If you just graduated from college, you've probably been focusing your energy on your job search, and not on where you'd like to be in your career in 5, 10, 20, or even 40 years.
But after you land that first job is a good time to start managing your career. Shocking as that may seem to you today, it's true if you think about where you are now and where you'd like to be in the future. For many of you, the long-term career goal you have in your mind will change, probably more than once. You'll uncover likes and dislikes about work and your skills. You may question your values and take your career in a new direction to match those values. And changes in your home life may dictate changes in your career aspirations.
As you continue down your career path, follow these three things that can help you manage your career while you gain experience:
(1) Keep a career journal; update it regularly, and review it from time to time.
This may seem a bit tedious, but continually updating a career journal, or diary, with your accomplishments and private thoughts about your job and your workplace, can be a big help when it's time to update your resume and measure your attitude. If, for example, your most recent entries exhibit a negative attitude about your job or company, it might indicate that you should look for a new job.
(2) Network online and offline.
Get to know people in your industry and any industry you may want to switch to in the future. Online networking sites such as LinkedIn make this easier today. And, joining networking groups and industry associations will offer you additional chances to meet like-minded professionals in person, especially those who have more experience in your chosen field and would be happy to guide you in the early stages of your career. But be equally willing and able to help others; networking works best when it's a two-way street.
(3) Always sense the climate in your company or industry.
Be aware of the financial health and long-term outlook for your company and industry. If you hear a lot of grumbling within the company after a long period of relative happiness, it might indicate the start of harder times (or that you work with people who thrive on being miserable). If you see a downturn in your company that mirrors what's happening in your industry, and you don't see a turnaround in the future, ask yourself if it's in your best interest to change jobs, careers, or industries.
If you're newly employed in your first job post-graduation, congratulations! If you're still looking for that first "big break," keep plugging away at your job search. But once you're at that first job, you need to work hard, make a valuable contribution, and learn all you can. The more you evaluate your own situation, build professional relationships, and keep track of the changes in your field, the better you can prepare yourself for the future.
Do you believe your first job after graduation will determine what you'll do several years from now? Share your thoughts with us.
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