When you graduate college, or finish a college program, your time as a student has only begun. As Harvey Mackay once said “A student of life considers the world a classroom.” You have to constantly learn and educate yourself on a daily basis, not just during a two- or four-year period of your life. These days, people are constantly changing jobs and companies and many jobs are being automated and globalized. In fact, 38% of Millennials currently working are actively looking for a different role and 43% are open to offers, says PwC. The only way to stay employable is to ensure that you’re always reading, communicating, networking and practicing your trade. You need to research what skills will become more important in five years, not just which ones are needed today. I recommend that you read up on your industry, network to meet the right people and improve yourself regularly.
Read up on your industry A college degree, and an advanced degree, is more important than ever before because it jump-starts your career and then allows you to remain relevant to employers. Pew Research reports that Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working fulltime earn more than those who only have a high school diploma. Besides this foundation, you need to be an avid reader of industry-related articles online and offline, including blogs, magazines, books and news websites. For instance, if you’re interested in the technology startup world, you have to read technology publications, and if you’re interested in computer programming, you should review coding tutorials. There are sites catering to any topic, profession or industry.
Network to meet the right people Aside from reading, you need to meet people in your industry because you can get a valuable education from others who are active in it. The people you meet at college, through your current network, your college alumni network, in social networks and at events can help educate you or lead you to important information. When it comes to networking, you need to follow four rules. First, you need to be able to help out others first without asking for any favors. Second, you need to narrow down the type of people you want to network with and invest in them in an authentic way. Third, you need to ensure that you’re reconnecting with your contacts regularly, instead of losing touch. Fourth, you need to create win-win situations where you and the other party can benefit together. By following these rules, you can create relationships that will help educate you and connect you to new opportunities.
Improve yourself regularly At every phase of your career, you should reflect and think about how much you’re getting paid, if you’re happy with your job and identify new opportunities. If you remain stagnant, you’re at risk of losing your job and not being able to reach your full potential. Your self-reflection should include listing all the opportunities for growth. Then write down all the things you don’t like about your job and threats to you losing your job. If you have more things you don’t like, and more threats, it’s time to make a career shift. The best way to know if you’re getting paid enough is to research salaries online and take interviews with other companies to see if their offers are greater than your current salary. You can identify new opportunities by not only asking your network, but by going to several job boards to see what the demand is for your skills in various industries and professions. Taking the time to do this work will force you to become more relevant, to learn and to position yourself for success.
Dan Schawbel is the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, now in an expanded paperback edition.