Per Ardua Ad Astra: Jumpstarting Your Career in Your Early Twenties

December 2nd, 2016

Hi, my name is Brian. I’m a recent college graduate all the way from Tennessee and one of the digital marketing interns here at Coalmarch Productions. For the past 3 months, I have been learning from and assisting members of the inbound marketing team. My tasks have included link building, conducting local citation reviews, pulling keyword rankings, writing blog content, composing monthly social media calendars, auditing website content, and creating local target pages.

This time one year ago, I was finishing the first half of my final year in college. At the time, I was maxing out my course hours each semester and organizing every group project I could get my hands on. In my free time, I was creating video editing projects, writing opinion-based blog pieces, and editing every marketing report I had ever written. All of these materials would soon become content for my resume website, which I would learn to develop and publish within the confines of my final college spring break. All of this was done in the hopes that upon my exit from college into the real world, I would land not just a job, but a career. A year later, I now live 11 hours away from my former home of Tennessee and I’ve found myself completing a digital marketing internship with Coalmarch Productions, while working for one of the world’s largest video game publishers. So how did I get myself from the start of my senior year to get where I am now? I’ll break it down into five points and then expand upon each.

Fixate on where you want to be five years from now

I’ve stolen this from every career book I’ve ever read because it’s pertinent. It is the first real step you need to take in order to accomplish everything else that’s listed. It’s easier said than done and it’s sure to take an enormous amount of soul searching, but there’s an incredible amount of comfort that comes with knowing what direction you’re taking your life. This doesn’t have to be a solo effort. In fact, having other people to bounce your thoughts off of and offer an opinion separate from your own will only help to refine your decision.

Identify what you need to do to get there

After you’ve defined where you want to be, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get there. What work experience do you need? How do you get that work experience? Are you in the right place for it? What can you do right now to prepare yourself? These are only a few of the questions you should be asking yourself. When you do start looking for work experience, you are bound to run into a roadblock. The catch-22 for any job-seeking college graduate. These “entry” level positions require years of experience on top of your degree. Don’t ever let these stipulations deter you from applying. During the job hunt, you need to have absolute confidence in yourself and your knowledge. If you do, this confidence will manifest itself in your writing, body language, and overall demeanor as you apply and interview with potential employers.

Develop your “wow factor”

In a perfect world, your degree would be all you needed to show an employer that you have everything it takes to work for them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Portfolios are a great start to make yourself stand out amongst the endless sea of job candidates. However, I would recommend you take it one step further. For me, I played to the strengths of my technical expertise. I used my hobby of video editing to develop demo marketing presentations and social media promotions on top of developing my own website with my background in computer programming. If you feel that you don’t have skills you can play off of, there’s no better time to start developing them than now!

Identify where the key influencers of your industry are

Knowledge is power and there’s no better way to gain knowledge of your industry than listening to its key influencers. That’s why it’s important to know where they communicate with their community. Do they post onto a public Facebook page? Do they tweet like crazy? Do they have a blog they regularly update? Regardless of the platform, you can learn so much from the experiences they share and draw inspiration from their stories. Additionally, they are an invaluable resource to find out about open industry events where you can learn more from and network with other industry professionals. This leads into my next and final point.

Network with key influencers and professionals

Ideally, you want to network with these people in person at events set up with networking in mind. You will want to develop your elevator pitch and bring a nice folder containing a few copies of your resume. It’s relatively unlikely you’ll need your resume, but it never hurts to be prepared. The goal of networking is not to get a job, but to connect with individuals and establish a line of communication within your industry in which to seek advice and develop a professional relationship. This can be by getting their phone number, email address, or business card. If you find yourself unable to attend networking events, never underestimate the power of networking via social media. LinkedIn was specifically made to establish and build a network of business connections and is the reason I found out and applied for the digital marketing internship here at Coalmarch. Additionally, Twitter’s open platform can allow you to establish communication and develop a rapport with professionals, you may have otherwise never met, by engaging with their content.

Now, I have yet to establish a career and I probably have a ways to go before I do. However, using the points I’ve described above, I’m a whole lot closer to my goal than I ever thought I would be a year ago. Within that time, I have moved 750 miles to position myself for new opportunities, attended a plethora of professional events to establish connections within my chosen industry, recently started a job that is giving me industry experience, and gained newfound, invaluable knowledge through my internship here at Coalmarch Productions. Perhaps it’s naive to believe that the hard part is over, but with a lot of my uncertainties alleviated, it’s slowly starting to seem like I’ve transitioned from a rough start into the freedom to aim for the stars!

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