Finding the Right First Job

After graduating college, there is both internal and external pressure to quickly find a job. While securing employment is obviously important, this is the beginning of a new career for you. You absolutely deserve to find something that appeals to your sensibilities and piques your interest. So, rather than rushing into something that’s not a good fit, here are four ideas for figuring out what job might be the perfect one for you.

 

What Interests Are Important to You?

When beginning the job search, it’s important to consider which of your interests are most important to you. You have spent four years exploring different areas of a major, taking classes in a variety of focuses as they apply to your study. Rank these courses and think about how each one impacted you. The goal here is to find out not just what you’re good at, but what engages and inspires you to do it. For instance, a marketing major will be entering an incredibly wide and varied field with all kinds of industries and chances to put their talents to work. Why not leverage those differences, and enjoy a chance to be choosy for once?

It’s also a good idea to consider your own personality traits. Maybe you’re a people person, someone who likes to engage on a personal level; you might consider doing field research, focus group testing, or social media marketing. If, instead, you prefer working alone, it may be better to consider doing market analysis or consulting. Again, it’s really a matter of what rings as important and true to you.

 

The Value of Internships 

After four or more years of college, it’s suddenly time for you to give up the student life and become something entirely different: a professional. All the classroom discussions, late-night studying, and the detailed notetaking were just practice for the real thing. Naturally, it can be a bit daunting to go pro for the first time. However, it feels a lot less stressful when you take advantage of an internship while in college. Not only is it real-world experience, it’s also a lower-stress setting to make first-time mistakes and learn from them.

Internships are also a perfect way to test the waters of a particular job or industry, and the experience can help you better understand what an actual day looks like. Though some of the jobs you perform at an internship might be more administrative, these positions also give you an insight into the inner workings of a company, as well as how these organizations fit within a particular industry. Much like a film preview, internships are a great way to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead with a specific career choice.

Internships also provide you with a chance to make valuable connections that serve you going forward. A study performed by the NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition found that students who participated in multiple internships were more likely to find employment within six months of graduation. Be sure to engage with management or other professionals with whom you work during these internships, as any of these contacts could potentially lead to a career opportunity after graduation.

  

Talk to Others in the Field

Another resource for figuring out the right career path is to speak to those who know it first-hand. During your time in school, you undoubtedly met a fair share of these experts in the classroom and office hours. Your professors are there to provide guidance and point out a few important landmarks to look out for along the way. They also know you on a personal level and can discuss where you excelled in class and how that might apply to a chosen career.

Another option is to attend professional networking events as a chance to speak face-to-face with established professionals. The great thing about these events is that they often cover a broad industry or area of interest, such as cloud computing or medical technology sales. Don’t be afraid to approach and introduce yourself to others on the floor. A recent study found that 85 percent of positions were filled through networking, so asking questions and learning from your fellow attendees is an excellent way to show interest, as well as establish some important connections once you’re ready to start applying.

 

Making Interviews Work for You

Once you’re ready to sit down with employers and start the interview process, it’s vital that you’re learning about their company while they do the same about you. Find out about work style, such as whether people are sitting at desks in the office or working remotely. Ask about benefits and salary, even if it feels awkward to do so. Lastly, do what you can to find out about the culture in the office. In a recent study by Jobvite, 46 percent of applicants reported culture as the most important aspect of a job fit. Even if a position is in the right field, be sure the specific company you choose has the qualities you desire.

Whatever path you choose in your professional life, it is the start of a new era. You’re just getting out into the world, so don’t second guess or settle for something that seems like a bore. Remember to prioritize your interests, build connections through internships and networking, and don’t be afraid to put employers to the test during an interview. If you’re still unsure, don’t forget Alpha Kappa Psi’s amazing alumni network, and let us know if you need assistance getting connected to someone who has been in your shoes.

