Graduates: Kick-Start Your Career in 3 Easy Steps

A new graduate must steel themselves for the inert job market.

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Today, new graduates must steel themselves to face the real world. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, a whopping 53 percent of recent college grads are jobless or underemployed.

If you're a new grad and need a job or want to upgrade from your position at the local coffee shop, here are three ways to kick-start your career:

1. Decide what you want. As a young careerist, you probably have a lot of interests. And that can leave you feeling paralyzed, undecided, and aimless. If you're multi-passionate, pick one field to focus your attention on, at least for now. It doesn't actually matter what you choose; the point is simply to get yourself into the marketplace. Remember, you can and will change your career six to seven times before you're 30. You don't need to figure out your dream job, you just need to start getting some experience and a paycheck.

Take action: Put all your interests in a hat and make a blind choice. Not only is this a fun, spontaneous way to decide your first career, but it reminds you that the point is simply to begin.

2. Schedule coffee. Once you've decided on a singular career goal, make a list of people in that field and write each an email. Offer to schedule a coffee date. Find events in the field you're interested in if you don't know anyone. Use sites like Meetup.com or seek out your local young professional organization to find relevant events to attend. It's hard to network behind a computer; you need to go out, be seen and let people know you exist. And don't be afraid to let people know you're looking for a job in their field.

Take action: Lots of people know they should take this step, but never actually meet anyone face-to-face. Set a goal to schedule and attend at least one coffee date or networking event per week.

3. Put together a list of your transferable skills. A big mistake recent grads make is to assume their retail experience is meaningless. You need to get clear that it's not the experience you have, but how you position that experience that matters. For instance, if you deal with people as part of your job at the coffee shop, detail your excellent communication, management, and interpersonal skills. That kind of experience will help you excel in every career for which you could apply.

Take action: Make a list of three transferable skills for each position or internship you've held. Rewrite your resume using these bullet points, and expand on each in your cover letter.

By getting clear on where to focus your energy, meeting individuals in the field you're interested in, and learning how to appropriately show off your experience, you'll find your footing as a young professional in no time.

Rebecca Thorman's goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. Her blog Kontrary offers career, business, and life advice that works. She writes from Washington, D.C.

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