8 Career Mistakes New Grads Make

By Kentin Waits on 22 June 2016 0 comments

After four long years of studying hard, budgeting every thin dime, and learning the finer points of a ramen-based cuisine, you've finally graduated. As you toss that mortar board in the air and begin the job hunt, be mindful of common pitfalls that can get your career off to a bad start. Here are eight career mistakes new grads make.

1. Keeping Social Media Accounts Public

It's called social media for a reason. No matter how run-of-the-mill our Facebook or Twitter posts may be, we always run the risk of offending someone for something. Assume every potential employer will attempt to review your online presence early in the hiring process. If you can't break your social media habit completely, set your status to "private" across all networks and control the conversation.

2. Not Having a Plan

Without a plan, your career can take on a life of its own — and not in a good way. Think of your career as an extension of your education and design a plan for short-term and long-term success. Where do you want to be in three years? What about in 10? What are your income and lifestyle goals? What will it take to reach them? Shape every job search around specific incremental moves that will help make your plan a reality and avoid taking any job "just because."

3. Not Dressing the Part

In today's hyper-casual culture, most young people have never learned how to dress for business success. Invest in an interview wardrobe that reflects the sort of professional you want to become. Choose versatile pieces that are understated, classically styled, and fit flawlessly. Oh, and two more things: Rediscover the lost art of ironing and remember that club wear is not formal wear. (See also: Build a Work Wardrobe for Any Job on a Budget)

4. Submitting Standardized Resumes and Cover Letters

Hiring managers are impressed by applicants who do their research. Avoid the "click-apply-submit" job search method by taking a few minutes to learn about each company you're interested in and each role you're applying for. Then, customize your resume and cover letter to address the employer's specific needs.

5. Jumping on the First Job Offer

Getting your first job offer after college is exciting and flattering, but don't let that cloud your judgment. Before you accept that job, know why. How does it fit with your career plan? Is it something you'll excel at and enjoy? Is there an obvious path for advancement? Does it pay enough to cover your expenses?

6. Buying a New Car

It happens so often it's almost cliché: A new graduate receives her first real paycheck, gets a little cash drunk after four lean years of college, and rewards herself with a brand-new car. This isn't just a financial mistake; it's a career mistake, too. That new car you'll be paying off for the next five years depreciated 25% the minute you drove it off the lot. And now you can't risk even a temporary hiccup in income and wouldn't dare settle for a more fulfilling job that pays less.

A better option is to stay lean and nimble the first few years in your career by avoiding all forms of consumer debt. Remember, you're not sure where your professional life will take you — be ready to seize new opportunities. (See also: 3 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy a New Car)

7. Gunning for a Promotion

First jobs are exciting and some newly-minted employees can get overeager to prove themselves. But trying to move up the corporate ladder too early can alienate coworkers and suggest to management that you're dissatisfied. Pace yourself by fully investing in your current role, building a strong network with colleagues, and waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

8. Freaking Out and Going Back to School

Overwhelmed by responsibility and underwhelmed by the glacial pace of career advancement, many new graduates respond by going back to school to pursue an advanced degree. A few years later, they've amassed more debt, lost valuable career-building time, and still have no clear plan for success. Be strategic. If you're unhappy with your work life, explore ways to shift careers without further schooling. And if you decide to return to college, make sure it's a proactive and not a reactive decision.

What advice would you give new grads? Share with us!

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