It can be challenging to transition from college student to working professional for recent graduates. Trading in the days of thesis papers, library study sessions and campus parties for a full-time office job is a big change, and students who haven't worked in this type of environment before may not be fully prepared for the shift.
Especially for the millennial generation, it's not easy to get a job in today's economy. Forbes reports the millennial unemployment rate rests at about 13 percent while the national average sits at approximately 5 percent.
Although graduation is months away for most college seniors, it's important to begin preparing yourself for the competitive job market ahead. Business News Daily asked Ed Mitzen, founder of Fingerpaint Marketing, and Tres Loch, assistant director of admissions at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business, to share their tips for making a smooth, successful leap into the working world.
1. Expect your social schedule to change.
Working eight or more hours each day takes some getting used to, said Loch. Don't expect to be able to go out with friends several nights during the week, or stay up until midnight (or later) every night like you did in college. Early on, create healthy work habits that contribute to career success. Eat well, get enough sleep and maximize your free time to keep a work-life balance.
2. Clean up your online presence.
Get active on LinkedIn, if you aren't already, and cultivate your professional network through the platform, said Mitzen. Add relevant work experience and ask others to endorse your skills and write a recommendation on your profile. Remove pictures from college parties from your public profiles, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Make your profile picture(s) a standard headshot – a professionally done one is preferred but not required.
3. Create and stick to a personal budget.
For most new professionals who are used to living on a college student budget, seeing that huge dollar amount on their first salaried paycheck seems like an invitation to do all the things they couldn't afford in school: rent a nice apartment, take expensive trips, purchase designer clothes, etc. Loch noted that it's important to create a budget to figure out how much disposable income you'll really have each month after all the bills are paid. If you're paying off student loan debt, be careful when taking on new debt to finance a large purchase.
4. Follow business news in your prospective job market.
If you want to move to a specific place, Mitzen recommended subscribing to that city's business publication and reading the business section of the local newspaper. You'll not only learn about the business climate, but which companies are growing, expanding and making a difference in the surrounding community.
5. Stay true to your values and motivators.
You won't last long in a job or company that conflicts with your morals and values, or a job that doesn't motivate you. Make sure you consider your own personality traits before accepting a new job, Loch said. From there, continuously evaluate how your job, company, and career fit with your beliefs and motivators.
6. Network with recruiters.
Learn how companies use recruiters as a hiring model, Mitzen said. You'll realize how important it is to reach out to recruiters before you graduate rather than after. Then send out letters of introduction, either by email or on LinkedIn, to recruiters about your professional background expressing interest in connecting. Likewise, said Mitzen, if you're looking to move to a specific location, you can reach out to recruiters in that prospective area. You never know; they may have a job opening where you're the perfect fit.
7. Remember that this job will not be your last.
Spending your entire career with one company is now the exception rather than the rule, so don't fall in love with your first job or company. You may suddenly find yourself wanting to move on, or your company may hit hard times and face layoffs. Loch advised new grads to always be thinking about their next move, even if they enjoy their current position.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.