Your Undergrad To-Do List Before You Start Your Career

By November 9, 2017 March 25th, 2024 Self Management Tips

Last Updated on March 25, 2024 by Dave Schoenbeck

As college graduation approaches, you’re likely getting excited. Finally, after years of waiting and wanting to be a “grown-up,” you will enter the “real world” with no one to depend on but yourself.

Three college students study together, depicting your undergrad To-Do list before you start your career

Did I say “excited”? I meant “scared.”

While this time of your life is truly exciting, it can also be downright terrifying. Starting your life as an adult holds a lot of uncertainty. Your work will become a big part of your life, and chances are, you won’t find your dream job on the first try.

But don’t worry – you made it this far and have great things ahead! As you prepare to start your career, here are a few things to think about and work on. Your future self will thank you.

Learn time and self-management skills before you report to work.  

By the time you start your career, you will have developed basic skills. However, as your job becomes more complex and you’re asked to accept more significant challenges, your world will become more complex, and your capacity will be compressed.

This is one of the biggest challenges you will face when you start your career. The sad news is that you’ll rarely ever catch up. The important thing is to create a system that works for you and will help you stay organized. For help, read Michael Linenberger’s The One Minute To Do List. Here’s the biggest takeaway: Tasks must be on your calendar or not happen.

Tony Robbins said it perfectly: “If you talk about it, it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. If you schedule it, it’s real.”

Hone your goal-setting skills.   

Knowing how to set realistic and attainable goals is vital to your future success. As you start your career, you need to be able to do more than just set goals and arbitrarily work toward them—you must focus on what’s most important to you, create a tangible way to track your progress and take specific actions.

Read The 4 Disciplines of Execution and learn about WIGs and lead and lag measurements (KPIs). I highly recommend using a tool like Trello to keep you focused on tasks that support your goals.

Be – do – have.

This idea is worthy of your consideration before you start. In order to have what you want as you start your career, you may have to BE a different person and DO different things.

As you contemplate these things, it’s also important to draw lines. What things will you not do to preserve your integrity? Who do you refuse to become to please others? These questions are equally as important as the others.

Write out your beliefs and values.  

I have interviewed hundreds of job applicants and even spent a year interviewing college seniors for my employer. Those interviews taught me much about what makes the best candidates stand out.

As you start your career, the difference between you and the people sitting around you is how well you can communicate why you are unique. What makes the difference is how you describe who you are.

Sure, an interviewer will evaluate your job skills for the open position. But more importantly, they will also evaluate your personality for how it will fit into the company’s culture.  

The best way for interviewers to do this chemistry check is to probe you about your values and beliefs. So, ask yourself: What is your unique value proposition?

Be aware of your “identity iceberg.”

Think of yourself as an iceberg: Your actions and words are above the waterline, and your beliefs, experiences, and values are below it.  

Before you start your career, write out your values and beliefs and then check over your list with a friend who knows you well and will give you honest feedback.

Develop a marketing plan for yourself.  

When you apply and interview for a job, essentially, you’re selling yourself and your skills. You’re explaining to an employer why you’re the best candidate out of their lineup. In essence, you’re marking yourself in the same way a business markets itself.

Businesses write marketing plans, so doesn’t it make sense that you would do the same for yourself and your job search? Here are some things to consider:

  • Who is your specific target market? Who isn’t?
  • What fears might the hiring manager have about hiring you, and how can you overcome that fear?
  • What tools will you use to generate interest?
  • What are you good at?
  • What is your unique selling proposition?
  • What do you stand for? What are your beliefs and values?
  • What is your “why” statement?

Practice your stand-up skills.

I don’t mean you have to be a comedian, but you do need to be aware of how well you communicate and where you can improve your overall skills.  This is much more important than you realize.

The marketplace rewards leaders who can influence their employees and customers.

Master written communication.

Written communication skills are critical. Written, concise, error-free reports, emails, and notes are essential. Whether you like it or not, you’ll be judged on how well you can express yourself in writing. Work on your skills before you start your career.

Harness the power of social media.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for job seekers these days. No matter where you are in your job hunt or starting your career, it would be best to have an active LinkedIn profile. The more effort you put into your LinkedIn presence, the better your potential return.

It’s also wise to clean up your Facebook page or to reset your privacy controls. All recruiters and hiring managers will search the internet for your name and look at your profiles. Will you be proud or embarrassed by what they see? Ensure your profile depicts you in the light you want to be shown in.

Find your best way to burn off stress.

Every job has challenges, and there will be times when you feel like your head will explode! This is when it’s time to step back and do something else.

Find something you enjoy that can help you de-stress. Go for a run, have coffee with a friend, cook a delicious meal, or play your musical instrument. Whatever it is, focus on what you love rather than what you’ve been stressing about. Finding a de-stressing outlet will be paramount to your career success.

Relocate to the biggest city you can stand. 

Now is the time to be adventurous while you are young. It will also help if you’re willing to relocate in the future. Those willing to move get bigger jobs, more opportunities, and enormous salaries. 

The cost of living will increase in a bigger city, but the potential for personal growth and wealth will significantly offset the costs.

Work on your personal “why” statement.  

To completely understand the concept, read Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In short, the idea is this: The marketplace understands what you do and how you do it, but what intrigues and attracts them is why you do it.

Look for an employer that has a great culture.

Research the culture of your potential employer and ask questions from employees. What is the company like vs. the corporate written cultural statement (if you can find one)? If it feels weird, don’t accept the job.

If you get hired and find out that the culture is dysfunctional, be an agent of change and consider starting another job search. Nothing dictates how long you stay, and you owe that company nothing. Do what is best for you, and if you do leave, leave things better than the way you found them.

Despite your nerves, this is an exciting time in life. Make the most of it! Don’t be afraid to question things and challenge yourself. With some thought and intention, you can start your career on the right foot.

Need some help making a plan for your career path? Sign up to receive my weekly blog articles in your inbox and get closer to finding your right trajectory.

Coach Dave

Dave Schoenbeck
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