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Making the College to Career Transition

If you are in college, this episode will help you make better, informed decisions to help you build a career around your life’s work, before you make any decision that may lead you into the dreaded work life that most people hate.

If you are already in your career, this episode will give you a blueprint for reflecting on the path you took to get where you are today. This is a foundation to the next episode, where we discuss how to start making a career transition to align your career and next job with your life’s work.

College to Career Transition - 3 Tips for a Successful College to Career Transition

3 Tips to Make the College to Career Transition Easy

Tip #1: The First Job in the College to Career Transition Matters Most!

If your goal is to succeed and build a prosperous career, it is important for you to know that your first job will shape the path of your overall career.

Think about it this way – when you build a house, you first have to build a basement and/or subfloor frame for the house to sit on.

Once you have that basement or subfloor frame down, the dimensions of the house are fairly set for the remainder of the build. You can add onto the basement and subfloor in different places, but that initial basement and/or subfloor frame are set.

Your first job is the same as that basement or subfloor. It is the base layer of your career.

Each project and responsibility you take on in that first job will begin to build up from that base layer, like building the walls of the house.

Then, your second job will either build more walls if the second job is at the same level in your career as your first, or it may begin building a new floor of the house if you are getting a position that has more authority and responsibility, like a promotion.

Most people want to grow in their career, achieve their goals, and rise up in their career because of the benefits. The people who end up being Senior Directors, Vice Presidents, or CEOs have built a mansion or skyscraper worth of layers in their careers in different positions at varying levels, with a few exceptions for entrepreneurs and people who are really good at workplace politics (aka sucking up to the higher ups).

Now, if you were already stressed about leaving college and figuring out how to build your career, I hope I didn’t put you over the edge… but, it is true.

Your first job is very important with respect to how you’ll build from it for the rest of your career.

So, the first tip for today is to try and make the best first job decision you can right out of college. It should be an educated career decision, with an understanding of how the position will lead to at least the next level in your career.

In Episode 13, we went through 7 Steps to Find the Career You Love. I highly recommend you use this process to get educated about the potential jobs and career paths that align with your studies in college or university.

Head to ChrisKochan.com/13 to listen to that episode, check out the show notes, and grab a copy of the downloable 7 Steps to Find the Career You Love free ebook guide that lists out each step in detail below.

7 Steps to Find the Career You Love

7 Steps to Find the Career You Love

FREE eBook Download

I was lucky that I got a job in the aerospace industry without knowing what I really needed to do to launch my career and build it properly. My field of study was Operations and Supply Chain Management. Most of the time, manufacturing goes hand in hand, in some form or fashion, with this field of study. Aerospace is known as one of the toughest manufacturing industries, due to its tight restrictions and tolerances to ensure precision and safety.

My first job in the aerospace industry became part of my personal brand and was discussed during each interview and has been a topic of discussion throughout my career with colleagues and coworkers since.

It played a big roll in me getting both jobs at Harley-Davidson and Apple, of which I managed machined components at both of these major companies for motorcycles and iPhones.

I happened upon a good first job to build a career from, but most don’t. If you take the time to find a solid first job to build your career from, it can mean a world of a difference in your career down the road when you try to get your second, third, or any job thereafter.

Tip #2: Continuously Gage Your Fulfillment at Work

When I started working at Apple, it took me a few months to realize I was not happy with the work I was doing.

This feeling of something not being right had been brewing since college, almost 10 years prior to getting the job at Apple.

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am an INTJ – which means I am an introvert with a good amount of intuition, who does alot of thinking and judging. I’m mostly quiet, observing, and coming up with ideas, planning, and strategizing.

Of the entire population in the world, INTJ’s make up roughly 1.6 – 2% of human beings.

INTJ’s are known as the “Architect,” “Strategist,” or “Mastermind” – depending on what website you look at.

Some famous people known to be INTJs like me include Elon Musk, Jay Z, Mark Zuckerberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sir Issac Newton, and Thomas Jefferson.

I have learned that I am a bit different than almost every other 15 personality type, as I am very decisive and work with conviction with any decision I make.