 

 

Summer Reading List for Professional Development

Personal and professional development is a lifelong process, one that takes a commitment to learning and self-exploration. Though it might not be realistic or attainable to take every class or webinar on bettering yourself, you can still work on professional development in the comfort of your own home with some choice reading. Here are some great titles to get started on your quest.

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Written back in 1936, this book by Dale Carnegie still rings true today. After nearly 20 years of leading business classes, Carnegie was given the idea to write a book by a publisher at Simon & Schuster, a top publishing company at the time. The book contains tons of insights into a variety of interpersonal techniques that work for not only the professional life, but the personal one, too. The book opens with a list of twelve points it will tackle, including:

  • Getting you out of a mental rut
  • Increasing your popularity
  • Enabling you to win new clients
  • Improving your public speaking
  • Increasing your earning power

Overall, the book is highly recommended for improving the way you interact with others, and how you communicate your hopes and goals. Though it may be the oldest book on the list, it consistenly comes up when discussing professional goal setting. 

 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High

In the professional world, some conversations will be difficult, and might arise unexpectedly. There might be discussions around layoffs, internal change at companies, salary negotiations, and high-pressured sales calls. In this bestselling book, writers Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler detail some powerful lessons for handling these tough interactions. Inside, you’ll find actionable steps to ensuring you’re able to communicate needs and wants, even if the person across from you is acting irrationally.

This book can play a huge part in professional development, but it can impact your personal life, too. When we talk with others, sometimes highly-charged emotions come out to play. By utilizing the information in “Crucial Conversations,” you can greatly improve your communication skills and learn how to take control in situations when others are not considering their own habits.

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

We all want to be effective and productive in our daily lives. However, sometimes finding the path toward this goal can seem a little murky or overwhelming. In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey lays out a checklist that outlines how effective people get things done. It also gives concrete examples of implementing these lessons in everyday life. Without too many spoilers, this highly-popular nonfiction book outlines the seven principles as:

  • Don’t work yourself to death
  • Be proactive
  • Begin with an end in mind
  • Prioritizing and putting first things first
  • Thinking about how everyone can win
  • Seek to first understand, then be understood
  • Synergize your efforts with others

 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Few writers or modern-day thinkers are as well respected as Malcolm Gladwell. The journalist and public speaker found a way to blend storytelling with actionable advice on how people interact with each other and the world. In this revered book, Gladwell explains how individuals or groups of people can impact the world forever.

By reviewing and analyzing industries such as fashion, tobacco, direct mail, and children’s television, he identifies key personalities who push a small idea into the modern world. Though the book’s ideas might be a bit conceptual, there is a lot to gain, including an understanding of how your actions can best influence others in your professional world. It’s a stimulating read that will leave you thinking about what you give and take from your reality.

Though these books are an excellent starting point, they are only the tip of the iceberg. After reading, take time to explain some of the key takeaways to others in your professional life. Not only will this further cement the lessons in your mind, it also will help others around you grow in their decision-making, communication, and critical thinking.

5 Signs You’re In the Right Job

Are you questioning your career choice, or maybe just the company you work for? It can be hard to know if you’re in the right industry or committed to the right company, especially with new jobs popping up every day in our inboxes and on LinkedIn. Sometimes you might be looking for signs to leave your job, but there can be just as many signs to stay and keep growing. Consider these signs.

  1. You Aren’t Triggered to Use Substances

One of the first but most subtle signs you are in the right job is when triggers like stress or fatigue are reduced in your life. For many people, stressful or exhausting situations can lead to using, or even abusing, more substances like caffeine or alcohol. For instance, if you need caffeine to stay alert and focused all day long, that might be a red flag. One study from the Institute of Scientific Information on Coffee found that 43 percent of people think coffee makes them more productive. If your work is so stimulating and exciting that you forget to drink coffee some mornings, you know it’s a good fit.

