It’s common knowledge millennials are taking longer to establish themselves professionally. While this statistic is thoroughly discussed in the media, how confusing and stressful it is to establish your career is not discussed. Once you are ready to join the professional workforce, you may find yourself feeling left behind or totally lost. This is completely normal.
Like I’ve said before, your degree doesn’t matter. So, if you’re a 26-year-old sitting on an English degree, working in the service industry and wondering what happened to your career, you certainly haven’t missed your chance. You’re only getting started.
Don’t sweat it. You can enter the professional workforce and finally begin building a career you love. Here’s how you do it.
Recognize Your Strongest Asset: Passion
Employers want to hire passionate people. Don’t be ashamed of your degree or the years you spent traveling, exploring your creative interests, or just feeling lost after college. If you’re able to express that you’re passionate about something, your degree, your thesis, social activism, etc, this is very important. Life experience is invaluable and unteachable. Be proud of yours.
Your Day Job Matters
Evaluate your current work situation. While you may be in a position where you need to take a job to survive, exactly how you spend your time matters. If you’re not currently working in your desired field, start assessing the benefits of every job you qualify for. This is a big step in you prioritizing your dreams.
Seek out jobs that give you face time with successful people in your field. Let’s say you are given the choice between a restaurant job or working at the front desk of a museum. Sure, they are both somewhat menial day jobs, but the latter will give you more upward mobility. Once you’re in, look for a mentor. It’s possible your coworkers will be aware of the benefits of mentoring and will be eager to help.
Work For A Company That Represents Your Values
Not all professional entry-level jobs are created equal. Apply to jobs at companies that excite you. A customer service position at an exciting start-up with an inspirational CEO is better than a customer service position at a corporation that leaves you feeling like you’ve reached a dead end. If you’re excited about a company’s mission, it will show in your work and be more satisfying in the long run.
Consider Americorps And Teaching English Abroad
Completing an Americorps program or teaching English internationally are both ambitious ways of growing professionally and often only require a bachelor degree in any field. These programs will challenge your leadership skills and show your future employers how self-reliant and resourceful you are.
Explore Alternate Forms Of Higher Education
The number of students pursuing graduate programs has been on a decline in the last decade, and you may be wise to follow this trend. More and more millennials are realizing that in order to build a career, you don’t need to formally advance your education MOOCs, or massive open online courses, are growing in popularity and gaining a positive reputation. Classes on Coursera, Khan Academy, and other sites are free or very cheap, and often sponsored by credited universities. These resources will help teach you new skills you may have looked over in college, but now realize you need to strengthen your resume.
Can’t Find A Job In Your Desired Field? Volunteer.
Volunteer programs are always a two-way street. Not only do they benefit the communities they are designed to serve, but they can most certainly benefit you as well. Volunteering consistently at the same non-profit will result in resume building, networking, professional development and a current job reference.
Keep Your Resume Current
All these career-building tricks really come down to one thing: keeping your resume active with relevant experience. Whether it’s a class, a volunteer position or a part-time job, all of these are helpful when applying to the next big opportunity. You want to be able to express your passion during job interviews and networking opportunities.
Never Give Up
We live in an era of instant gratification, but your career won’t happen overnight. Don’t lose hope. Remember to celebrate your hard work. Feel proud of every small victory you make towards your dream job. Never stop asking yourself, “what am I passionate about?” and using that instinct to inform your career decisions.