Navigating the world as a recent college grad can be an exciting yet daunting task, especially when it comes to landing your first job and starting your career. But when you have faith in yourself, your sights on success and an army of helpful "life advisors" for guidance, anything's possible.
Take it from me, a former PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT writer/intern who graduated from the University of Missouri almost five years ago and now lives/works in New York City. Since "turning the tassel" and becoming a professional journalist (if you will), I've penned numerous articles at various publications including: ESSENCE, Refinery29, Business Insider/INSIDER, The Zoe Report, Elite Daily, etc. I've also started my own boutique marketing agency that specializes in building buzz-worthy start-ups alongside their female founders.
Throughout my journey, however, countless mistakes have been made with hard lessons to follow. In the spirit of our Sweat Sisterhood and sharing, below are a few tips for any career-oriented individual looking to stay ahead!
1. Make sure you have at least one internship under your belt.
Prior to my "biggest" internship at ESSENCE Magazine, I spent a lot of time sourcing out and creating my own at smaller brands/companies who were of interest. This involved visiting their career pages and social media accounts for any potential listings, yes. But most importantly, it meant perfecting my cold-email strategy. Cold-emailing for me included gathering up my qualifications to pitch myself in a strong, yet concise way for an opportunity that didn't exist. You can do it, too! Just spend some time figuring out the ways in which the company you wish to work for could use help, and then offer to be/help them identify the perfect solution.
Many small brands are aware that they could use some help, but oftentimes they either can't afford to hire (per say) — or they're too busy to notice how not bringing on help is costing them. And believe me, showing initiative with confidence and past experience to back you up is impressive. And while I wasn't "paid" in money 100% of the time, doing the work built my skill set and paved the way for a string of compensated gigs that've been proverbial career stepping stones.
So, remember to think long-term about these things. Do the work now (whether it's for cash or course credit) and I PROMISE YOU, the work will reward you more than you could have ever imagined.
2. With that being said...experience is key.
Another point, you're never "too young" or "too old" to start interning, which is a really horrible yet common misconception among recent grads and beyond. I always, always, ALWAYS advise against waiting though, because the more experience you can gain over time, the more skills you'll acquire.
For those who are gearing up to cross the stage soon, either seek out and apply for a local internship or brush up on your cold-email skills to land a remote opportunity. If you've already graduated (congrats!!!), that's okay — don't forget that fellowships and apprenticeships are still an option in addition to salaried positions.
3. Prioritize for the prize.
"You gotta prioritize to secure the prize." That's one of my favorite mantras! New York City, where I now work and live, is super fun. It's also a great place to lose focus. And if you're careless, the Big Apple's an even greater place to lose money faster than you earn it. Therefore, if your dream is to come join the ranks, YOU HAVE TO PUT THE WORK IN TOO. You have got to make a habit of going above and beyond the bare minimum. This is true for NYC and everywhere else outside of college, in the real world. There aren't any handouts — getting what you want, whatever that may be — starts with setting an intention, remaining dedicated and figuring out a way (or multiple ways, in my case) to make it happen for yourself.
4. Don't forget about your personal brand.
I love making friends, and in a business sense, I guess that means I love to network. Both are related, except networking up (with those you aspire to be like) and across (with those on the same level as you) — isn't always "easy." In fact, given the setting, it can be quite intimidating.
To make the most out of the time you have when meeting someone new, it's wise to have a 60-second "elevator pitch" in mind. Within this personal pitch, think of ways you can quickly sum up [a] what it is you do (or hope to do in the future), [b] for whom, [c] how and most importantly — [d] why. The key here is to spark a conversation that's hopefully mutually beneficial for both parties in some way, shape or form.
I'm all about "building my tribe" and surrounding myself with those who motivate as well as challenge me to do and be better. Plus, the work gets done so much faster and more efficiently when you have those in your corner contributing to your success. With that said, no one likes to feel used. A huge pet peeve of mine is when folks only reach out when they want something. Meaningful, two-sided relationships are what we're striving for here. So, whenever you do gather another person's contact info, remember to follow up and through on asking them how you can be of help to them too.
Lastly, while a strong work ethic is great...don't forget that character and grace can take you places hustling can't.
5. Always negotiate your worth.
Talking about money can get scary — fast. I get that. But regardless of how uncomfortable it may be, nothing is more uncomfortable than struggling month to month because you can't make ends meet with the pay you've accepted. That's why I'm a huge proponent of asking for what YOU need — not for what you think others assume you deserve. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE!!! And when doing so, don't make the mistake of oversharing or undersharing — leave personal business out of the equation, and instead, rely on your skills, talent and expertise to paint an accurate picture of your value.
That's all I have for now. But if you're interested in getting in touch to ask a career-related question I didn't address above, feel free to email me at hey [@] briannaarps.com! :) YOU GOT THIS!