  1. You Feel Challenged and Respected

A more obvious sign you are in the right job is that your peers or your boss challenge you to grow and develop. This might mean deepening existing skills, or expanding your skill set into new talents. When these colleagues feel like respected friends, that means you found something special. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management found that respectful treatment of all employees at all levels is the single biggest driver of job satisfaction. This also extends to respecting each other’s right to fail. It’s easy to show respect when things are going well, but if you can still appreciate each other when things are tough, you know you are in a good place.

  1. You Don’t Object to Change at Work

If getting assigned new tasks doesn’t change your attitude at work, chances are it’s because you are satisfied as an employee. Dissatisfied employees could resent new tasks or consider a new assignment to be “busy work” because they don’t understand the value, or don’t feel valued themselves. If you are open to or excited about changes coming down the pipeline, you should take it as a sign that your job or company is a good fit for your personality.

  1. You Talk Positively About Work to Friends and Family

We all know someone who never has anything positive to say about their job—and eventually, we start advising these people to look for something new. This is why it’s a good sign if you love to talk about your work. Whether it’s about the tasks you are working on or stories about co-workers, consider if a new job will present these same benefits.

  1. You Aren’t Struggling Financially

Lastly, a sign you have chosen the right industry or company is if you are comfortable financially. This doesn’t pertain to just your current salary, but also the benefits you receive and ability to prepare for retirement. You are in the right job when you are compensated for the full value and talent you bring to an organization.

These are just some of the signs you are in the right job, and each person will take some more seriously than others. Forbes recently reported on a study that found over half of US workers are not satisfied in their jobs, for reasons like benefits, stability, compensation, and dignity. If you are lucky enough to be in the right job, use that position to help others.

 

Time Management During Remote Work

The trend toward working from home is nothing new, as remote offices have seen a 159 percent growth over the last 12 years. While there are the added bonuses of comfort and convenience, working remotely still requires some adjustments. Here are some important steps to take to get the most out of your time working from home.

Maintain a Schedule

Just like you would on a normal office day, sticking to a daily schedule is key. You might not be getting ready to leave home for the day, but your mornings should still revolve around preparing yourself for work. The goal here is for your time at home to be as close as possible to your office routine. According to statistics published by Airtasker, the most effective ways for remote workers to stay productive are to take breaks, set working hours, and keep a to-do list.

Use Project Management Tools

When you’re doing everything on your own without support or company, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or disorganized. An excellent way to avoid these feelings is to utilize tools to track your progress. You can also document finished work, keep an eye on revisions or feedback, and highlight the projects that still need to be finished. You might consider discussing options with your team leaders, as there are software-based programs that can help, such as:

  • Podio
  • Basecamp
  • Slack
  • When I Work
  • Toggl

Tracking your work not only helps you stay on top of your to-do pile, but also communicates to fellow team members what projects are in progress or complete.

Stay in the Loop with Coworkers

For any company or employee looking to make the most of remote working, communication is key. The sense of isolation is real, so take time to have group discussions. If you’re trying to decrease the amount of emails, consider using Slack or other instant messaging options to chat. Make time to have a daily standup meeting, in which each team member identifies their workload, goals, and any obstacles or difficulties they’re facing. This infuses a true sense of connectivity and collaboration. It’s also a good way to blow off stress and enjoy each other’s company. 

Make Time for Work and Yourself

When your home is your office, the transition from work to personal life can be unclear. Rather than working until 5 and walking out with other coworkers, the end of your day can easily become a moving target. However, just as you follow a routine for the morning, you owe it to yourself to close the work laptop around the same time each day. Try to avoid working into the night, or pushing to get further ahead. Work-life balance is much more your own design; take advantage of your time alone and know when to call it quits.

For those new to remote working, managing your time can suddenly seem a bit more complicated. However, with some simple steps to keep yourself on track, you can get more out of this newly found independence and free time. Remember to set schedules, lay out goals, track your work, and stay in touch with your fellow home office employees, and you’ll be on your way to a successful remote office.