It is graduation season, and the anticipation of “what’s next” is in the air. Whether high school, college, trade, or entrepreneurial venture, today I share a few thoughts for those coming of age for important career-related decisions. 

1. No one owns your career road beside you

From this point forward, what you do is yours, not your parents, mentors, peers, or anyone else. Although advice from those experienced is valuable insight, the world is evolving faster than any historian can predict with 100% accuracy. Learn to lean into your natural strengths and train your brain to evaluate where you can add value constantly. Where you can add value and where there is market need lies is the intersection of career opportunity. Don’t confuse your path with the overshadowing of expectations made by others. 

2. Reframe “Social Media” to “Media.” 

How we engage with others has exploded through content ingestion, and creation has changed everything for individuals in job searches. Media is an incredible tool. Media can help you network at scale and specifically target individuals and companies of interest. Build a profile on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, and connect with individuals and companies you would like to target. Like, share, and follow companies and technologies that interest you, and your odds of being “found” should they be seeking an individual like you increase. 

3. What is your Brand?

Think of yourself as the product/service in the market. What do you do extremely well? Who do you know that will be willing to speak on your behalf or introduce you to others? Your resume and LinkedIn profile are representative of your brand. Do they speak to your value to a team or company? Networking is key, and it has never been easier. Platforms like LinkedIn are a virtual cocktail party where you can showcase your capabilities and interests, giving the audience a glimpse of what you can do for them. Let your friends and family know you are interested in opportunities, and welcome all introductions, including those to their professional network. 

4. Practice Deferred Gratification.

The world we live in today has trained us to rely on what is instantaneous; however, a career is not an exercise of instant gratification. To earn the trust and reliance of your employer and teammates, they will need to see you showing up and putting in the hard work over days, weeks, months, and years. Care less about a title or salary; instead, ask yourself what this experience will offer your future value. If you want to stand out, come in early, stay late, care about the business, and put in the work. 

5. Career Journal, and Your Most Important Meeting. 

For anyone who wants to take charge of your professional roadmap, you need the same level of dedication and planning as any other serious endeavor. Get a dedicated place to make notes for yourself regarding your goals, plans, and progress. Set a calendar meeting for you to review your progress quarterly. What goals did I set for myself, and why? Did I reach them? What headwinds/tailwinds contributed to the result? What have I found that is new and interesting and that I would like to explore? Where would I want to see myself in a year, five years, fifteen years? It is interesting and empowering to have a planned review of your career development with yourself.