Thousands of students are gearing up to graduate from college next year.
Most seniors hold off on finding a job and preparing for life after college, but if you do this, you're making a huge mistake.
This is the prime time for you to lay out your roadmap for the next adventure, all while building your professional network.
The biggest challenge college graduates face is becoming independent.
After college, most young adults no longer receive financial support from their parents, and they don't have access to resources from their college institutions.
That’s why you need to plan ahead before these resources disappear.
Having navigated life post-college for three years, I've learned effective networking is the number one strategy to gain independence.
Networking allows you to build meaningful relationships so you can land jobs, make money and create opportunities.
Here are the things you can do now, in order to set yourself up for success in the future:
1. Start networking now.
Before you start networking, you need to sit down and ask yourself what your goals are.
Do you want to find a job? Do you want to find a cofounder to help you build your business?
Do you want to find a roommate to rent an apartment with?
Once you identify what you want to accomplish through networking, I recommend you start immediately.
Don’t wait until finals are over or until you have spare time.
There are many different places to network.
You can go to mixers on your college campus, or you can enter the professional realm by attending after-work networking meetups.
The latter tends to be the most effective because you’ll have the opportunity to meet potential employers.
You can also use your social media assets to connect with influencers in your industry.
In the professional world, this is done through Linkedin and Twitter. Reach out to people you’re interested in meeting, and start having conversations.
I also recommend you ask people out to coffee. There's nothing more meaningful than a face-to-face interaction.
During these conversations, you can ask questions about opportunities and recommendations to help you navigate your way once college is over.
You can ask questions such as these:
What was your biggest challenge after college, and how did you deal with it?
How do you deal with competition after college?
What experience will set me up to land my dream job after college?
Is there anyone you can connect me with who can help me before I graduate?
Most students don’t have the confidence to ask people these types of questions.
Be bold and courageous because these questions will show you genuinely care.
You’ll also get noticed by people who would have otherwise ignored you.
If you have a poor memory, make sure to take notes and follow up accordingly.
2. Overcome self-defeating thoughts.
With the exception of a few prestigious internships, most college graduates have limited experience in the workforce.
You might think you’re unqualified for many job positions, or you’ll have to work your way up the ladder in order to network with the big shots.
These are considered self-defeating thoughts, and you may have a few more of your own.
If you want to be successful after college, you need to overcome these immediately.
The first way to combat these self-limiting beliefs is to turn them into positive and constructive scripts.
For example, you may think you have limited experience, and your liberal arts degree will subject you to work at a coffee shop after college. There is a way to turn this around.
Your liberal arts background has helped you become a critical thinker with the ability to write well, communicate effectively, meet deadlines and manage multiple projects.
These qualities are assets that will make you a desirable candidate for most entry-level jobs.
Your self-defeating thoughts can also keep you from experiencing amazing opportunities after college, such as traveling in Europe or starting your own business.
When you turn these thoughts around, you can start working on saving enough money to buy your tickets abroad or set up a corporate entity for your business.
When you start thinking “I can’t,” think “I can” instead.
When you think you don’t have enough experience, ask yourself what you need to do before you graduate to get that experience under your belt.
3. Conquer rejection in the face of competition.
You’re going to face rejection before and after you graduate.
The good news is, everyone faces rejection. No one goes through life being accepted all of the time.
In order to conquer rejection head-on, you need to have strong self-esteem.
When you place your self-worth in another person’s acceptance, you give your power to that person. If you don’t land your dream job right after college, move on.
Focus your energy on ideas, people and projects that will build your self-worth, community and value.
You can always try applying again, but make sure you're emotionally prepared to face rejection.
Remember persistence can pay off, and people usually take note when you keep trying.
It's easy to focus on your negative qualities when you’re rejected. Don’t do this.
You must focus on your positive attributes.
Instead of thinking, “My ideas are stupid and unworthy,” change that to “There are people who like my ideas. I can’t wait to find them.”
Even when you have a lousy networking experience or a self-defeating thought, you can learn something from them.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from people you trust.
These people can shed light on their experiences and help you to navigate your challenges with more ease and grace.