I don’t work with graduates, as my clientele are generally industry leaders or those on the rise. However, who among us wouldn’t like to go back in time and tell our 22-year-old selves what to do to guarantee, or at least stack the deck in favor of, our future success. If I could go back in time and tell someone in his mid 30’s what he should do at 22, I could make their current search a lot easier. Here are 4 things I’d say:
1. Start building your network today.
Once you know what field your career will be focused on, start searching out thought leaders and high achievers and connect with them. Where? I would focus on LinkedIn and Twitter. Don’t worry about not having a lot to say to your target community, just build your connections. Over time relationships will develop that will prove absolutely vital to your career track. I can not emphasize this enough. Your reach grows exponentially with each new contact and you never know where the next lead will come from.
2. Own your name.
Start creating accounts everywhere, from the new and trendy, to the old and stable, you want to own your name wherever you can. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pandora, Instagram, Good Reads, you name it. You do not have to be active, but you do not want another person with your name to overshadow your online identity. Create a basic profile that mentions your career field and points to your website. Don’t have one? See the next step.
3. Create your own website at YourName.com
Whether you get a .com, .net or .me is not as important as having your name attached. Once you have accounts all over the web in your name, you need a website to point people back to. Owning your own domain name allows you to curate a professional brand over time. There are a number of options available for this from Wix, to Square Space to the venerable WordPress, and they all make creation as easy as drag and drop. Start with a basic set up: Bio page, Resume page, Contact page. Do not feel like you need to stat blogging about your career as soon as you get out of school. That can wait until you really have something to say. This is more about owning your brand identity online at this point. But if you have a writing bent and want a safe topic to blog about, see the next step.
4. Read. A lot.
Just because you have graduated doesn’t mean you can stop learning. The world moves faster with every passing year and only those who keep up with it will succeed professionally. Best of all this is a completely no-cost professional development activity. All you need is a library card and the discipline to set aside 20 mins a day. Go to Amazon and check the recent best seller list in your field, then go take out one of the top ten and read it. Once you’re done you now have something to share to your audience. This is a safe way for someone just entering the profession to contribute value to even the most seasoned leader. Everyone likes to hear about new developments in their field. If you want to start blogging in your field as a recent grad there is nothing better than sharing some book reviews of professional reads.
Follow these four steps and over time you’ll develop three things every mid-career professional wishes they had: a wide and deep connection list, a quantifiable personal brand, and an audience. No resume, profile or cover letter is more valuable than that.