11 Awesome Job Tips: Career Advice College Grads Can Put to Work


I have previously blogged about one of my favorite sources of career advice, The Corner Office column that Adam Bryant writes for the New York Times. Because there is so much focus on helping new graduates launch their careers, he’s recently been asking top CEO’s what advice they would give to college graduates. The great thing about his column is the variety of tips from the CEO’s is as diverse as the CEO’s themselves. Here are 11 awesome job tips that you can put to use in your job search.

But great career advice doesn’t have to come from a CEO.

Just as often, it’s your wise grandfather, your first boss, a sports coach, or your next-door neighbor who seems to be spot on with a sage comment. Below is a compilation of terrific tips that I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources over a number of years. While the tips might be especially helpful for recent college graduates, the advice is just as appropriate at any stage of your career.

1. Everyone you meet while job-hunting matters. A close friend recently reminded me of this. He had recently taken a downsizing package and was driving into his condo development. The guard at the shack had heard about his circumstances and told him that there was someone he needed to meet. The guard made the arrangements and the rest is history – great history. This suggestion led to a job offer and a new career path, one that is still paying him well, VERY well.
2. Say YES to the interview even if you don’t want the job. Every interview not only gives you valuable practice, it also allows you to make a connection that might help later on. You might find that you like the company more than you thought and having a fan in the HR department never hurts. HR managers love to spot talent and add it to their arsenal. Make a great impression and you may find the HR manager working the inside channels of their company to find you a job. This is exactly what happened to a client of mine.
3. Go WAY above and beyond your boss’ expectations. Once hired, be willing to do tasks and assignments that fall outside your job description, especially the ones that no one wants. Being flexible, enthusiastic and a team player will get you noticed more than you’d think.
4. Always be ON TIME, and ideally, early. There is a saying that if you’re early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late. Being on time is a show of respect for others. I used to fine my team, myself included, if they or I were late to a meeting. It was surprising how quickly having to pay a $1 into the “Pig” made everyone on time. Ultimately, this hurt our happy hour fund (the “Pig” paid). If you want to get ahead, being on time is a simple way to garner goodwill and being late, especially consistently, will derail your career.
5. Don’t DUMP and RUN. Dumping your problems on your boss and expecting him or her to solve them is a sure fire way to have your boss question why they hired you. When you’re faced with a problem, first spend a bit of time analyzing the situation, come up with 2 or 3 potential solutions and schedule time with your boss to get their thoughts on your ideas. By presenting options, you’ll show that you’ve thought the situation through and your boss will be more open to helping you choose the best solution.
6. Be kind to EVERYONE. Be generous with thank you’s and praise for those who have helped you. While it might seem old fashioned, a sincere, handwritten thank you note will do more for your reputation than you could imagine. One day I learned that our corporate facility manager had manned the plunger to unclog an overflowing toilet. He had a fleet of janitors working for him but he took care of the problem himself. When I heard about it, I sent him a handwritten thank you note and movie passes for him and his family. He later came up to me and said that my note was the first thank you note that he had ever received in his 20 plus year career across numerous companies. The movie passes, never mentioned. A heartfelt thank you is often the best reward.
7. Get over it, and yourself, as fast as you can. Never act based on your emotions. It’s always better to sit on that email/phone call/resignation until you have a clear head. Always remember that once you hit “SEND”, you can never pull back that email. Sleeping on it gives you the distance you need to decide whether the damage you’ll do by sending the email will really make you feel better. Remorse usually feels much worse.
8. Relationships matter. So focus as much, if not more so, on establishing good relationships as you do on getting through your “to do” list. If you look around your company, the people with the most power likely are those who have great reputations for working collaboratively and getting things done. The way they do this is by understanding their colleagues’ “WIIFM” – What’s In It For Me. You need to understand everyone’s perspective and make sure that your solutions don’t just meet your agenda, but also meet the needs of your counterparts. The best solutions are usually win-win ones.
9. Own your mistakes. Skip the excuses. No one wants to hear why you messed up, what they want to know is how are you going to make it right, what did you learn,” and if appropriate, your genuine apology. If you can’t make a sincere apology (e.g. one that doesn’t come with caveats, or “but’s”, or excuses), don’t bother. A “non-apology” is worse than none at all.
10. Be a proud learner and a humble teacher. This one comes from a wise woman I once worked with, Joyce, a corporate trailblazer. She knew well that no one likes a “know it all”. She was, and still is, one of the most curious people I know, a voracious reader and a lifelong learner. Joyce also is one of the most generous people I know when it comes to teaching others. Her fan base stretches continents. She is, by far, the best teacher, and student, I have ever met.
11. Fake it ‘til you make it. This sounds terribly contrite and is not an endorsement of being unprepared. Rather, it’s about confidence. There will be times when your confidence has seemingly gone AWOL. Even when you aren’t feeling confident, act like you are. It’s empowering. If you still don’t believe me or can’t summon up some courage, watch this TEDTalk.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you as you start on your career journey. This list is but a drop in the bucket of career advice. I’d really love to hear from you and the best career advice that you have received. Please share your tips on this blog post or email me at [email protected]. I promise to compile the best of the responses and share an updated Top 100? List.

About Lisa

Chief Career Catalyst @C2C, former Fortune 500 businesswoman, dog lover, avid skier, mediocre tennis player, golfer, new SUPer, aspiring surfer, cyclist, yoga & exercise enthusiast, happy wife & home chef. I am a regular contributor to the Bangor Daily News, and have appeared on WCSH6 where I offer career advice for college students, recent graduates and young professionals.
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