GradThis Week’s Question: Graduation season is upon us, and scores of young college grads are preparing to take their first steps into the working world. What’s one piece of career advice you think every recent college grad should follow?

“Do not give any weight whatsoever to the social construct of the career path. Follow your passion, do what you love, double down on your strengths, and forget about your weaknesses. Ignore what people tell you that you are supposed to do. Don’t try to climb any ladders — corporate or otherwise — and always be open to what will seem like massive career changes. Life will take you for a fun and exciting ride with many unexpected twists and turns and, if you can be flexible and navigate with your passion as the guiding star, then you will have an awesome journey.”

- Matthew T. Bowles
Maverick Investor Group, LLC

“My advice to young grads is be hungry. Remember when you were evaluating colleges and you couldn’t wait to sink your teeth into that smorgasbord of eating options? Newbies to the work world should bring that same zest to their first jobs. Regardless of whether you are starting as an assistant bank teller or working the graveyard shift at a daily newspaper, work like you are starved for success, and your career opportunities will be nourished!”

- AnnMarie McIlwain
Founder and CEO

“Leverage your connections. Throughout your college career you have made connections with faculty, staff, advisors, and family friends. It is important to talk to these people and express what you are interested in. By talking to people, [you may find that] an opportunity arises — even one you didn’t consider at first. Plus, your connections can help refer you to [other companies], ensuring your resume gets into the right hands!”

- Katie Bisson
Marketing and Public Relations Manager
Technology Seed

“Make sure your background is spotless in the event the job you want requires a background investigation — most will!

“Colleges do not teach students about this aspect of gaining a job in the field that their degree is in. Consequently, many don’t get the jobs of their choice because they can’t pass a background investigation. This could be due to an arrest, use of drugs, or financial issues. These things can be fixed, of course — but most likely not in time for the job.”

- Kevin Crane
Author and Retired U.S. Special Agent

“Certain ‘advocates’ for new graduates are appealing to businesses, [asking them] to (almost) guarantee the youngest block of the workforce easy access to alternative work schedules, clear career paths, and ‘meaningful’ assignments. This is designed to help employers gain buy in from a skeptical, selective crowd of soon-to-be workers, advocates say.

“But this formula is weighted toward the employee and is likely to be rejected by a hiring managers with their own agendas.

“So, my advice: If you really want to develop a career that meets your interests and serves your future employer best: take the best job you can get, come up to speed quickly, learn as much as you can about the organization, and, if you like the company, plan to stay indefinitely.

“The work will become meaningful, the career path will become apparent, and flexibility will be the norm. And everything that ‘advocates’ say you should be given, you will have earned. There’s a difference.”

- Michael Kerrigan
Author and Consultant
LifeTime Services, LLC

“College grads often dream of that first paid position, and some have the idea they’ll graduate over the weekend and start that paid position the following Monday. That just doesn’t happen very often.

“Unfortunately, many graduates keep holding out for that perfect paying job, and before they know it, there’s a significant gap between their graduation and employment. Large gaps are unappealing, even in the case of new graduates. If you can’t find a paying job, work out an unpaid position with potential employers. Your field of interest is best, because you’re gaining on-the-job experience and a positive work reference. Be sure to
negotiate the conditions with the understanding that you’re still looking for paid employment. Until [you find paid employment], treat it like a real job, giving it every bit of professional oomph you’ve got. You may be surprised and land a permanent paid position, but even if you don’t, you’re gaining value work experience, while the time passes for less proactive grads.”

- Dr. Chester Goad
Author and University Administrator

“Try everything you can until you figure out what your passion is, and then build a solid brand around that. Volunteer. Travel the world. Live each moment as a seeker of your place in this professional world we call ‘work.’ Become the expert in your passion and consistently find ways to share your expertise with the rest of us. Create a website and blog often. Craft a solid LinkedIn profile. Connect and engage with other experts on social media. Own your success, starting today. But first: find your passion. That is the key.”

- Kristina Butler
KB Career Solutions

“It is not what you know, but who you know that counts. Our culture is packed with capable, qualified, productive people. Yes, you need credentials to get a job interview. But you’ll likely need allies to get a job offer. Seek to launch some new friendship(s) in every organization you’d like to join.”

- Dan Nygaard
Author and Church Leader
Hope Community

“The quickest lesson I learned after graduating college was that your resume doesn’t matter. What you have a passion for, and how you sell that passion to employers, is what matters. I was a psychology major from a small liberal arts school. I interviewed with several companies for finance and general business positions, was offered positions by three, and chose a Fortune 500 company. Not one person throughout the interviewing process ever asked for my resume.”

- Kenneth Burke
Marketing and Communications
Text Request

“My one piece of career advice to recent college grads is to look for work that will help you build skills that are universal and translate across industries. This is crucial because I can guarantee you are going to want a new job at some point. I can even bet that you’re going to consider work outside of the industry for which you’re educated. Having a transferable skill set will serve you well when making your various career moves, and it will help you so you aren’t pigeonholed in one particular type of role. For example, client service and relationship management skills have stood the test of time and are necessary in all roles in all companies and in all industries. Getting transferable skills under your belt early on will help you set a solid career foundation.”

- Kamara Toffolo
Career and Leadership Coach

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Ask Away is’s weekly column. Every Monday, we pose an employment-related question to a group of experts and share their answers. Have a question you’d like to ask the expertsLeave it in the comments, and you might just see it in next week’s Ask Away!

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