The life of a student mirrors no resemblance to the life of the employed.  I remember the days of sleeping in, skipping classes, hanging out with friends and creating my own schedule, because I could.  Transitioning from 15 or more years of education and student life to the demands of a real job can seem daunting and difficult for new graduates.  It’s normal.  You have just mastered the art of being a wonderful student and now you are back at square one, facing new challenges and a new lifestyle.

For me I always knew I wanted to work in science, as that was what I was drawn to and was good at.  However, perspective and hindsight are 20/20.  If I knew then, what I know now, things would have seemed a lot easier, but I’m here to help you get over this bump in the road.

1.  Experience required

As a new graduate, experience is not something that you can brag about and of course most employers want candidates who have some experience.  The more the better.  Discussing the option of internships with college/university advisors is a great way to get your feet wet.  Another option is to volunteer with companies that you want to be employed by, as these opportunities can turn into paid positions.  Keep in mind that internships and volunteering are not your final destination, but they are a means to getting the position you really desire.  Making a commitment of this nature is a great segue into bigger and better options.

2.  Be on time

The freedom you have as a student is like no other, but when you are volunteering, interning or land a job, the days of turning up whenever you like are over.  Being prompt is a character trait that is highly regarded and employers are always watching even when you think they aren’t, so make a good impression every day by being on time, if not early, every morning.  If something beyond your control happens and you foresee yourself being late, call your boss and tell him or her.

Problems happen, but it’s how we choose to respond that makes all the difference.

3.  Writing a resume and cover letter

As a graduate without a lot of experience, the functional style resume is your best option.  This format highlights your skills and achievements instead of work experience.  Including an objective of what you would like to achieve is a good introduction, followed by specific examples of skills, achievements and educational qualifications.

4.  Interview anxiety

Your resume and cover letter get you to an interview; how you present yourself, speak and sell yourself, actually get you the job.  Being confident in who you are and what you have to offer, as well as selling or marketing yourself are essential in any interview, because if you’re not going to root for you, then who is??  It will feel awkward until you have interview experience, but I really can’t emphasize enough the need to portray an image of intelligence coupled with self-confidence to “wow” an interviewer.  Each interview will teach you something new to apply to the next one, and trust me, it does get easier with time.

5.  I’m not sure what I want to do…

If this is how you feel, you are not alone.  Many graduates finish years of dedicated study and come out with a shiny piece of paper displaying the official school emblem and new letters that follow their name, but the question begs….now what?  This is just the beginning and sometimes where you start your career is not where you end up in 10 or 20 years time.  You are in a position to experiment and work in different sectors of the corporate world to see what fits.  Listen to your gut, and if it feels right or wrong, it usually is.