In thinking about my best advice for students getting ready to graduate, I wanted to make sure my words of wisdom are applicable to millennials. Thankfully, my niece, Morgan, is a recent college graduate and the perfect co-author to assist me. Together, we can see that students today are not so different from the graduates of my era (the late 70’s), and that we all graduate with big dreams and small wallets. We’re happy to share our combined experiences to give our advice to you, the Class of 2016.

Utilize your College’s Career Development Office

Advisors and campus leaders have probably told you to visit the Career Development Office since the day you started classes. They say this because they know that writing a sparkling resume without the glitter is an art that needs help to master. A standout resume and cover letter will open doors so don’t leave your first impression to chance. Make sure your resume is the best that it can be by taking advantage of the services your college may provide, even after you graduate

Remember: There is No “Small” Job

Whether you’re just starting your career or putting that degree to use to find a better one, you’ll likely face a number of entry-level opportunities. Don’t let that get you down; entry-level is a great place to build your skills and make connections to get to the next level:

Cathy: “I remember my first job in college was in the mailroom but by senior year I was selected as a Resident Assistant. My resume reflected consistency and increased responsibilities in my positions – all traits any employer would want on their team.”

Morgan: “It’s important to remember everyone has to start somewhere in their career. I started working in a major grocery store chain every summer during college and obtained an entry-level job with the store after graduation. These experiences led to my present job as the Director of Human Resources of a small, privately owned company. It takes time to be in the ideal position and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.”

Monitor Your Social Media

Potential supervisors will use Facebook or other social media tools to learn about their prospective employees.  This means those “night-out-on-the-town” pictures with friends may influence your interview process, so it’s smart to take proactive steps to prevent that scenario. The easiest option is to update your privacy settings to control who sees what. Otherwise, you should review all of your pictures and videos and delete everything that you do not want potential employers to view (hint: if you have to ask yourself if it’s “bad,” you should probably delete it). It’s okay to let your social media activity reflect your values and interests, but do so with consideration as to how it may affect you personally. And if you haven’t done so already, you should expand your avenues of social media to include professional sites like LinkedIn, too.

Cathy:  “Create a LinkedIn account and begin building your contacts and mentors. Your social media contacts will grow with your professional career and eventually others will be seeking you out for your next job opportunity.”

Morgan: “It’s so important to remember that once a picture is on the internet, it’s never gone. People can save it, view it, or send a copy to anyone. On the other hand, social media can be a huge benefit; if you maintain professionalism and utilize websites such as LinkedIn, it can be great for getting noticed by recruiters and headhunters.”

Stay Positive

Olympic athletes were not born the best; it takes a lot of time and dedication to reach lofty goals, and the same is true for your career. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t doing exactly what you want in your first job after graduation. Successful people become successful through years of experience. Most importantly, realize that each opportunity you take will open another door and give you a unique perspective for your future. The most important lesson you can learn is that life is a journey and everything you do professionally will help define who you will be tomorrow. .

Cathy: “I must have sent out 100 resumes when I graduated college looking for a Social Studies teaching position. To make ends meet, I ended up taking a part-time job in a college financial aid office; today, I am celebrating my 33rd year in financial aid with no regrets.”

Morgan: “I once took a job just because it paid more than my present job and I thought that it would make me happier – it didn’t. I learned that, for me, the most important thing is that you do what you love. And success is not always defined by income.”

There’s more good advice from Cathy and Morgan in next week’s post! Check out  part two of this article here.


Cathleen Patella is the Director of Financial Aid at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY.

Morgan Festa is the Director of Human Resources at Johnston Paper Company, also in Auburn, NY. She is a 2010 graduate of LeMoyne College with a BA in Business Administration, and a 2015 graduate of Nazareth College with an MS in Human Resources.