By Elizabeth Sudit
Each year, about 20,000 students stride across a stage to receive their diploma from Rutgers University. If you were recently among them, you might be wondering what your next steps should be. Luckily, graduation isn’t the end of your Rutgers support: It’s the start of a different part of your journey, this time as one of about 550,000 living alumni.
“I know what it’s like being a new grad and wondering what that next step will be,” says Colin von Liebtag, who made that walk two times (LC’08, SSW’15) and is now associate director of alumni career engagement at Rutgers University Foundation. “I also know the anxiety, stress, and worry that comes with making a career transition. That’s why I want to get the word out that Rutgers University Alumni Association provides all grads—recent or not—with the resources to help take their careers, professions, and lives to the next level and feel empowered on their entire professional journey.”
Here, von Liebtag shares some advice and helpful links to help new grads launch their career and land their first job.
Improve Your Résumé and Online Presence
A good place to start is with your résumé. “Always get your résumé reviewed before posting or sending it out. Most résumés contain typos or could be more tailored to a specific job. You can utilize tools and resources from Rutgers to help you do that,” advises von Liebtag.
As a Rutgers grad, you can access a free Grammarly Premium account to scan your professional documents, and schedule career-advising appointments through Rutgers Handshake, where you’ll also find a wealth of career-related resources.
You may also want to read The New Reality of Résumés for tips on beating the AI bots that may be “reading” your résumé before it gets into human hands.
Start Growing a Strong Network
It’s important to start reaching out and making connections ASAP, even if you’re not yet actively job-seeking. “Networks are relationships, which take time to develop,” says von Liebtag. “You want your network in place already when you need to access it.”
Here are a few ways to get started online:
- Student-Alumni Career Connect: SACC is a social platform comprised of students and alumni who are looking for Rutgers-to-Rutgers networking opportunities. New grads can use SACC to forge connections based on their professional interests.
- LinkedIn: If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now is a good time to make one, add your résumé, and start exploring. There are a number of Rutgers-affiliated LinkedIn groups on the site, and it’s a great way to connect with companies of interest by finding Rutgers alumni who work there.
- Industry-specific sites: It’s important to utilize digital networking resources specific to your field of interest. For instance, GitHub is great for those pursuing computer science careers. If you can’t easily find a networking site dedicated to your profession, reach out to your favorite professors or Rutgers Career Exploration & Success for ideas.
“Adopt the mindset that everyone can potentially be a networking contact,” says von Liebtag. “Even if they don’t work in your field, you don’t know who else they may know or what field they previously were in. Or what career move they’ll make next.”
Take Care of Your Health, Too
Remember: A job interview isn’t one direction; it’s a conversation. You get to decide who’s a good fit for you, not just the other way around. This is a good time to think about your personal values. What matters to you in an employer? What is a nonstarter? “Look for an employer that helps you be your best self holistically,” advises von Liebtag. “Find balance within the kind of work you do, the place you work at, and what you value.”
Also be mindful about adopting and maintaining healthy habits as you shift out of college mode. Schedule annual checkups. Start to eat better and move more. Get enough sleep. The better your physical foundation, the better you’ll weather the new stressors of finding and starting a new job.
Keep Looking for Ways to Learn
Maybe you’ve said goodbye to tests and textbooks, but learning doesn’t end at graduation. Alumni should continue to refine their marketable skills throughout their career, says von Liebtag.
Leadership, public speaking, writing, marketing, and communication are universal skills that most managers appreciate in a prospective employee. A career-advising appointment can help you identify areas for improvement, as well as resources and courses on those subjects.
“When you’re able to round out these broader skill sets within your specific area or domain, that makes you someone who is going to add value to an organization,” says von Liebtag. “As you progress in your career, continuing to build on your Rutgers education will help you stay relevant—and hopefully become a network connection for other new grads at some point.”