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Professional Growth Advice (From a Special Guest!)

Professional growth topics are something I have been wanting to make more prevalent on this blog for a while now. Career fair season is here for many of you college gals, and post-grads around my age are either job hunting or just starting a new job like I am, so what better time to chat about all things career-focused? 

Today I am very excited to hand over this platform to Gaby, the founder of Adding Value, who has many professional experiences and advice to share with all of you!

Gaby is talking today about her best advice for current college students, or really anyone applying for an internship or entry-level job that wants to succeed and stand out from day one. I want to let her introduce herself and Adding Value, but I will just say that I personally agree with all of her points, and at the bottom of this post I am sharing my own things I did to get the job I have now. 

Without further adieu, here is Gaby!

My name is Gaby and I am the founder of Adding Value (@addingvalue_). Adding Value is a platform designed to help young professionals and recent graduates transition from the classroom to the workplace. What it takes to succeed in school is so different from what it takes to succeed in the workplace and I’m here to show you the ropes!

I was in your shoes, learning to navigate corporate waters, not too long ago. Through direct exposure to the recruiting process, and my own personal experiences of what you need to know inside the office, I’ve put together a few things you can do right now, in college, to prepare yourself for success on day one of your new job:

Relevant Experience: How frustrating is it when you’re applying for jobs and even the entry level positions require years of experience! Well here’s a way to manage that. It’s true, companies and hiring managers like to see relevant experience on a resume. However, as a student who’s not yet in the workforce that can feel hard to come by. In order to satisfy this need, you should do what you can in school to get industry related experience. You don’t need to work at the local bank as a teller if you want to go into finance, but if you’re interested in working at a company that deals with the stock market, maybe you join a campus investment club. If you want to work as a designer, maybe you work on the costume design team for the musical theater department. 

Build a Network // When it comes time to get that summer internship or job, having a strong, diverse network on which you can call will be the most powerful tool you can leverage. College alumni connections are a great place to start. Everyone loves talking about themselves so reaching out to a college alumni to ask about their current work experience is a perfect place to start. Build a network of people you speak to regularly (~4 times a year) so that you have some ‘insider connections’ when it comes time to find that job. 

Practice Out Loud // This one is purposefully vague because it applies to so many different things. Interviews, presentations, phone calls, career fairs, meetings - the list goes on. Any form of public speaking is anxiety inducing. Unfortunately, for the majority of people who don’t like public speaking - it doesn’t go away after college. Practicing out loud is one of the best ways to improve your performance and reduce anxiety. 

Learn Excel // Don’t roll your eyes! I promise it’s not that bad :) Excel can feel scary, but when you break it down, it’s extremely manageable. With a basic understanding of the tool’s capabilities you’ll be blown away with how much you can accomplish. Even if your job doesn’t require you to use Excel, having an understanding of the tool can immediately make you extremely efficient at your job and an asset to your team. 

As an added bonus, having excel proficiency to your resume can be a differentiator when you are applying to a job that typically wouldn’t require it!

A few of my favorite formulas:
SUMIF: Sum a certain value based on specified criteria
VLOOKUP: Combine information from two files using a common unique identifier
INDEX: Retrieve a specific cell based on a defined row and column number

Every Assignment is an Opportunity // When you first start working, even the smallest, seemingly insignificant assignments are an opportunity. If you can, go above and beyond. When you first start you are constantly proving yourself, you are earning the trust of those around you, and each assignment you get is an opportunity to do that. No matter how small, make sure you go that extra mile to impress. It will go a long way to earning your coworkers’ trust. 

Take a stab at these 5 things when you’re just starting out and you’ll be way ahead of the pack right out of the gate!

It's Fran again!

I really can’t agree more with Gaby on many of these points. Let’s start with networking: I think something important to remember is that not having a network doesn’t mean you can’t get a job, but having a larger network will definitely help you. For example, the company I work for now, I just applied on their website knowing no one, got an interview, and now I have the job. I am so lucky that that happened, because a lot of people in my start class really networked for it. On the other hand, for my internship last summer, I was constantly networking with people at the company to get it. I don’t think I would have gotten it without the people who helped me! So, it goes both ways… don’t sell yourself short if you don’t have a network, but having one will only help you!

When it comes to being on the job, networking is still just as important. It is definitely the number one thing that has been emphasized to us throughout our training. 

Moving on, Excel is a huge skill. It’s really amazing how few people are fluent in Excel, or at least comfortable in it. As a part of my business school requirements, we had to pass an Excel Competency course, and I can’t tell you how many interviewers brought up “oh, I see you’re comfortable with Excel?” Like, probably all of them… and that’s in a variety of industries. 

Practicing out loud is something that I personally want to work on. Fun fact: I am a terrible public speaker. Even just raising my hand to ask a question in college turned my face bright red. Now that I’m working, speaking during a meeting also turns my face bright red… it’s ridiculous and something I need to work on! I definitely think prepping for an interview out loud with a friend or practicing a presentation out loud can go a long way to calm nerves.

If you want my best interview tips, check out this blog post here!

Finally, I saved relevant experience + treating everything as an opportunity both for last, because I think these are really important… They are game-changers for your career. Both have a lot to do with how seriously you take your career growth, in my opinion. If you are serious about a career in retail, for example, you should be seeking out the retail club on campus, maybe applying for a job at a local boutique, and reading up on industry trends. When you get your internship in retail, you should work hard every day to learn as much as you can. Even if you can’t get a job or internship in the field of your dreams, you can probably find a club on campus, as Gaby mentioned, or tweak your experience to fit the future jobs you’re applying for. For example, I work for a technology company, and I used my blog as an example of tech experience because I know about User Experience and website layout from having my own. No, I can’t code, but I do have other valuable skills! Furthering this point, treating every task as an opportunity is a great mindset to have because no doubt your first few tasks at a new entry-level job or internship won’t be the most exciting. But, everyone has to start somewhere, and truly everything can teach you a lesson in one way or another!


Do you have any special tips or advice that have helped you in your professional growth? I’m looking forward to writing and sharing more content focused on career growth and I would love to hear if you have any suggestions or anything in particular you would like to see!


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