus on "like" before "passion."

The word "passion" is bandied about in the career development world so much that it has become ubiquitous. It’s also scary, since not everybody is in-tune with what they are passionate about. Don’t let your lack of passion frighten you away from self-reflection and discovery in the career world. Start simply: Consider what you like and how that may become a career-worthy pursuit.

[Related: Forget Passion: Find Your Schtick]

Eye contact is imperative.

This is the generation of technology, but in all likelihood, you will be working with people from a variety of generations, and these folks really value old-fashioned eye contact. It builds trust and rapport, and if you are interested in a career where you will interact with humans in any capacity, eye contact is imperative.

Observe the power of eye contact in a conversation, and likewise how uncomfortable it is when someone won’t look you in the eye. Eye contact will never go out of fashion, so use it well.

Get your side hustle on.

The gig economy has empowered individuals to control how they earn money more than ever. Entrepreneurial efforts abound, and many opt for a hybrid career as a Plan C Professional with a day job and a side hustle. As you navigate the beginning stages of your career journey, consider how freelance work could become a full-time career or augment a day job's income.

Own your self confidence.

Walk tall and learn to speak with humble confidence about what you do well. If you approach a networking conversation or an interview with confidence, it will enhance your marketability tenfold. You need not be perfect just out of the gate (or ever!), but believe in your abilities and others will, as well. Showing personality and authenticity are positive factors that influence the decision-making processes of hiring managers.

Learn to bob and weave.

One of the most sought-after competencies by employers is the ability to deal with adversity and change. It’s tough out there in the real world, and it doesn’t get any easier once you land a job. Showcase your resilience and be ready to discuss how you have overcome challenges, including how you are dealing with a tough job market. Proving you are resilient may land you an opportunity.

[Related: Olympic Gymnast Carly Patterson on Patience, Perseverance, and Overcoming Disappointment]

Be brave.

Treat others as you wish to be treated and advocate for yourself and others. Bad things happen when good people stay silent. Find your inner courage to advocate for a culture of dignity and respect in your workplace, and model the way by behaving professionally at all times.

The Class of 2018 is the succession plan for the future. You have the opportunity to carve out a niche for yourself and thrive in a career, knowing that you can always change direction. The challenge is yours, as well as the responsibility.



Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered," now in its second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career and Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Medium, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show, Thrive!, about career and life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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