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Launching from college to career – 3 steps to getting started

Dear Coach Joan,

It’s now March, 2019 and my college graduation date is this June. Ugh. I now have to transition to the real world.

I need to get a J.O.B.! As a humanities major I really don’t know where or how to look for a professional job.

Any thoughts and direction are appreciated.



Dear Teri,

You are not alone! And it is terrific that you are thinking ahead and have a few months to do some preparation for entry into the ‘real world’. I’m glad you are now thinking about getting a real J.O.B. and wondering how to transfer your college experience into starting a career. I applaud you for getting a degree in the humanities as it probably has given you critical thinking skills, an understanding of the human condition, and some historical perspective. You have probably developed fine reading and writing skills that could well be transferred to a career position where they can build on your smarts! More and more employers are looking for disciplined good thinkers and communicators. Many companies like to train such individuals.

I want you to now think about how your skills and capabilities might be appreciated by an employer. Think about some of the papers you wrote, the discussions you had in class, the understandings you now have about the world; fairness, justice, ethics and other big ideas. Think about how those ideas might translate into you being a good employee. Also think about the communication skills you developed. You are probably good at analyzing and making some judgments and assessments. A mistake I’d like you to avoid is telling a potential employer that your goal is to learn and grow. That was your goal for college where you were paying them to learn and grow. But now you will be paid to help an employer to grow their organization or business. Please understand this paradigm change. Talk about what you have to give and contribute, NOT about what they can do to help you learn and grow. Focus on what YOU can GIVE at work. Yes, employers can and do invest in growing employees but that is AFTER the employees have shown that they can and will make contributions to them.

Here are three steps I’d like to recommend you take NOW:

  1. RECOMMENDATIONS: In the world of employment, employers need to make judgement about your characters, skills and suitability for a job. Typically, you are completely unknown to them when you apply for a position. Recommendations by your professors and any past employer can be very helpful to give credibility and assurance that you are an honest, good person with skills that can be valuable to their workplace. Now that you are still in college you have access to the professors who have known you and are familiar with your work. They are typically accustomed to writing recommendations. Select professors who you know and who have valued the quality of your work. Ask them if they would be comfortable in writing a generic recommendation about you that you can use in your job seeking efforts. If you know some positions you are focused on, you can let them know specifically the kinds of jobs you are applying to. You also might ask if they are comfortable with being contacted by potential employers for a deeper discussion about you.
  2. COLLEGE CAREER OFFICE: Almost all colleges have some kind of career center. GO THERE, NOW. Ask to meet with a counselor and pose the question that you posed to me in this note. Ask them about other humanities graduates who have landed professional first jobs. Ask specifically about local employers who have hired graduates from you school. If you are open to a regional or national job search, tell them that. Ask for any and all help they can provide. They often give help with developing a resume, targeting your job search and putting together a professional Linkedin profile. Also ask if there is an ALUMNI NETWORK that might be helpful for you to get involved with. Ask for specific alumni who you might be able to do INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS with. That is, meetings where you are finding out about their careers and how you can get involved in a career like theirs. You are asking for time to learn about their career to see if it might be a good fit for you. It is not a time or place to ask for a job.
  3. PREPARE YOUR ‘SALES’ MATERIALS and REACH OUT: I always tell my clients: READINESS + OPPORTUNITY = SUCCESS!!  That means you need to have your written materials prepared as well as your online profile completed. Please prepare your resume and Linkedin profile ASAP. Additionally, make a list of any and all of the people you know who are in professional positions. Contact each of them to let them know you will be graduating and that you are ready and excited to get a first job in the real world!! Send along your resume and a link to your Linkedin profile. Include  the letters of recommendation! Also think through how you want to position yourself to them. They will want to know what kind of job you are looking for. It is OK if you answer broadly like this:  “As a recent college graduate I am looking forward to getting a job in the world of work where I can contribute my analytical skills coupled with strong communication skills. I bring a proven track record of achievement per my GPA of 3.8 and a commitment to working hard and making a positive impact in whatever organization I join. I am highly trainable and get along well both as a proven team member and as a leader.”  Then, for any contact you will meet with, it is invaluable for you to research and show that you understand what the organization does and even better for you to pose some interesting questions, observations or understandings about their work.
  4.  Teri, success builds success. You should be proud of achieving your college degree! Reflect on the skills and insights you have learned, research to find out more about various careers and connect with people who will be pleased to have a hardworking, educated young graduate to add to their team.                                                                   Onward in launching your career with success, meaning and fulfillment,                                                                                                                                                                            Coach Joan

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