Career Advice for Recent College Graduates: Become an Explorer

Congratulations graduates! Now, it’s on to the next chapter of your lives.

It’s a time for new beginnings, mixed with feelings of excitement and anxiety. Some of you may have secured jobs already or are embarking on graduate studies. Others are still searching for the right opportunity. In either case, there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes after graduation.

I can guarantee that the moment after the diplomas are distributed and your family finishes snapping dozens of photos of you in your cap and gown, they’ll start asking about your plans for the future. “What will you do next?” “Where will you live?” “Have you found a job yet?”

As sure as I sit here writing this post, some of your relatives are already passive-aggressively – or perhaps quite aggressively – asking about your future plans. It’s understandable. They want to make sure you have a plan, that you’ll eventually move out of your parents’ house and find financial independence. They want you to succeed.

However, in all fairness, no one has everything figured out when they graduate (and frankly, if they think they do, chances are that they’re wrong). It’s crazy to think that you should be expected to have your entire career mapped out when you graduate college.

My advice is this: Enter the workforce and become an explorer. This is the perfect time in your life to be open to new opportunities. If you’re having trouble breaking into your desired industry, be willing to take on an administrative role (or even an unpaid internship) to get your foot in the door. It’s much easier to identify and pursue other opportunities once you’ve gained relevant experience and begun to build a strong network of ties within your target industry.

Leverage your early work experiences to help clarify your career goals, grow your network, and build your college resume. Don’t make a snap judgment about a potential career based on one entry-level experience. Remember, most entry-level jobs will require grunt work. If you’re still on the fence about your career path, take a look at what the person two levels above you is doing for the organization. If his or her role appeals to you, then you’re on the right track.

Be a sponge in the workplace and ask a ton of questions. The more you can learn about your new company, industry, and your colleagues, the better.

If you’re still pondering your career direction, check out resources such as The Daily Muse’s Career Path Exploration section or Wet Feet’s Industry and Career overviews to learn more about different career paths. Find people in your network – including fellow alums – who work for an industry or company that interests you and invite them for a cup of coffee to pick their brains.

Remember, this is not the time to have everything planned out. However, this is the time in your life to start fine-tuning your career path through experience. I wish each and every one of you success and workplace satisfaction.