"If I knew then what I know now" is a thought many of us have had when thinking back on our college days. Undoubtedly, the working world is far different than you thought it would be as a college student. As the class of 2013 prepares for graduation, we provide advice from recent grads and experts.
Jessica Berger, a 2012 graduate from North Central College in Naperville, says internships are key, especially if they are completed before graduation.
"I wish that I had completed my internships while I was still in school rather than waiting until after graduation," she explains. "That way, I might have been more prepared for what to expect in the job market after college."
Berger, who is currently in the process of completing a post-graduate certificate program, completed three internships after graduation in hopes that they would lead to a permanent, full-time position. But like many of her peers, she found that the job market was still lacking.
"I knew that the job market was severely suffering in 2009 and the recession made me realize how thankful I was to be in school during that time," says Berger. "In the back of my head, I was hoping by the time I had graduated that the working world would be on an upswing and that it would be easier to find a job, especially after earning a college degree."
In addition to internships, expand your professional network by staying in touch with college professors even after graduation, suggests Josh Denton, president of the Duluth, Minn.-based Denton Consulting Group.
"Regardless of your passion, join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend different socializing events," he says. "Spend time reading beyond the textbook and class requirements, [such as] reading academic journals on topics of interest."
Branching out of your usual social circle can help you stay up to date on your field of interest, and make valuable contacts that can help you along in your career.
In the workplace
Networking and internships are essential first steps in entering the working world. But once you've landed a job, it's important to pay attention to office culture and model your work after the company's top performers.
"When you're new to a job, you're often focused on learning and getting your work done, but take a minute to look around," says Gabriel Razo, Career Services Director at City Colleges of Chicago. "Make sure that you're in sync with what's important to your team and try to copy that behavior so people see you as a resource."
Your first job is a time to prove yourself, so a little extra effort is necessary. Small things like showing up early, staying late and always meeting deadlines can have a big impact.
"It is very important to meet deadlines at all times but even more important when you are starting a new job," Razo says. "This will allow you to create a good reputation for yourself and your work, and since you are new in a job, your boss may not notice you unless you are missing deadlines or doing tasks incorrectly."
Your relationships with co-workers and managers at your first job can stick with you for the life of your career. In fact, starting out on the right foot is easier than you may think, according to Abby Kohut, president of Staffing Symphony LLC and author of "Absolutely Abby's 101 Job Search Secrets" (CreateSpace, $20).
"If your boss looks good, you look good — it's that easy," she says. "Ask yourself what you can do and identify what it is that you do well that will allow your boss do his or her job better."