Congratulations you have made it! All those late nights and study sessions have finally paid off. You are excited about taking this next stage (albeit virtually) and can’t wait to begin the next chapter of your life. You’re excited to begin your professional journey and have been applying for new graduate positions, feeling hopeful and excited about the possibilities. The following is a guide from a student’s perspective who was in this position not too long ago. Looking back at key things that helped me navigate this phase of my life and secure a full-time position as a junior IT analyst. In this blog, the main point is about recognizing how each day and event has something new to offer – so keep on learning!
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.Maya Angelou
Keep on Learning
This is one of my favourite quotes, and something I often refer back to. I understand that you have graduated or so close to graduation. The last thing on your mind is to want to keep learning. However, learning new things outside of college or university doesn’t have to look the same. It can be customized according to your preferences. This can come in the shape of making time for a hobby or a passion project you had been waiting to learn but could never make time for. For me, this was learning a new programming language and perfecting my baking skills. There are a lot of free and valuable resources out there that you can take advantage of such as coding tutorials on Khan Academy, YouTube, or websites like W3Schools. Learning a new skill is a simple google search away!!
Focus on your physical and mental well-being
I understand as a student we are so used to always being so busy and running short on time, that the idea of having some free time can be quite scary. Wanting a sense of direction and a new task to focus on can bring relief, but it can also lead to feelings of exhaustion and burnout. So, make sure to take some time off for yourself. If there is one thing, I have learned during this transition period in my life, it is to focus on things that bring me joy. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a student and consider myself a self-declared nerd.
However, having a year after graduation to focus on my well-being, while planning the next phase of life allowed me to spend some much-needed time with my family and friends. I am grateful I had this opportunity because it allowed me to make an informed decision about whether I wanted to pursue a Masters or work for a few years to gain some professional experience. Having this extra time allowed me to focus on myself and not rush into the very next opportunity that came my way.
During this time, I learned how to prepare healthy meals, make time for exercise and reading. Things that I loved but could never find the time for as I was always stressing about that next exam, paper, or assignment with its deadline looming over me. Having all these other things in life, helped me develop a balanced approach to dealing with application rejections. It made me realize that having a job is not the only thing that will bring stability to my life, and that it’s a culmination of many other external factors. My biggest takeaway during this transition period was to form healthy habits that will serve me well in the next phase of my life.
Reach out for help and expand your network
I realize that not all of us are extroverted individuals eager to jump into conversations. For many of us, it takes hours to convince ourselves before we send that invite for a connection on LinkedIn or speak up during an online event. For those of you that are reading this and slightly nodding your head. I am proud of you for making the effort! Trust me, I have been there, and it gets easier each time to speak to someone new, but the key is to keep at it. As a student, I would frown every time a career counsellor would tell me that I am only as strong as my network and that I should be availing of every networking opportunity that comes my way. As a shy student, this was a lot harder than sitting through a 3-hour exam for me.
At least during the exam, I knew if I prepared well and knew my material, I would be alright. But the task of striking up conversations with recruiters during a career fair was much more daunting; I could never seem to figure out how to start the conversation. The key here was also preparation, to research about the company I was interested in working for. Walking into the career fair with a few key points about the organization and then asking the representative about the candidates they like to hire. This allowed me to learn more about the company culture and learn about the software and programs they used in their organization. This also helped later when I applied for openings at the company and was able to mention how I can bring value to their organization.
As I wrap this up, I want to tell you a few important things, especially for those of you that are anxious and perhaps a little stressed about finding an opportunity during this time. Firstly, know that you have already accomplished a lot, getting a degree was no easy task but you did it! Just like that, you will find that next opportunity whether that’s graduate school or a job. You have achieved a lot already and you will continue to do so if you keep going. Keep moving at your own pace and set your intentions for the day. Reach out to friends and family for support. Rejection emails take a toll on all of us, connect with your peers and family during this time.
Lastly, stay connected and join networks like the SkillStruct University Network to surround yourself with like-minded individuals navigating through similar challenges as yourself. I am personally grateful that I was introduced to the SkillStruct University network because it allowed me to get mentorship and guidance, as I was applying for jobs as a new graduate. The support network and resources available to you through the network can help you get your foot in the door and impress your employer during the interview. More on that perhaps in a later blog!