This is a guest post by Vicky Oliver 

Congratulations, new grad! You’re now leaving the classroom behind and heading out to launch your career. It’s time to apply all the knowledge that you worked so hard (and paid so dearly) for during your years of academia. You’re looking forward to finding that foot in the door that will allow you to put your educational credentials to work.

As part of a cohort of career seekers with its own vision of the optimal work setting, your deciding factors don’t revolve only around salary. You may be willing to opt for a lesser-paying job if the work appears more interesting. You also balance mental health and happiness against the lure of ample monetary compensation.   

Especially as a new grad just starting out, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Take the time you need to formulate the criteria that will satisfy your career goals and will make you want to remain at a job — for a minimum of a full year. Leaving a job just after you’ve been onboarded, or showing any pattern of job hopping, won’t look good on your resume. You also don’t want to alienate former employers in your chosen industry lest they give you lackluster recommendations. 

Take note of these tips to avoid becoming snared by any traps while you’re looking to land the job that launches your career: 

1. Know your worth.

It’s not uncommon for employers to take advantage of new grads’ eagerness to get solid work experience. Beware of those out to lure you with low-paying internships or menial positions that won’t teach you valuable skills. Investigate salary ranges when exploring job openings. If you believe the salary that’s offered doesn’t align, don’t be afraid to share what you’ve uncovered through your research and to negotiate for what you deserve. 

2. Look for postings that align with many of your qualifications.

Most companies create a wish list of “essential” skills in their job descriptions, knowing that it’s unlikely most applicants will match them all. If you’re interested in the company and the advertised position, ask yourself if you believe you could do the job. Discern the preferred requirements from the must-haves. If you think that you’re capable, go ahead and apply! Don’t try to “fudge” your abilities in order to look more qualified than you are, but honestly share any skills you believe are transferable to fulfilling the position’s demands. 

3. Tout what makes you unique.

Whether you’re a business major or a history major, don’t let employers pigeonhole you by your area of study. Help them to recognize that you are a multi-faceted individual with much to offer. Make a point of highlighting the skills of which you’re most confident — including soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork, and communication. It’s also possible that your expertise in an area unrelated to the job description will enable you to stand out and one-up the competition. 

4. Tap your connections.

Share the type of position you’re seeking with friends, family members, and acquaintances you encounter. A referral is your best inroad for landing an interview if an organization has a job opening. Even if the contact tells you that the company is currently fully staffed, ask for an informational interview or inquire if there’s an opportunity to shadow someone in your targeted department. This is no time to be a wallflower! Channel your most confident self and go ahead and ask. Be gracious, of course, regardless of whether those in your network can help or not.  

5. Expect to pay your dues — with stipulations.

Classroom work doesn’t usually equate to on-the-job work, and any organization that hires you will need to invest in training you. Let the employer know that the investment will pay off, and that you aren’t just looking for a job, but are building a career. Don’t settle for a stagnant low-paying position with no advancement opportunities. Only sign on to an entry-level position if there seems to be a path for potential growth. 


Know this: the average worker will have eight careers in their lifetime. Your first job may not be your dream job. But as long as you’re learning new skills and growing without sacrificing your non-negotiables, you are moving forward. Realize the value you bring, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve. Then, set out to prove to the company that its investment in you is worthwhile!  


About the Guest Post:

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-bestselling author of five books, including Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008), and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep.” She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print and online outlets. Vicky Oliver is the Assistant Nonfiction Editor at LIT Magazine, the Journal of the New School Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing and teaches essay writing at the New York Writers Workshop. For more information, visit