As graduation approaches, many young job seekers are wondering how they can land an opportunity in this very challenging job market. Lindsey Pollak, a recognized expert on next-generation career trends, recently released a new edition of her terrific book, Getting from College to Career. Lindsey graciously agreed to answer some questions to help new professions get “from college to career.” In this first of a two-part series, Lindsey shares advice about goal setting and offers insights for the new grad who can’t decide what to do next.
What’s the biggest mistake you believe most new job seekers make?
The biggest mistake most new job seekers make is not taking enough action. A lot of people spend way too much time sitting at their computers scrolling through job listings while they should be taking lots of other actions, such as visiting their college career center (even as an alum), talking to friends and family about their job search and asking for advice and referrals to networking contacts, and using social media to build a professional presence and connect with potential employers.
What should a new grad’s first priority be – getting any job, or landing the “perfect” position?
There is a middle ground between “anything” and “perfect” and that’s what new grads should strive for. It’s a lot of pressure to try to find an absolutely perfect job and I’m not sure that exists anyway. I recommend casting a wide net in terms of the types of jobs and employers you’re considering and then decide on three non-negotiables – for instance, I need at least X dollars in salary to cover my student loans and rent, I need a commute of less than an hour and I need a job where I can do a lot of writing. If you can satisfy your most important criteria, you’re in good shape. I also believe that, with a good attitude, you can turn most average opportunities into great experiences.
What do you suggest for job seekers who can’t figure out what direction to go?
Two things: Start somewhere and work diligently on self-assessment. Starting somewhere means not allowing yourself to become paralyzed because you’re not 100 percent sure what career you want. Because a career is a marathon and not a sprint, it’s almost always better to dive into something that feels pretty good and then tweak from there.
When it comes to self-assessment, make it a normal part of your day. See what articles you’re drawn to in the news. See which of your friends’ or family members’ careers get you excited (or maybe instill some envy – that’s a sign it might be what you want). Read career and self-assessment books and blogs. I don’t believe you can figure out your career in your head; you have to take action and do a lot of research and try a lot of things to find your best fit.
What should someone do if he or she has many interests, or just can’t decide what’s next?
As above, I would remind people that a career is a very long journey and there is time for you to pursue various paths. There was a great article in Fast Company recently called “The Four-Year Career,” which highlighted several people who change careers every few years and have been very successful. That’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone, but it does show that, as I say in Getting From College to Career, “a job is not a soul mate.” You can fall in love with many career paths and pursue a few at a time or pursue them at various times in your life.
Stay tuned for more advice from Lindsey, and be sure to check out her book: Getting from College to Career.
This post originally appeared on Salary.com, where I am a contributing writer.