This career advice will help you make the most of your first entry-level job in the ‘real world.’

Congratulations! You made it through four (or more) years of school and have a brand-new, freshly printed diploma to show for it. But even better than that, you have your first official job offer signed, sealed, and delivered. And it’s a job you’re actually excited to start!

Consider yourself among the lucky. Although the economy — and subsequently, the job market — has improved over the past few years, many recent college graduates still struggle to secure full-time jobs in their field of study.

Don’t head into the ‘real world’ blind — arm yourself with this career advice. It has everything you need to kickstart your professional life.

Prepare for your first day at your new job.

You remember all-too-well how important it was to make the right first impression during each job interview. Similarly, creating a great first impression with your new colleagues is incredibly important and requires some careful preparation on your part. Click on the following link for a list of things to do before your first day at work to ensure your first job will be a success.

Create a plan for your first 90 days on the job.

Employers often consider a new hire’s first 90 days at the company to be an extension of the interview process, and with good reason. Your manager is still feeling you out, and you’re probably doing the same, making sure this hiring decision was the right move for everyone involved.

While some companies provide an orientation program to set their new employees up for success, don’t assume you’ll receive such support. Instead, take matters into your own hands by creating your own 90-day plan. Create a list of things you can do during your first week, month, and 90 days on the job that will set you up for success. Click on the following link to view our suggested 90-day plan for new employees.

Reset your expectations for your entry-level position.

You’re excited to join the workforce and take the first step towards your dream job, and that's a good thing. But make sure you enter this entry-level job with realistic expectations. Click on the following link to learn what you can expect from your first job out of college and how you can make the most of this experience.

Continue to learn — in and out of the office.

The fastest way to lose your edge, both in and out of the workplace, is to stop learning. Sure, after your last semester of finals, presentations, term papers, and group projects, you may be ready to burn your library card. It’s perfectly natural to feel a bit burnt out. However, after you’ve given yourself a break and settled into your new job role and routine, find ways to continue your professional development in and out of the office. For instance, you may want to start scouting for the right mentor or sign up for an online course through sites like Coursera, Lynda.com, edX, or Skillshare. If you’re looking for other cheap ways to supplement your on-the-job training, check out this list of highly-recommended career development books.

Invest in your professional network.

You already landed a job, so why the emphasis on networking? Well, a strong professional network doesn’t just help you find and land an entry-level position. In fact, the most successful professionals are often excellent networkers. Networking will help you build and sharpen your skills, stay on top of industry trends and technologies, find the right mentor, and keep an eye on the job market, should you suddenly find yourself unemployed or desperate to jump ship.

Start building a network of valuable contacts by getting involved in your alma mater’s alumni events, joining relevant LinkedIn groups online, and finding other face-to-face opportunities through relevant professional associations, Meetup groups, and trade shows.

Start a brag book of your work accomplishments.

If you want to get ahead in your career, you have to be comfortable speaking about your job skills and the value you bring to an employer. Prepare for these future conversations by tracking your work accomplishments from the very start of your career in a brag book.

A brag book, also known as a “wins journal,” is an uncomplicated job-search tool that allows you to keep track of all your major contributions and accomplishments over the course of your career. This ongoing record of your professional achievements will not only help you prepare for your annual performance review and future salary negotiation conversations, but it will also make it easier to update your entry-level resume when you’re ready to conduct another job search. Click on the following link to learn more about how to build a professional brag book.

Take this career advice to start your first entry-level position with gusto and confidence. Oh, and enjoy that graduation party!

Click on the following link for more career advice.

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