So, You’ve Graduated. What Next?

Meet Calvin. Like many of you, he has not quite found the fulfilling life that a traditional education might have promised him. He has followed the path to success laid out for him for his entire life, anticipating the result of a fun job and financial security. He received good grades in high school, focused hard in college and earned a degree in journalism, an area that he loves and hopes will allow him to have an impact on the world. He dreams of working on environmental journalism in Europe or the Middle East, and he is more than capable. Unfortunately, the only one who is aware of his capability is himself.

Three years after graduation, Calvin is still working at target, just like 48% of his peers who have a college degree but also work at jobs that don’t require one. He’s having a hard time chasing his aspirations in journalism, considering he’s spending eight hours a day stocking shelves. Plus, he has $100k in student loan debt, putting a bit more stress on his shoulders. Naturally, he expected to pay it off over time while working as a journalist, but he’s having a hard time making it happen.

If things don’t turn around soon, it’s looking like he’s going to have to move back in with his parents, which is unfortunately becoming more normal among millennials. There are jobs out there, good jobs with a salary paycheck and a bit of adventure in the description. A bit of fulfillment in life.

Of course, Calvin had applied to several of these jobs since graduating, but none had really ever panned out. Of the interviews he had, he never seemed to find a good fit enough to get a call back, and though there were a few that he was communicating online back and forth with, they always seemed to drop off after a few days…lost in cyberspace.

One of the issues, as Calvin saw it, was the fact that the economy and job market were still recovering from the recession, and with millennials being the most educated generation in history, competition for the few jobs out there was tough. This makes it very difficult for him to stand out.

So, the question still stands, how can one stand out in today’s job market? How can one compete? It’s a simple answer honestly:

Master the soft skills.

The best tools to have in your arsenal are the ability to communicate, network, negotiate and lead, among many others. All of these skills are critical in the real world, especially in today’s competitive landscape, and like most skills necessary for success, they aren’t taught in school. However, unlike most skills, you can’t simply pick them up. They require teaching and practice, especially considering that they change from field to field. Ideally, you want to learn from the best. You want to have a mentor.

Many of us share similar stories with Calvin, but it only takes some willingness to practice these skills to reveal your potential beyond just your immediate network. If you’re feeling lost, undermined, and uninspired with the work you are doing, it’s time to take a step in a more fulfilling direction. Your value does live beyond the words on your resume or in a brief cover letter. It is shown in your demeanor and how effectively you can connect with those who you can push you forward.

Take a day, and instead of sitting at your desk scouring the web for a job, get up and grab a cup of coffee with someone who inspires you. Showing your character face to face is far more valuable than trying to spell it out on a piece of paper. Ask them for advice, and then follow up. The best thing that you can do at the end of this coffee meeting is ask, “who should I meet next?” That’s the coffee meeting for next week. At the end of the year, you’d have met over 50 people for coffee , and likely connected with many of them — now it won’t be so hard to find a job after all.

One of the best ways to master soft-skills quickly is to work on an entrepreneurial project. Start a small business, help people market their companies on social media, organize events on the weekends — anything! We’ve seen millennials in Boulder, CO working on amazing projects with the help of Startup Vault, an intimate online course for aspiring entrepreneurs. Give it a try!

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