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Top 10 career tips for recent grads

Though the unemployment rate is improving in many areas of the country, finding a good job is still not easy — especially for new college grads with little work experience. Follow these tips to get on the right path to career success.

College graduate

Use your school’s resources

Most colleges and universities will allow graduates to use their career center for six months to a year after graduation. Take advantage of the available resources including career assessment testing, resume critiques and job listings.

Sign up on LinkedIn

Facebook and Twitter are fun and all, but LinkedIn is the best social networking site for professionals. Fill out your profile in its entirety, reach out and connect with people, and take advantage of their job listings. Also try BranchOut on Facebook.

Network offline

So many new graduates get caught up with online networking opportunities that they forget about networking with people in person. Reach out to your friends, family and professional contacts and let them know you are looking for work. Attend seminars, workshops, job fairs and college alumni events whenever possible. Join civic organizations, trade associations and other groups in your area. Working with a mentor can also help you expand your network.

Get business cards

College grad with business card

Print simple business cards that feature your name, email address, cell phone number, blog or website, and a few of your skills. Carry your cards with you at all times. Whether you are at a job fair or a neighborhood restaurant, you shouldn’t have to scramble when someone asks you for your contact information.


If you don’t have any actual work experience in your career field, volunteer, free-lance or take a part-time position in the industry. Sitting on your couch web-surfing for career opportunities isn’t going to do anything to build up your resume. Volunteer, free-lance or part-time work increases your skills, offers networking opportunities and provides you with one more item to add to your resume.

Practice interviewing

You aren’t going to nail every single interview without a little practice. Start practicing by having a friend or family member ask you the most common interview questions, such as “Why are you the best candidate for the job?” and “What’s your greatest strength?” (and your biggest weakness). Develop an elevator speech — a 30-second spiel about yourself, your experience and your goals. Use your elevator speech at networking events, as well as when you are asked in an interview, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

Do your research

Once you land an interview, you need to be prepared. Research the company by reading its website, and check out trade journals and annual reports. Know about their products and services, their initiatives and their competitors. The more knowledgeable you are about the company, the more your interest in the job will be apparent in the interview.

Send thank-you notes

Sure, it’s the digital age, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put pen to paper. After every interview, immediately send a thank-you note — in the mail — to the person who interviewed you. It shows the company that you are sincerely interested in the position and that you appreciate the interviewer’s time.

Ask questions

Once you score a new job, you can’t just relax on easy street. If you want to stand out to your boss and make yourself invaluable to the company, you need to continue to make the extra effort. Dress well, arrive early and stay late. One of the most important things you should do as a new employee is ask questions. In your first couple months, you are expected to ask questions and learn. It’s best to ask first rather than guess — and make mistakes.

Be friendly

Introduce yourself to new people in the company and volunteer to pitch in on projects. Attend as many after-hours events as you can — from happy hour with co-workers to weekend business retreats. Even though you might view your new job as a stepping stone to something else, you need to focus on it and fit in the best you can to position yourself for advancement within the company and beyond.

More career tips

Interviewing like a pro
Resume tips for new grads
Signs it’s time for a new job

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