The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What advice do you have for college graduates entering the workforce?” is written by Perry Yeatman, founder of Your Career, Your Terms, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners, and author of Get Ahead by Going Abroad.
Congratulations, you’ve graduated from college. Now what? The most important thing for you to do right now is launch powerfully into your career. As a recent graduate, growth is your goal—so you need to go for the biggest, boldest job you can get. Depending on your skills and interests, there are at least three ways to go about that:
Few environments offer you more work diversity than consulting firms and agencies do. You are constantly being pulled onto new projects with new teams and new clients in new industries. The pace is fast. The work is long and often hard. But, especially in recent years, these types of firms have become excellent at attracting, retaining, and promoting talent. So if you want to learn how to analyze a problem, play on a team, and write a killer presentation, few places offer a better training ground.
Blue chip brands
Well-known organizations are usually bigger and slower than consulting agencies are. You won’t be allowed to take as many risks or make as many mistakes. But getting hired in nearly any capacity by a “blue chip” establishment will add credibility to your resume. For those looking for slightly less excitement and slightly more guidance, established and well-respected companies and nonprofit organizations can be great options.
Finally, there are startups or small, fast-growing organizations. They may succeed or they may fail. They will almost certainly be a bit chaotic—don’t even bother asking for the HR policies manual when you arrive. But getting in on the ground floor will give you hands-on experience and responsibilities way beyond your years. Your ability to think on your feet, figure things out for yourself, and determine what you are really good at will exponentially increase. Of course the pay may not be great, but down the road the experience can prove priceless.
No matter what you do later in your career, launching well will pay big dividends. I went from being a 25-year-old account executive in a small agency to a global corporate vice president in just 10 years. I accomplished this by taking assignments no one else could or would: I moved to Singapore to do tourism marketing; then to Moscow three years later to help run public education efforts related to Russia’s privatization; and finally to London to become a leading corporate affairs counselor for Unilever.
By taking these leaps of faith and working hard, I built a portfolio of experiences in one decade that most people don’t in a lifetime. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t stress-free. But there were days when I literally jumped for joy and glowed with pride. And in truth, there were more of the latter. Then, at 36, I converted this amazing launch period into being the spouse and mother I wanted to be, while still doing meaningful global work with smart people.
I love where I am today; it never would’ve happened if I hadn’t gone big early on.