Bridge Insights

What I Wish I Had Known When I Graduated College 

Apr 26, 2022

College was a great experience, I got my first sense of freedom and was living on my own, when I graduated, I started applying for jobs.  Jobs that required experience, but I was in a bind – how do I get an entry-level job that requires experience when I needed (and wanted) to work full-time while attending college.  Why couldn’t companies recognize that I am eager to learn – I’m a quick learner.  Rejection email after rejection email, I was starting to feel defeated.  But I was patient, I drew on my strengths and experience, and here I am – a Recruiter.   

There are things that college cannot prepare you for. Professors guide and counsel students on what they should do with their degree and what to expect post-graduation. “Be a Sales Executive, Retail Manager….” But they do not give you the dirty truth of being in the real world. So, what are those dirty truths?  

1. The Real World is Hard

No one is going to hold your hand – they will set the expectations and teach you what is pertinent, but your success is in your own handsYou control your own success or failureIn college, you have homework, papers, and tests to ensure you learn the materialYour grades will tell your teacher what you do and do not know – your managers are going to expect you to know or ask questions if you are not sure.  

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2. Networking

This may seem cliché, but networking is invaluable.  Build your network on LinkedIn, seek out advice, and find a mentor to help you through the application and interview process.    

Who should you connect with on LinkedIn?  The answer – anyone.  Hiring leads, and influencers.  They all provide valuable information that will help set you up for success throughout your post-graduation job search.    

You can also join activities outside of work, running club, reading club, crocheting club.  You never know whom you might meet and network with.  

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3. Don’t Burn Bridges

People think that the relationships you create (or burn) will not make a difference down the road.  Think again.  Did you provide a professional notice when you left your college job?  Does not seem important because it is just a college job, wrong.  You never know who you might cross paths with in the future.   

It’s your reputation through the relationships you have formed. I have personal and professional references from my job that I worked at throughout college that I can still use to this day.  I have colleagues that I currently work with that I have worked with in previous jobs.  Why did they want to work with me again?  Why did they recruit me to work with them again? All because of the relationships I forged through my professionalism and challenging work.  



4. Entry Level Jobs Are not a Bad Thing

You do not need that big kid, dream job right out of college. In fact, there is an extraordinarily strong likelihood that you will not have that dream job or work for that dream company. That does not mean you have to take just any job, but it does mean you should look at the potential that entry entry-level job has, and the things you can learn from that entry-level jobJust because that entry-level job does not appear to be your dream job does not mean the company cannot groom and develop you for more. Give that job a chance.  

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5. Be a Lifelong Learner

Always be open to learning more. Whether it be at work or personally. Listen to podcasts, seek out additional courses at the library, and readDoes not mean you have to spend a lot of money going back to college, there are low-cost options to continue to learn.  

6. It’s Ok to Make Mistakes

We are all human, we make mistakes. Mistakes make you realize you have some room to learnSo, make mistakes, and learn from your mistakes to avoid making those mistakes in the future.  

7. Invest in your future

At 22, you may not be thinking about retirement but why not? Most employers offer 401k and many even offer a company matchIf a company is willing to match your contributions up to 6%, contribute 6% on your own. And do not forget to continue to increase your contributions, did you get a raise? Increase it by 1%. Does not pay off now but work hard now and live the good life down the road.  

Seniority is real. Graduation season is upon us. Remember taking your finals is not the end, it is just the beginning. The beginning of your adult life, the beginning of your job search, the beginning of the rest of your life. Hopefully, these dirty truths can help you prepare for your future and give you a foundation for setting yourself up for success after graduation.