Career Advice to Recent College Graduates

The Ladders, a leading career site, reached out to me recently and asked me to give advice to graduating college students.

I’m honored to do it.

Here are my top insights…nearly three decades past my graduation from UNC Chapel Hill.

Don’t Settle

When I graduated, the economy sucked (sound familiar?). I couldn’t get a job applying my newly minted skills as a journalism major. For a few months, I stayed in Chapel Hill, delivering pizzas, waiting tables and working in an outdoor store at a mall. It was demoralizing, to say the least.

It tooks me several months of hustling to finally land a job in PR, which meant moving to New York City and living with five flight attendants in a one-bedroom apartment. But I was determined to make it work.

To young graduates, I say: Stay focused, even if you are schlepping through low-paid, agonizing work you hate. Don’t give up.

Another thing—you have probably been told your whole life that you needed to go to school, get a degree and work for someone else. That’s one way to go…but you also have my permission to become an entrepreneur.

Build Your List

When I was young, I hated the term networking. I thought it was slimy for some reason. Yet I did enough of it to land a few quality internships that eventually help me get that first PR job.

It would take me years to understand that I should’ve focused on building a stronger network from the start. Great supporters are like money—you can take them to the bank.

A few years ago, I tested this theory when I was forced to leave an entrepreneurial venture I had started. I desperately needed a “real job” to make up for lost salary and time. Fortunately, my networking efforts paid off quickly.

You can read about what I did here during what I called my Open Source Job Search. Feel free to steal my playbook.

My advice is to treat your network like gold—and stay in touch with them regularly (not just when you are desperate or need something).

Three years since that job search, I’m happily back doing what I love as an entrepreneur. But I still email my entire list of contacts every two weeks without fail.

Always Give Back

You’re never too young to give back to others. In fact, the more you give, the more you’ll get. You might not believe it, but just take my word for it.

Why should I stop what I’m doing and write this article, for example? Because it might help one person on their journey. That’s all I care about right this moment.

I know plenty of older people helped me when I was young, scared, untalented and naive…and I probably didn’t even recognize their contributions at the time. Now I know better.

Wherever you find yourself, you can always give something back. I find it especially vital to never turn down a request by young people for advice. You just have no idea what impact you can make.

One more thing–used tools like the Ladders, LinkedIn and social media to your full advantage. I didn’t have any of that stuff when I graduated. Be grateful for the times you live it, with such amazing technology at your fingertips.

Best of luck to you!

Design Like A Pro With Canva

Canva free graphic design tool

Need to make a quick graphic for your blog, social media site or a presentation? Canva lets anyone create graphic design layouts quickly, with minimal design skills. It won’t replace a bona fide graphic designer, but it’s great when you need something easy and cheap.

Canva features a lot of predetermined graphic sizes ranging from social media graphics to blog graphics, Facebook covers, cards and more. It also has many free stock images, fonts and background images. Canva also offers over 1,000,000 premium graphic files that you can purchase cheaply (around $1/graphic).

After you create a graphic in Canva, you can easily download the file or share it on Twitter and Facebook.

Cost: Free and premium graphics available for your layouts

Break The Routine

I haven’t blogged on here in months. The reason? I got mad at myself for being lazy and just repurposing content from my Cool Tech Tools newsletter.

My tip today is two-fold:

  • Don’t be lazy
  • Save value for your email subscribers

I want to blog more, but just not with rehashed content.

Manage Your Events With Sched

Running an event? Sched is a premier application to make it easier for event organizers.

With Sched, you can provide attendees with an event website, your own mobile web app (IOS and Android), as well as a social network, sponsor directory, registration/payment, wait lists and an agenda builder.

Additional features of Sched include:

Email updates: During your event, send attendees email messages
Digital displays: Present your event schedule on monitors and projectors during your event
Event payments: Sync with Eventbrite to sell event tickets
Printable event schedules: Get print-ready versions of your event schedules
Participant profile pages: Give your participants their own profile page and allow them to view friends from their social networks who are attending

Cost: Free, unlimited trial; Sched Event for $99 per event ($399/year for unlimited events) and Sched Pro for $499 per event ($999/year for unlimited events)

Create Icons Using Iconion

Want to create one of those cool 2D or “flat” graphical icons? Use Iconion. In just minutes, you can choose from dozens of icon fonts and turn them into amazing .PNG icons. Customize the look of your icon with colors, shadows, backgrounds, gradients, strokes and other elements.

Below are some icons I recently created for a blog post I wrote called The Ultimate Guide to Incorporating.

Cost: Free (Mac and PC downloads available)

Place Photos in Photorealistic Formats

If you have ever wanted to see what something looks like on a mock device or even the side of a building, Placeit is an awesome tool. With it, you can upload an image or copy and paste a URL then place it (get it?) in over 500 photorealistic formats—from desktop screens to Apple and Android devices, billboards, stationery, smart watches and more. There are even more than 20 options to place videos.

Placeit is fast, easy and fun to play with and requires no Photoshop or design skills.

Cost: Free download options (small images); premium subscriptions available for hi-res downloads ranging from $12-$299/month; single purchases are also available for $8 or $59 along with discounted “download packs”

Add Interactive Inline Tutorials To Your Site

Make it easier for users to navigate your website with InlineManual.

This tool helps you create simple step-by-step instructions that appear on various screens you designate. These can guide users through a setup process, for example, or explain where to find information within your site.

Cost: Free (1 site with three tutorials) and premium versions starting at $21/month (for three sites and seven tutorials)

Create GIFs from Slideshare

If you are not using Slideshare, you should be! It allows you to upload and share any PowerPoint presentation or PDF.

Now you can turn your Slideshares into animated GIFs with GifDeck. It’s easy to then embed that GIF into an email, blog post or tweet.

Here’s an example from a presentation I did on Big Data and PR. It captures a handful of the slides from the presentation, which makes for a much more compelling graphic vs. a single static image.

Cost: Free

Keep Contacts In Sync With Your Gmail Address Book

Got Gmail? FullContact will help keep all your contacts in sync with your Gmail address book.

Use FullContact to pull in your contacts from LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook address books and then sync them back to your Gmail Contacts. It will also find and merge duplicates. You can take a picture of a business card and upload it to FullContact; they will transcribe it and add the information to your Gmail Contacts.

Cost: Free (up to 5,000 contacts) and premium ($9.99/month or $99.99/year) for 25,000 contacts and 50 business card transcriptions per month.