According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), “Employers report that they will hire 19 percent more new college graduates this year than they did last year.” This is great news for the class of 2011, who NACE says are more likely to turn down jobs and wait for a better opportunity than the class of 2010.

In spite of this upturn, college graduates can still expect the hiring environment to be extremely competitive. And, how they start their careers will have a long-term effect on their worklife success and overall fulfillment and wellbeing.

To help graduating college students start their careers off right, I offer these five tips designed to bring success in finding that first job and making sure it’s something that will make them happy for years to come.

Focus and find what you want. Get clear about who you are and what you want to do? What’s your career vision? Research shows that even without good grades or in some cases, a specific degree in that area, your vision can carry you through to success. How do you do this?

Ask yourself these questions and be honest about the answers:

  • What do you LOVE to do – even if you aren’t getting paid to do it?
  • What industry do you want to work in?
  • What job do you see yourself in?
  • What you know of the work that is required to do this job, can you see yourself engaged in and enjoying it?
  • Are there specific companies you want to target?

Inventory your experience and skills to see how they fit into the type of career you decide to pursue.

  • Summer, part-time, or current “paying the bills” jobs
  • Internships
  • Volunteer experience
  • Athletic and other extra-curricular experience

Make it your full-time job to seek information and search (or part-time job if you’re already working at a job to pay the bills):

  • Research the companies or careers you decide to pursue.
  • Network in person and on the internet. Use Facebook and LinkedIn to connect, but make sure your Social Media presence is career-friendly. Start by checking out “Nine Best Practices for Using Social Media To Win Your Dream Job.”
  • Have friends, family and alumni advise you.
  • Arrange informational interviews with people who are in positions you’d someday like to have.

Once you land the job – remember that you must fit in before you can stand out:

  • Observe and absorb.
  • Executives and managers constantly tell me that new hires think they should have their jobs – and that puts managers off and could stunt your career growth.
  • Don’t show up being critical of the way things are done in a company before you really understand it.

A copy of “LIES That Limit” would make a great gift for the graduating senior in your life!

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