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 Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick.
The world is in the midst of a tremendous amount of change: in governments, both in the U.S. and around the world; in how people communicate; in how businesses operate; and in how we get our news and stay informed. For college graduates entering the workforce, it’s important to recognize this sea change to truly be prepared for—and be successful in—today’s business environment.
At this critical moment, young professionals have an opportunity to help their companies and organizations find their perspectives, express their values, and satisfy their stakeholders. Here are three tips that I offer up to new employees as they start careers in this environment:
Drive the recruitment process
Sometimes people are reluctant during their job search to proactively make direct contact with hiring managers and other senior executives. Do your homework and be respectful, but don’t be afraid to reach out. It’s your life and your future. Business leaders are often dealing with complex challenges and don’t always have the time to actively recruit new workers. You have to be your own recruiter.
Leverage your unique perspective
Particularly in creative fields, most employers are just as interested in who you are as what you can do. Creativity stems from the unique aspects of your character and background. That’s extremely valuable, especially when companies are looking for a diversity of perspectives.
Did you backpack across Europe in the summer of your junior year? Are you multilingual? Do you have a passion for trapeze? When I was doing my first post-college interviews, I was able to tell some pretty interesting stories about my experiences as a New York City doorman and how that perspective helped inform my path forward.
Everything you do, write, and say tells a story about who you are—both as an employee and a person. Be thoughtful and careful about how you present yourself.
Find an inspiring company
Wherever you end up, seek out people who inspire you. They’ll be able to tell you a lot about that company’s culture. Fortunately, organizations are spending more time and energy today communicating their values to employees, so you should be able to tell pretty quickly if the organization has a collaborative culture. Look for how you can add your own unique skills and qualities to the company’s culture—after all, you are going to spend a lot of time there.
Use your knowledge and skills to contribute to an initiative at your company or outside of the office that helps make the world a better place. You could help out with mentoring or volunteer your time at a nonprofit charity organization. There are many worthy causes that desperately need more human resources. You may find that your company wants to dedicate its resources to that project as well.
Businesses in every industry are looking for bright young minds to bring new energy to solving the big problems of the day. If you show a desire to make a difference, these companies will take notice.