The slowly recovering economy has taken a toll on all Americans. But for many recent college graduates, it has made that first step into the “real” world a real doozy. In fact, the Associated Press’s analysis of recent government data shows that 53 percent of recent college grads (those under 25) are either jobless or underemployed. Many have had to accept “survival jobs”—jobs not within their preferred profession or at a level below their training—to simply get by. But all is not lost, says Vickie Milazzo. She says that college grads with a “buck up” attitude can use this time to develop portable skills that will bring them great success as their career develops.
Read on to learn what portable skills you should put in your tool box and how to perfect them.
Be your own problem-solver. Great employees don’t passively wait for the boss to tell them what to do. They figure out solutions on their own. “When we find our own solutions, we grow stronger,” says Milazzo. “Excessive reliance on others for our success weakens us. Soon we shy away from challenges we once might have conquered with relish and ease. One key aspect of becoming a good problem solver is taking swift action. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Learn to trust your initial feelings and thoughts about an issue.”
Build relationships (not just resumes). Why are relationships important? First and foremost, they’re a great way to harvest energy. “Spending time with those who inspire you, who make you laugh, who give you advice you can trust is essential,” says Milazzo. “In the bigger picture for your career, relationships are important because that’s where your opportunities will come from. In most industries, it really is about who you know. When you take the time to develop positive relationships with customers, vendors, the people you speak to frequently who work at other companies, etc., you’ll find that they’ll present you with opportunities organically and vice versa. The other great thing about relationships is that when they’re strong they’ll be with you no matter where you’re working.”
Go offline to work on communication. Many recent college graduates are of the social media generation. They’re texters, tweeters, Facebookers. Often face-to-face communication and even written communication aren’t their strengths. “Work on developing your communication skills,” advises Milazzo. “You will not be respected at any company unless you can clearly communicate with people from all levels. Watch more experienced professionals to pick up on their techniques for quality communication. Re-read emails to make sure you’re using correct grammar and aren’t using shorthand. And listen. When you listen to the others, you can ask them more engaging questions and in turn, create better connections.”
Negotiate like you mean it. Negotiating skills are tough to develop and it’s even tougher when you don’t have the confidence or the leverage to go after what you want. Some young job applicants might also think that they’re doing their potential employers a favor by not pushing for more or that they’ll be more appealing if they don’t ask for what they’re worth.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A great way to get answers you can trust is to seek out a mentor. Having a mentor will help you learn a lot, a lot more quickly than you might have on your own and will provide a relationship that can be hugely beneficial as you gain experience.
Don’t burn bridges. When you enter the 9-5 working world, you’ll quickly find that you have to work side by side with people you do not like. People you certainly wouldn’t be spending much time with if they didn’t happen to be using the cubicle next to yours. “You must learn to get along with these people,” notes Milazzo. “Forgive them when they upset you. And forgive the personality ticks that get on your nerves. You never know when you’ll need them on your side. You never know when your paths will cross again later in your career.”
Build your personal credibility. Meet your deadlines. Do what you say you’re going to do. Become known as a person who can be counted on. “Be the person your colleagues and bosses trust to get the job done,” advises Milazzo. “When you do everything you can to become someone people rely on, they won’t hesitate to move you up in the company or to recommend you to people in their networks.”
About the Author:
Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman, WickedSuccess.com. From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, Milazzo shares the innovative success strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.
Vickie is the owner of Vickie Milazzo Institute, an education company she founded in 1982. Featured in the New York Times as the pioneer of a new profession, she built a professional association of 5,000 members.