If you are one of the proud graduates of the Class of 2012 that recently crossed over from being a mere “student” to now a “job seeker” hungry to enter the workforce and begin your adult career, then congratulations!  You likely exhausted great amounts of time, effort, money, and stress to earn your diploma, and you are probably wondering “Now what?”  Whether you already have been offered a position for a new job or you are still looking, it is important that you use the first few months after graduation to cast yourself in a professional light and truly launch your career.  While you craft your master plan for making the past four years of schooling (and the next 10 or 20 years of student loan payments) worth it, here are a few of our tips to help you on your way as a recent grad entering the workforce!

Network like your job depends on it (because it does).
If you’ve ever heard someone say “It’s not about what you know, but rather who you know,” then that person was right (for the most part).  Although having the knowledge and skills to excel in a position is extremely important, so is the ability to know the right people in order to get into that seat in the first place.  As a person entering the game as a newly graduated jobseeker, the time to start building your network was yesterday.  It is extremely important that you are getting in front of as many industry professionals and making as many connections as possible, not only in the hopes of getting a door opened for you, but also so that you can draw knowledge from those who have been doing what you want to do (or what you THINK you want to do) for several years.  Even if you have already secured a job, it is important to always continue building your network, both with mentors inside and outside your organization, so that you can continue to grow and learn, and will have support should you ever choose to change careers or positions.

Take advantage of internships or apprenticeships.
One common misconception grads sometimes have is that once they walk across the stage, a shiny new position in their desired field will be automatically waiting for them on the other side.  Aside from a lucky few, this is not reality. You may likely have to take a position not exactly in line with your dream job, or an internship that doesn’t pay exactly what you’d like (or at all for that matter), in order to establish yourself in the beginning.  Always remember that everything you do is a learning experience, and this is often times a necessary step in order to get your foot in the door in a desired company or industry.  If you take a position to get within a company in hopes of moving up or to a different department, make sure to take advantage of networking within the organization and showcasing your skills.  If you take an internship or apprenticeship, make sure you are soaking up as much information about the craft as possible so that you will know if it is what you truly want to do, and so that you can start building the necessary skills to excel at it.

If you want to be taken as a serious professional, act like one!
It can be an uphill battle for young professionals to excel in the workforce, simply because it can be hard to be taken seriously.    What you might lack in years of experience you need to make up for in professionalism.  With individuals already making assumptions about your experience and abilities from the first second they start scrutinizing your age, it requires an even greater effort to overturn those assumptions.  Yesterday you were a student, but today you are a grown up.  Make sure that when your social media profiles fall in line with the image you want to portray.  Don’t treat a work happy hour like last month’s kegger.   Turning an assignment in late might have flown with your professor, but it won’t with your boss.  Come to meetings prepared, and constantly strive to expand your knowledge.  Make sure to dress and act the part of a professional if you want to excel in your career like one.

Remember that the learning starts now.
Even though you just spent four years and a pretty penny learning, the true learning starts the day AFTER you graduate.  You might be coming fresh off of four years of marketing classes, but none of that replaces real world experience.  One common mistake that new graduates have is entering the workplace thinking “everything they needed to know, they learned in Business 101.”  Nothing is going to aggravate your coworkers and superiors more than a person with no practical experience coming into the office thinking they know everything from their coursework and are unwilling to listen.  There are some insights that your more recent journey through college have afforded you that your older coworkers might not be privy to, such as a strong grasp on leveraging social media, or utilizing certain technologies.  Take the opportunity to enlighten your team and help them grow on such areas, but remember that by and large, their experience trumps any final you aced, so it is time to grab a pen and paper and take notes.

For a recent grad entering the workforce, it can be an intimidating experience.  Just make sure you present yourself as a professional, poised individual eager to meet and grow from other industry professionals, and you are sure to start your career off on the right foot!