Becoming Career Ready: 5 Pragmatic Steps a Recent Grad Must Take

How to find your path for success-after-college

Kasey Fu
The Post-Grad Survival Guide
6 min readJun 3, 2021

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Photo: Tim Douglas/Pexels

Gentle piano soundtracks danced out of my laptop speaker as I laid on my couch with the window behind me open despite a cold outside drizzle. It was a Friday afternoon — a day that suddenly felt three times more valuable than if it was still a school semester. I’d equate this to a natural feeling of recuperation workers have after a busy work week, which pushes many to treasure free time more noticeably. Nothing really beats the happy thought of a relaxing weekend upcoming, as nothing school-related was on the radar.

On the brink of June, we find ourselves in full motions of our post-grad summers. Lest we know how rigorous and demanding our undergraduate programs have been, nothing feels better than a cool summer wind reminding us that it’s simply one chapter after the last.

But let’s not turn this into a poetic article centred around unwinding after a tough journey — because life continues moving, and so should we.

This article, with my mind still fazed over the idea that my college tale is coming to a close, will attempt to exclude remnants of sentiment and actually focus on what’s most optimal. I will instead structure, as I usually do, a realistic list that I feel is best spoken from one graduate to another.

Before I dive in, I would like to mention that this list should be considered AFTER you’ve had your break. So let loose yes — but plan your path for success-after-college immediately as soon as you’re truly ready.

1. If you haven’t already, turn job-search into a full-time job

Obviously a must-have if you’re still on the job hunt; despite a chance of déjà vu from similar amounts of stress induced as full-time studying. I know financial situations are different for every graduate — which could differentiate the urgency. Money aside, your goal is to join the workforce and begin contributing to your respective industry to grow a career, whatever that may be. Once you’ve been able to land your eyes on a potential career with room for growth & deviating if necessary, try to make it a habit of turning job-hunt into a full-time gig.

The reason behind this suggestion is because when real full-time work begins, you’ll have well-established habits guiding your actions for productivity. Whether you have employment on the horizon or not, you’re sitting down to work for a period of time to achieve something, and that’s what truly matters. Such a mentality could easily cascade to other positive decisions in your personal life outside of work, and for when work actually comes.

2. Come up with 3–4 simple yet productive habits to begin sticking to

Small habits that promote personal growth and productivity are overwhelmingly underrated. There’s a book titled Atomic Habits by James Clear that puts this topic into the spotlight with relentless detail. With a delivery of content from a thoughtful sense of reticulation, the book is a must-read for essentially anybody — but especially for new-grads.

Many adore the idea of slowly easing their way into full-time work life by taking a deserved vacation before their start date. This is obviously okay and should be expected. However, because this is expected, dropping those productive habits developed during school comes all too naturally. While it can be easy for some to adjust back to their regular work routines, I’d argue that if one kept positive habits consistent throughout their initial post-grad break, starting out strong in the work life can be quite seamless.

Examples of simple, positive habits can include:

  • Keeping a good sleep schedule — head to bed at 11, wake up at 7.
  • Avoiding social media apps between 9 and 5.
  • Reading every evening for 30 mins.
  • Doing dishes and taking out the trash successively, one after another.

Yes — I listed out quite general household ideas that can be likened to words repeated by parents to their children. But it’s the consistency and the execution that really stands strong. Compounded over time, these habits will result in incredible things that aren’t noticeable until the very end. Ultimately, soaking in the takeaways from Atomic Habits will do you wonders.

3. Plan your personal finances

And whether you currently have a source of income or not is completely irrelevant. Why?

Because in the near future when you do have a source of income, you’ll be locked and loaded with an idea of how you’ll be budgeting your life. After-all — while a career guarantees you a progressive source of income and security, money is the motive, and you want to maximize your return. Here are just a few sample ideas you can already think about to really prepare yourself:

  • Look back at your spending decisions on a weekly or monthly basis, and make deductions where necessary.
  • Create financial goals that can be adjusted once your income arrives.
  • Research and open up various financial accounts that you can begin adding income to soon (Savings, mutual funds, TFSA, 401(k), stock/bond portfolios, crypto).
  • Start looking into various budgeting tools, whether that’d be in the form of an app (Mint), spreadsheet (Aspire Budgeting, Money Manager), or others listed here by use case.

Don’t forget that if you’re in a financial hurry to pay off student debt and/or housing or have other goals, reflect that with your effort!

4. Networking never stops

With or without these COVID times, the opportunities to participate in events, case competitions, hackathons, networking sessions and seminars stand fair and abundant — you just have to search for them online.

And while one of them might be the gateway to a future job opportunity, disregard that perspective. It’s more about two key things that stay with you, job or no job: skills and mentorship.

With the right environment, knowledge and skills come easily with employment opportunities, but one can’t adamantly suggest that external networking can therefore be overlooked. It’s without question that some skills and niche learnings are most accessible through meeting new people, participating in competitions, and other events you proactively seek out.

The same logic applies to the idea of mentorship.

5. Read “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport

As a college grad myself, this was an eye-opening book. If my advice sounds inflated with intentions of selling the book, go download the first chapter for free and see for yourself. In essence, it holds a premise that teaches one fundamental lesson: skills are more important than passion.

As graduates, we’re perhaps inclined to really digest the words the late Steve Jobs famously affirmed at Stanford’s commencement speech in 2005. In front of a crowd of thousands, Jobs emphasized the importance of love and passion in one’s career. While there are many angles of truth to this, it’s now widely accepted that all-in-all, you really gotta be excellent at your craft as well. One can have all the passion and excitement in the world for an idea or career, but without the skill and experience, chances of success diminish. Thus, choose an area of interest that you can focus on, double-down on deliberate practice, and be so good they can’t ignore you.

There’s no better time to begin building and honing your craft than now, whether you’re already employed or still looking for your first job.

Let’s kickstart your career-after-college the best way possible.

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Kasey Fu
The Post-Grad Survival Guide

Product Manager @ Planview AI, Ex-Microsoft. Fiction Author and Game Producer. Follow me for PM, tech, productivity, and life advice!