I Wish I’d Known That (AKA Advice for the Graduating Class – Part I)

We’ve spent a lot of time over our careers sharing advice with college seniors and recent graduates, and both of us have more recently spoken at our respective alma maters — University of Michigan and Ithaca College — to impart tips, tricks and lessons from our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist.

So, as the various schools finish playing “Pomp and Circumstance” and the throngs of young talent begin to take the walk from classes to corporate life, we wanted to share more of our favorite bits of advice to set them on their way.  We got so many great nuggets of wisdom from colleagues, friends and mentors that we’ve broken them into two installments.  Here’s the first part:

What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had known when graduating/entering the workforce?

Anna Brand, Writing and Editing Professional, @thebrandedgirl

If you don’t get a full-time job right out of college, don’t take it personally – many factors that go into selecting a new hire are way beyond your control.


Micah Jesse, “The Georgia Peach, In The Big Apple!”, @MicahJesse

I wish I had known that I would probably forge my own path in life. I did just that — continuing to grow my website, MicahJesse.com, as a full-time blogger — and I can’t even put into words how rewarding it has been. We live in a generation where anyone can really be anything. (Think Bieber; he was discovered on YouTube!) If you have an idea, write it down on paper. Think about how you can make it work, write out the steps, and somehow, some way, some day — make it happen!

Sheila F. Munguia, president, P. Public Relations

As a graduate, people are looking to hire you for your potential, not for where you went to school or what type of degree you have. Go into every interview with enthusiasm! Let people know you are a hard worker, want to learn and that you really want to work for them. Those are the people I want to hire, not someone bragging about his or her GPA.


Beth Thomas Cohen, partner, B’Squared Public Relations @BethThomasCohen

One very important piece of advice I took away from Cathie Black’s book, “Basic Black” is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.  It was the single best advice I had ever been given, and I strongly adhere to it on a daily basis.  It’s best to look that part when coming out of school — no flip-flips, Uggs or anything that puts you in that “junior” category; this holds true for any industry!  And never forget…make a good first impression, dress appropriately for your interview!


Linda Descano, CEO of Women & Co., a program of Citibank, @lindadescano

I wish that I would have known how important it was to network – and knew the art of “small talk.”


Lindsey Pollak, author, “Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World,” @lindseypollak

I wish I had known the importance of just getting started and taking consistent action. I spent way too much time thinking about my career, planning my career, worrying about my career, and not enough time just getting out there and meeting people and applying for positions. You learn so much more by doing anything at all — even if you make mistakes — than by trying to plan the perfect career or job search.


Jayne Wallace, PR, Virgin Mobile/Sprint Pre-Paid

If you haven’t taken business courses in school, go to a one-day or online seminar – you need the basics.


Dan Schawbel, branding expert & author of “Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future”, @danschawbel

I wish I knew how much more weight corporate politics carried over technical skills in the workplace. It’s all about who you know, who they know, who knows you, and how likeable you are. If you’re good at your job, it’s not enough anymore.


Steve Farnsworth, Chief Digital Strategist, Jolt Social Media, @Steveology

Learn and practice how to be an incredible Informational Interviewer. Those skills include asking probing and thoughtful questions, perfect etiquette, and gracious networking aplomb. Then if you use Informational Interviews thoroughly each time you are thinking about a new job, a new industry, or a career change you’ll have an industry/company/executive insight that will give you an unfair advantage over every other job candidate, and get invaluable advice about your career and build an incredible network of knowledgeable and influential people in the process.


Tom Handley, professor, Parsons The New School of Design, @PRprofessor

It’s a simple piece of advice, HANDWRITTEN Thank You notes, to each and every person that interviews you.  No matter how long the interview, make that connection again with the thank you note! If you are a man, use a single note card style, white or ecru, and woman, use a fold over card.  Plain or with you name on them, but NO using one that says “thank you” printed on it. Use this as an opportunity to further brand yourself.  If you don’t currently have proper thank you notes, ask for them as a graduation gift!

Katie Kirby, Senior Public Relations Manager, Beam Global Spirits & Wine

There is no substitute for good old-fashioned manners. A hand-written thank you note — for interviews, referrals or just helpful advice you receive over the phone — is much more meaningful, even a day later, than an email fired off from your smartphone.


Dana Fields Muldrow, public relations senior manager, @farrior

Be patient, be observant and be prepared.  Upon graduation, everyone has such high expectation of what it will be like to enter the workforce.  This is especially true if you choose to pursue a career in corporate America. You expect that you/your job will be viewed as important by your boss/employer, you expect to be heard as well as seen and you want to be compensated for all that you don’t know yet.  When the fact of the matter is you will be doing a lot of the less desirable “grunt” work, you will be asked your opinion but it may not always be heard and your salary may not be where you think it should be. Stay the course! Do the jobs that are asked of you (and then some) well, think ahead of your leaders and be prepared to answer questions thoughtfully and to say something meaningful.  Eventually, everything you wanted out of your career will be in front of you.


Shant Petrossian, Senior Editorial Producer, Piers Morgan Tonight

Be willing to take an assistant position. You may think you are (and actually you will likely be) overqualified, but don’t let your ego get in the way. Show that you are willing to start from anywhere and work your way up.


Ultimately, success comes down to a few simple tips from Alicia Ybarbo, producer, Today Show and co-author of “Today’s Moms”, @AliciaYbarbo

Work hard, stay late, ask questions… and make your mama proud!

What do you wish you had known when you entered the working world?  Share your advice here, on Facebook or Twitter (@bestpublicist).

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