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Ain’t it Fun Living in the Real World?

So – you’re getting ready to graduate from college! I extend my hand in congratulations and offer you some wise words as you begin this new phase of your life: “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it!” – Friends (1994).

I’ve been in “the real world” now for almost nine months, so obviously I know everything there is to know about “adulting.”

I graduated from the University of Missouri this past May with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communication and a minor in business. I consider myself one of the lucky ones - I have a good job doing what I love, I can afford to add guacamole to my Chipotle burrito bowl, I have furniture that isn’t older than I am, and life is going better than I thought it would this time last year.

But how did I get here? Well, as you could imagine, it was not easy. I don’t think people really warn college students that getting a job is more than just a resume and a snazzy cover letter, although both of those things are important. If you’re starting to freak out over your impending graduation date and finding a job, here is some advice from a twenty-something, just like you:

  1. Start the job search early. I started looking for jobs around this time last year. In fact, I was doing phone interviews while in Florida for spring break. This sounds unappealing, but you’ll thank yourself later when your friends are frantically searching for jobs weeks before graduation.  

  2. Have as many internships as possible. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t have hands-on experience, your work will pale in comparison to those who have had real-world application at an internship. Instead of a general “communications” internship, try to find a position that is tailored to what you eventually want to do – like social media or copywriting. 

  3. Have a killer résumé. Literally have 20 people look at your résumé. I’m not kidding. This little piece of paper is your first impression during the job search; make sure it is flawless. Also, make sure to tailor it to each company – highlight your work experience that will appeal to them the most. This goes for your cover letter as well. Don’t use the same cover letter for each company! Give it a personal touch by aligning yourself with the company’s culture and values.

  4. Have a game plan. Think about what city you’d like to work in or whether you’d like to be in an agency or in-house. Do you like crisis communications or are you more interested in digital? Are you willing to take a paid internship if a full-time position isn’t available? Asking yourself the tough questions up front will make your ride a little smoother after graduation.

  5. But, be flexible. Life tends to throw you a curveball every once in a while. Of course, you are probably determined to get a full-time job after graduation, but that may not be in the cards for many public relations/advertising grads. Sometimes, you’ll need an extra internship to gain the experience to excel at your next position, and that’s totally fine. I like to call this the company dating period (and no, it’s not any easier than regular dating) – an internship will help the company decide if you’re a good fit and will help you determine if what you’re doing is what you’d like to be doing for the long haul.

  6. Network, network, network! I know this is a scary word for some of you. Networking doesn’t have to mean passing around your resume and business cards to everyone, or mastering the art of small talk. To me, networking just means using the relationships you have to help make you better at what you’re already doing. And who knows, the connections you make could become mentors, future employers or even just really good friends. And who doesn’t like more friends?

  1. Don’t freak out. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you. If your first job isn’t your dream job, that’s ok! Use this experience to help you pinpoint what you enjoy doing, and retool your job search to focus on the best fit for your skills, experience and interests. Just remember, no matter where you’re at on your post-graduation career path, you’re going to be okay.

In all seriousness, graduation, the job search – change, in general – can be terrifying. But don’t worry, the real world isn’t as scary as everyone makes it seem. This is an exciting journey and you are just about to cross another milestone. So, work on that game plan, take a deep breath, and don’t freak out. Welcome to the real world – you’re gonna love it! 

This blog is courtesy of Abbey Theban and first appeared on The Vandiver Group blog. It is cross-posted here with permission. Abbey is an assistant account executive at The Vandiver Group. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia with an emphasis in strategic communication and a minor in business. She also serves on the communications committee for PRSA-St. Louis. You can find her on Twitter @abbey_TEE.

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