College graduate
Male graduate wearing cap and gown standing in campus archway at University of Pennsylvania. H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Commentary

3 Tips for Figuring Out Your Post-College Career

Jun 14, 2017

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 Steve Ellis, head of Innovation Group at Wells Fargo.

The last time I was last asked what advice I would give to college students, I told them to never leave college. But seriously, the world is a different place today compared to when I was in college, in both good and bad ways.

The good? Technology means students can connect with a broader and more diverse group of people. The bad? College is much more expensive. When I went to school, I paid $300 a term.

Seeing as you can’t stay in college forever, here’s what I tell graduating college students:

Travel to expand your horizons

First and foremost, travel—abroad if you can. Once you get a job, you have more responsibilities that need your attention. Even if you can in theory break free from those responsibilities, it becomes a harder decision to make, so plan to travel for six months to a year after college.

This sort of travel isn’t a vacation; it’s about seeing the world—and your place in it—from a different perspective. Traveling around the U.S. is fine, but experiencing foreign cultures is what really pushes your boundaries. When you push out the confines of your comfort zone, you return home to see possibilities that you didn’t notice before.

Treat your teammates well

As a tavern owner in Portland, Ore. during the 1970s, I learned about building a business from the ground up and, more importantly, how to build strong relationships with my colleagues. Connecting with my team outside of work was incredibly important. For example, we held annual events like picnics and holiday parties where people could meet and interact outside of a formal setting. Since I treated my employees like family, my best people never left.

Network for more opportunities

Third, don’t forget to network. With today’s technology, the degrees of separation between you and the person who can land you your dream job are not only fewer, but they are easier to hop between. Now you can network beyond your roommates, professors, friends, and parents, and interact with people at the forefront of innovation—no matter where they live. Don’t be shy to reach out to people for mentorship or just to meet people in your company or field of interest.

I met most of the people I know professionally before the Internet. You don’t necessarily need online networking services like LinkedIn to make connections. That said, I’ve had the opportunity to meet interesting new people through these services that I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise.

When I tell graduating students to stay in college, I’m just kidding. College is a great time, but there’s so much more to achieve once you get out into the working world. Students who follow the advice above are destined to succeed.

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