Five Ways New Graduates Can Succeed in Their First Post-College Job

More than 3,000 UT seniors will embark on a new journey after they graduate next week. Many will begin their first post-college jobs, while others will take internships or fellowships or attend graduate school in the fall.

UT’s Center for Career Development aims to reach all undergraduates early in their college careers to help them achieve their goals after graduation. Each year the center works with more than 16,000 students and hosts 650 employers for job fairs, interviews, and networking opportunities.

The center also tracks progress on each graduating class, surveying them at various points after graduation. A survey of 2016 graduates found that 56 percent stayed in Tennessee and 71 percent were living in the Southeast.  Approximately 85 percent were employed full time or part time, in graduate school, or participating in artistic or entrepreneurial endeavors within six months of graduation. The median annual salary for graduates was $47,669, with the highest salary reported as $110,000.  Last year’s top employers were Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, UT Medical Center, Pilot Flying J, International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, Amazon, and 21st Mortgage Corporation.

Stephanie Kit, director of the center, directs a team that coaches students on making the transition.

“Sometimes your first job is not your dream job. Use that time to learn about yourself, including what you like and do not like and where you excel,” Kit said. “Use that to figure out where you want to go next.”

Alternatively, she says that if you already know where you want to go next or what your “dream job” is, use the first job to gain any skills or experiences that might be lacking on your resume.   

Kit offers several additional tips:

Tip 1: Be your best professional self

“Show up early and work late,” Kit says. “Dress the part and communicate professionally in person and through emails.”

She recommends that new graduates be mindful about their social media habits and presence.

“They should check their social media accounts to make sure the accounts are suitable to be seen by employers and be aware of what they post moving forward.”

Tip 2: Demonstrate a great attitude

Kit believes new graduates should complete their work with a positive and enthusiastic attitude.

“Be a team player and treat other employees respectfully whether they hold roles above, below, or equal to you.”

Tip 3: Take initiative and go above and beyond the required job

Kit says new graduates should be proactive and ask others how they can assist them.

“They can also let their manager know when they’re ready to take on additional assignments.”

Tip 4: Ask for feedback and be willing to accept it

She explains that some organizations will provide more formal feedback than others.

“Be sure you ask your supervisor how you can improve your performance, then do it.”

Tip 5: Find at least one mentor you can learn from

“Seek to build relationships with experienced employees from whom you can learn and receive objective feedback,” she says.

She also recommends that new graduates continue to build their network and join professional associations when possible.