back to blog

Career Advice for New Grads

Since we planned this article, a lot has happened in the world of career advice for new grads (Thanks, Harrison Butker). There’s also a lot to consider regarding today’s job market. As we told employers recently, hiring projections have fallen 5.8% from last year, and both employers and job seekers are nervous.

Every graduating class faces challenges, though, and we know how resilient this year’s class of new grads is. There’s also good news: A recent survey by SHRM and Handshake found that 67% of recent graduates believe they have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce from the start. A slightly greater percentage of those in HR, 70%, believe emerging professionals are prepared to succeed in their first year. HR knows you can do it. And we know you can do it. So, let’s forge ahead with some excellent career advice gathered from recruiters and professionals.

Start In-Person

“Be willing to work on-site so that you learn from fellow workers. Remote and hybrid can be in your future, but working on-site is best at the beginning of your career.”

If you’re like many new grads, you may already be on board with this career advice. Most 2024 grads want to work in person, in the office, with their coworkers. In every study we’ve seen, less than one-third (and as few as 7%) prefer fully remote work. Being open to (or even enthusiastic about) in-person work can increase your opportunities.

Make Connections, You’re Still Learning

“Remember, this is just the beginning. Your degree is an accomplishment, but the experience and relationships you will gain in the first few years of your career will ultimately determine the direction you go in. Be open to learning, embrace opportunities, and build your network!”

Starting a new career can be intimidating, but put those fears aside: No one is expecting you to have it all figured out. We love this career advice from USA Today’s Traci Lee, who talks about the imposter syndrome she had early on, which prevented her from asking for feedback, recovering from rejection, and showing vulnerability.

Keep an Open Mind

“Passing along some great advice I got at that time in my life when looking at entry-level positions: The job you take may not be the job you want, but it will get you the job you want.”

Another professional told us something similar: “Your first job doesn’t have to be ‘the’ job. Every job has something to teach you.” The career advice is reminiscent of something you may have been told when shopping for college: Choose the college that chooses (or wants) you. The same goes for your first job. Who is EXCITED to hire you? What are the growth and professional development opportunities? Will you make connections who will lift you up?

Appreciate Others

“A deep regret I have about my early career was my lack of respect and appreciation for my more seasoned coworkers. Now that I’m the ‘seasoned’ one, I realize how many valuable lessons and advice I left on the table because I thought I knew better.”

Whether it’s through a mentorship program or just being mindful of your attitude toward others at work, opening yourself up to guidance (And career advice!) from those older than you is beneficial. They may not be as technically savvy as you are, or maybe they are. Still, they can teach you innumerable and invaluable career lessons and improve your institutional memory (if you don’t know that term, learn about it here).

Slow Your Roll

“Be thoughtful about acquiring more degrees. If you don’t snag the job you want early on, you may feel tempted to retreat to academia and get a higher degree like a master’s to make yourself more ‘marketable,’ but be careful. In many professions, nothing beats work experience. How do you even know what you want to ‘master’ if you haven’t clawed your way through even an entry-level position in that field?”

You may find that certain certifications could help you get started on an excellent footing, especially if you’re in tech. But when it comes to advanced degrees, be sure they are the right fit for you. If you find yourself Googling “MBA programs that don’t require work experience,” you may want to re-evaluate your reasons for continuing in school without getting work experience first. For more, check out our post, Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?

It’s OK to Negotiate

“Negotiate (reasonably) from the beginning. Neglecting to negotiate early on can cost you up to $1.5 million in lost wages over time. Give yourself a leg up by setting your baseline at a good level.”

Our blog has numerous posts that can help you navigate these waters, including How to Negotiate Salary & Perks and Negotiate a Better Starting Salary in 6 Steps.

Step it Up

“Present yourself as a professional in how you dress, how you communicate to people, and how you represent yourself online. This doesn’t have to be stuffy; aim for polished. Demonstrating maturity can help you overcome lack of experience.”

We have endless tips on our blog to help you polish your persona in whatever areas you need, including:

Try New Things

“Be adventurous! Take chances! So many of us are in roles or industries that we would never have thought we’d be in—either we didn’t think they’d be exciting or fulfilling, or we just didn’t know they existed.”

In the early pandemic years, many seasoned professionals who lost their jobs found what was termed “lifeboat jobs” to keep them afloat. Turns out, many of these jobs became exciting and fulfilling new careers. By 2022, about 60% of job seekers were open to finding work in entirely new career fields. If your job search feels like it’s stagnated, look to your parents and their generation (LinkedIn is a good way to do this). Who seems to be thriving, and what do they do? Another way to find these roles and industries is to be open to temp jobs.

Take It One Step at a Time

As a great follow-up to trying new things, go after each opportunity enthusiastically, even if you’re unsure. We love this career advice from the Next Great Step’s Beth Hendler-Grunt: “Candidates should never lie about credentials or experience, but they should express their desire to work for that company and why they want to do so. Being prepared to sell that commitment will make a candidate stand out. Once [you have] the offer, then assess if it’s a good fit…through the due diligence of speaking with other employees and diving deeper.”

Take It All in Stride

“Find a mentor. Or two. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s not about the job title. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Ask for help when you need it. Join an organization (or two, or three) to build your network.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Did you spot the overriding theme? DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF. Take steps to lay a good foundation of support, but give yourself grace, too. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your rise to the top. “Especially as a new grad, no one expects you to know it all,” another professional told us. “Own that you are growing and learning. You will be doing this for your entire career. Cultivate a growth mindset.”

Embarking on your career journey as a new graduate can be both exhilarating and daunting. Remember, the path to success is rarely linear, and each step you take, whether it leads to triumph or a lesson learned, is a valuable part of the journey.