The Gradual Graduate: Successful Careers Happen Slowly

By Braden Becker June 28, 2012

College grads: chances are, you won't get your dream job for a while.

For some it may go without saying, but still tons of graduates come out so cocked and loaded they forget that a career is a process. There's a reason it’s called a "dream" job.

But blind ambition isn't doomed to cleaning toilets; there's a way to climb the ladder, and a little networking can accelerate the journey.

Take a ridiculous one: Doctors. Those who exit school into one of the least diverse job landscapes in the world actually follow the same procedure (pun intended) for a dream job everyone else does. New doctors can go a decade before landing a residency or practice of their own. Future chiefs of surgery may spend months observing operations and handing others tools before touching a patient themselves, and lead dentists probably scraped away plaque for years before performing their first root canal.  

Same holds true for those without the stethoscope. Consider a few more.

Engineers | In a program that constantly thrills you with images of people building jet engines, drafting space shuttle parts and putting the finishing touches on a brand new automobile, it's tempting to reach for the top shelf when sending out your resume. But those on the cutting edge aren't the ones who sharpened it.

Impatience shouldn't get in the way of settling for that administrative position at General Electric, volunteering a little at NASA, or even finding some international program in Korea learning about Hyundai. Just because you're math buffs doesn't mean you can't be creative.

Chemists/Biologists | Here’s one with a little more real estate than you think. Life sciences is one of the most complex professional disciplines out there, especially with today’s advancements in technology. Not only is it unrealistic to be discovering new species fresh out of school; it’s nearly impossible.

So don’t try to be Craig Venter your first summer as a non-student. Spend a season working at a science museum, work on the field with a local program or assist in a lab. Odds are your biggest opportunity will come from something you did while buried in a Petri dish four hours a day.

Journalism | Probably the most graduated market of them all. Instead of applying to NBC right away, see what your local paper has available. Don’t like print journalism? Do it anyway. Every facet of communication a person tries will have an inherent relationship with the ones he or she isn’t interested in. Have no standards, or an immediate endgame. News is never finished, so neither are you.

You get the idea.

Every industry has its own system of success. But the one common denominator is how each can see a boost in personal networking. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or some other social scene, your best chance for all the grunt work to open another door is using it to create a brand. Like writing? Build that byline (I’m doing it right now). 

Risk being mediocre for a while. Design a reputation. Whether you’re in medicine, engines, organisms, media or something else altogether, associate your work with your name and the rest will come in time.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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