Welcome to the Real World: Marketing yourself for success

Congratulations graduates of 2014! You probably thought you’d never finish school, right? But now that you’ve processed to “Pomp and Circumstance,” heard the names of your peers being called out, moved your tassel from right to left to signify a new chapter of your life, thrown your cap in the air, and now have a diploma in your hand, what are you going to do? 

I graduated high school in 2012 and went through a gamut of feelings. Finally, I am free. I can do what I want to, when I want to. I will go to college and figure out what I want to do with my life. Despite feeling quite optimistic about the future, deep down I was a bit nervous. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was just happy to be out of high school. 

Now it was up to me to decide what to do. This is when I realized that I hadn’t learned much about the real world. Where were courses on how to write a decent resume, how to get a job, how to be successful? I had gone to public school for 11 years and felt like I hadn’t learned anything useful to help me in the “real world.” But, that almost didn’t matter because I was going to go to college, get a degree, and I could worry about the success part later. I already knew how to be successful in college because it was school. In my mind it wasn’t much different from high school, just a new location and more freedom.  

My opinions and ideas about what success was really changed after I completed my first year of college. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and had no major goals, so I took a year off. It was a year off of school, not a year off of learning. In fact, I believe I have learned more in the past year about the “real world” and how to be successful than I would have by attending college for another year. I could write an extensive list of ways to help you be successful, but I will focus on one that will make you stand out above the rest. 

Networking and relationships

In every job, at some point you will have to deal with people. When you apply for a job, it’s a person at the other end who reads the applications. It is the people who are higher up who will promote you. It is essential to learn how to communicate well with everyone at all different levels. 

  • Be honest. Don’t try to pretend you have done something you haven’t. Be yourself. 
  • Use appropriate language. These people aren’t your friends, so you shouldn’t talk to them as if they are. You can be friendly though.
  • Ask about how they are doing. This prevents the whole conversation from being about you. It also shows that you care.
  • Smile, make eye contact, and be aware of your body language. This can help you seem more sincere and confident. 

The initial conversation you have with someone is when you can make a strong impact. What you say depends on the situation and what you are looking for. I have found success in being straightforward and honest. 

Forming relationships and networking may not seem essential to success, but in the long run you will go much farther than those who don’t take the time to do these things. Being able to talk to people and convey your ideas will help you in every aspect of your life. It will make you much more valuable to your employers. Perhaps you want to be your own boss; networking and collaborating are an important part of a successful business. 

I never realized how important forming relationships with people was until I started seriously looking for a job. This year I have tried without much success getting a job with a major corporation. I applied online, got a call for an interview, printed out a resume, had an interview, waited a few days for a call back, and didn’t get the job. This happened twice in the same week. I was a bit disappointed in myself, feeling like I had failed. But then I pursued some jobs with people with whom I had connected previously. I had never intended to work for them, but I had talked to business owners about their jobs. It took almost no effort to speak with them again and ask if I could work for them. I am now happily working as a server in a locally-owned restaurant, housekeeping at a locally-owned bed and breakfast, as well as occasionally housesitting. This balance has worked quite well for my lifestyle. I also am making more an hour than I would have working in a corporate job. 

Most of the jobs I have had are because someone in the business knew me. Jobs began to present themselves, but this is because I have networked, almost unknowingly. People who know people who know people can get you a job too. In some respects when someone speaks up for your work, that’s better than you speaking up for yourself, especially if that person is reputable.

Advantages of networking

  • Get your name out there with many people, which tends to open more doors.
  • You’ll have a higher chance of finding something you love to do.
  • Many people are willing to help you. I have found that older people want to help young people succeed. 
  • You can access a wealth of resources.  

I believe networking should happen throughout your life because it will continually help you to move forward. People can make things happen. You may not have to do things in the conventional sense if someone likes you well enough. 

Advantages of forming relationships

  • Valued more highly by your employers. 
  • More likely to be given a good reference.
  • Job satisfaction and happiness. 
  • Resources. 
  • People who can help you out. 

Of course this doesn’t apply to every situation, but these are things that I have experienced. I believe that this is the way in which I will become most successful in my life. I have never been afraid to talk to people and speak my mind, which for the most part has been to my advantage. I continue to work on building relationships and networking with people who will help me. I seek out people who have more knowledge than I have in a certain area, and I ask for their help. People are one of the greatest resources for learning because people are the ones with experience. Ask questions and you will find answers.

Learning and developing an array of skills will also make you indispensable in the work place. So read, study, and learn. Webucator asked me to write this article as a part of the “Most Marketable Skill” blogging campaign. Currently they are offering a free course in Microsoft Word 2013. Take advantage of the wealth of resources on the web. 

Despite my focus on relationships and networking, there isn’t one “most marketable skill” that’s going to make you successful. Being successful isn’t based on one essential skill, but rather on a collective set of skills. Although I don’t consider myself not successful, I don’t feel I have reached my full potential, and am still striving for success.

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