Choosing the next step in your career can be stressful, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and exponential possibilities if you approach the search in the right way. 

When I began my job search after college, I had no idea what I wanted to do or how to be competitive in the job market. In fact, I became so overwhelmed by the process that I decided I didn’t want a “real” job and sold all of my things to move into a monastery as a groundskeeper. Once I had sufficiently questioned the meaning of life, I became a waitress, which gave me an abundant source of motivation to find an internship. 

Over the span of several years in low-paying jobs and internships, I learned that investing in the ones that provided me with the most mentorship and skill-building opportunities were the ones that would give me the greatest “return on my investment.” For example, my first internship was in health education, and though I easily qualified for food stamps, I learned how to be a professional communicator. Today, I speak with CEOs across the nation and perform trainings at large events. Each subsequent job or internship with these kinds of opportunities ultimately provided me with the diverse set of skills and mentors I have in my life today. 

That said, these internships and jobs were rarely glamorous and often took a great deal of hard work to obtain. Now that I am in a position of hiring, I recognize many critical tips that would have made this easier along the way. I have outlined a few of them below:

First, understand that your mindset is key. You are in control of your future and your career. Yes, you may have to perform data entry or other duties you don’t enjoy, but ultimately you have to decide whether or not you will take advantage of learning from those around you and proving your work ethic to your superiors. If you choose to be the kind of person who is willing to work hard and invest in your future, you will reap the rewards. If you choose to be a victim to your circumstances, you will remain a victim. 

Secondly, build a professional resume - in print and online. This is an obvious point, but it cannot be overstated because it is the first interaction your potential employer will have with you. There are many tips to building a quality resume and LinkedIn profile that you can find online, but the most important points are to ensure that the appearance is clean and that there are zero typos or grammatical errors.

Lastly, understand that, intentionally or not, you are building your personal brand. Everything you post online is subject to being observed and judged by a potential employer. Hiring managers will look at your LinkedIn profile as a second resume, but they will Google your name and search other social media sites to find out what kind of person you are. You can either be in fear of this or use it to your advantage by posting professional, thought-provoking content, engaging in relevant conversation to your career, or (at a minimum) avoiding drunk photos on Facebook.

While there are many more strategies for making the most of your search and experience, keep in mind that the harder you work - on the job or in the search - the more you will gain in return.

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Kristin Messerli is the Founder and Managing Director of Cultural Outreach Solutions, specializing in helping companies better connect with consumers and employees across cultures and generational differences. Kristin has a background in social work, mortgage and real estate, and international social enterprise. She speaks at national conferences and writes for numerous publications in the mortgage industry, consulting on the topic of millennial and multicultural homeownership. Kristin is passionate about helping the next generation become successful in their careers through gaining a greater connection with the culture of their customers and partners.

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