From Cap & Gown to Career: A Recent Grad’s Career Guide

When I graduated college, I felt like I had just taken a running leap into a black hole. Finishing my degree was thrilling, but I started to suffocate every time I had to ask myself the question, “What’s next?”

We spoke to six experts to help you take the guessing out of your career. With these actionable tips for every step of the process, you can confidently get the job that is uniquely perfect for you.

Landing the Interview: Emily Miethner, Founder + CEO of FindSpark

According to Emily Miethner, there is no one silver bullet way to the right job. Utilizing your network is key, and getting a warm introduction to a company will really help.

“You know more people than you think,” she says. “If you want to be successful with your career and your job hunt, you have to be willing to ask for help. And you have to ask in smart and respectful ways. If you find a job that is perfect, it is always worth asking around to see if someone will help you out, from an introduction to looking over your resume.”

On resumes, Miethner stresses that you should customize your resume for every position, saying, “You’re going to get hired because of your unique experiences and personality…you are in control. If there are things that are not relevant about your background, you do not have to include them. Do include experiences like volunteering, blogs, and side hustles.”

FindSpark interview

Photo courtesy of Renee Bertrand

Nailing the Interview: Alexandra Finkel, Editorial Operations Director at Bustle

“Once you get used to the idea that you want to be comfortable in your skin, it’s going to help you a lot,” says Alexandra Finkel. “Your interview is your chance to show your personality, really be you, and connect with the interviewer.”

Come prepared with questions for the interviewer. Ask about the company culture and what the day-to-day schedule looks like. It’s important to make sure that the job fits what you’re looking for.

After the interview, Finkel says to always follow-up with a thank you e-mail that night or the next morning. Mention something you talked about, or include something extra, like an additional writing sample.  “I love when people send hand-written cards to the office,” she adds. “I remember exactly who they are because they put that effort in.”

Salary Negotiation: Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, Founder of Knowing Your Worth

Ashley Feinstein Gerstley is “obsessed with negotiating.” She says that “if you don’t negotiate, you’re just getting what’s given to you. You’re not asking for what you want.”

Gerstley says to think of negotiation as “just a conversation where you have some interests aligned with somebody, and some that are not aligned, and you’re trying to get what you want. “ Confidence, preparation, and willingness to walk away are important – and sometimes you have to fake it till you make it.

If you’re looking for a promotion or a raise, Gerstley recommends treating it like an “ongoing negotiation.” Continually talk to your boss about what you like and what you don’t like. If the negotiation is ongoing, it puts much less pressure on one conversation.

“It’s a great idea to ask your boss, ‘Where should I go next in the company?’” she says, “They become your champion, help you to grow, and become more of a mentor.”

FindSpark perosnal finance

Photo courtesy of Chris Potter

Personal Finance: Mina Ennin Black, Founder of In the Black Financial Wellness

How do you keep your cash once you have it? Mina Ennin Black emphasizes that “if you’re not paying attention to your money, someone else is.”


Start by making a list of your dreams. Where do you see yourself? Where do you want to be? Set short-term goals (e.g. new car, new apartment) and long-term goals (e.g. retirement). “Determine when you want to reach your goals, and how much it’s going to cost you to reach each of those goals,” advises Black. “The most important part is to list the steps you need to take to complete [each goal].”

Black says that your aim is to set-up a budget so that you can enjoy yourself now. As she prescribes, “65% [of your income] goes to your needs…20% goes towards savings and debts, and 15% goes towards wants.” Out of every paycheck, at least 10% should go into an emergency savings account.

Black adds that it’s vital to learn how to invest. She recommends starting with a Roth IRA at Vanguard, Fidelity, or another brokerage firm.

Personal Branding: Adam Wozney, SMB Community Manager at Wix

Adam Wozney says that personal branding is all about telling your story. He says not to overload your audience, but rather, “focus on that one thing you do well and find a way to get it noticed.”

When building your online identity, Wozney says to “create awareness by building buzz.” Use Hootsuite for social media, Wix Shout Out for email blasts, and blogs for content. Keep everything simple and consistent across the channels.

In telling your story in an exciting way, Wozney suggests turning the Golden Circle on its head: start by answering the question “Why do you do what you do?” then answer, “How do you do what you do?” Finally, explain what it is that you do.

Make Decisions That Are Right For You

All six panelists urge you to be confident and remember your self-worth. This is your career, and you want it make sense for you as the awesome individual that you are.

Do you have any unanswered questions about starting your career? Tell us in the comments.


About the Author

Melissa is a freelance writer and editor in the NYC area. Visit her website at

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