I first learned I had this personality when Harley-Davidson offered the Myers-Briggs personal type exam to me after I started working there. This is when I realized how building actually became much like a strategy game to me.

I dealt myself a 2.63 GPA with an Operations and Supply Chain Management degree and $80K in debt, so my thought process had always been – ‘lets see how I can get myself out of this one and achieve some crazy goals.’

I had set a goal to work at Apple soon after leaving college. I heard it was very competitive to get into the company, much like Google or Microsoft.

Over the course of six years, I moved up the ladder. I started at the aerospace company, took 5 exams to get the APICS CPIM, or Certified in Production and Inventory Management, certification, to then the job at Harley-Davidson. While at Harley, I took advantage of executing on some significant projects in our department and gained the respect of my upper management, which earned me some letters of recommendation for my MBA program and approval for the tuition reimbursement program. This MBA program and my accomplishments at Harley, along with the previous work in the aerospace industry and certification in my field, all became my ticket into Apple. The second time around talking to an Apple recruiter ended with me achieving that goal.

As I made each of those changes in my career, I continued to reflect on the current situations against my past experiences. I continuously worked to gage my happiness and satisfaction with my hours worked, the scope of my work, the impact I was personally having on the world, and the relationships with the people I worked with, which all played key rolls in feeling fulfilled by my career.

I saw my scope of work change dramatically over the years. I went from little to no emails, quality relationships that were more like close friendships, and truly enjoying my career at the beginning, to getting thousands of emails a day, working with hundreds of different people that didn’t even know who I truly was, and feeling like a number by the end of my time at Apple.

It was a gradual change over the years of taking on more responsibility and working more hours that lead to feeling more physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, along with many other factors, that caused me to feel less fulfilled with what I was doing in my career.

If I didn’t constantly gage my fulfillment at work, I would still probably be living a work life at Apple. Right now, I’d probably be on another trip to China, negotiating several million dollar invoices, or building spreadsheets to make sense of the billions of dollars we were spending.

Yet, as I gaged my work against my fulfillment I desired in my life’s work, along with the legacy I would leave behind, I realized my desire to help people became more important than having big paychecks and living a life behind a small desk in a giant, glass circle in northern California.

The overall direct impact I had in my job on the rest of the world was slim to none, which lead me to feeling unfulfilled.

In the end, this resulted in me leaving my career as I knew it behind to start the natural and organic supplement company called Mindzymes, buying a bus to convert into a tiny house to travel more, launching this Careers Over Coffee podcast, building the 10 Days to Build a Better LinkedIn Profile Course, and creating many other resources on my website ChrisKochan.com.

Today, I am having a direct impact on thousands of people and feel more fulfilled than any other time in my life. I would not be doing this today if I hadn’t continuously gaged my fulfillment in my career and worked to align myself with what I felt I should be doing with my time here on Earth.

What made me even more happy was the day my mother complemented on how I even looked better and healthier than ever before, since I was less stressed and bogged down, doing work that I am actually personally fulfilled by – even though I am working more hours than ever before.

Some of the signs that you aren’t fulfilled by your job and career include:

  • Boredom
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, lost, regretful, or stressed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Having the sense that everything you do in your job takes way more effort and energy to accomplish than it really should
  • Spending more time thinking about what life would be like doing something else with your life than actually doing work

Amongst many other negative feelings.

By continuously gaging and listening to your own emotions, feelings, and thoughts as you transition from college into you career can help guide you with knowing if you are on the right path, or if you need to make some changes.

Again, putting your career building back into the metaphor like building a house, it is really easy to make changes into different jobs or a different career paths now while you are forming the base layer, basement or subfloor frame of your first floor.

Once that basement or subfloor frame of your first floor of your house (aka your career) are in place and you start adding more walls and floors (aka projects and responsibilities in your career), changing the entire path of the build becomes much more difficult.

Tip #3: Create Meaningful Relationships

I cannot stress how important it is to make meaningful relationships with people you work with, whether it is at the companies you directly work for, or at companies your company works with – like suppliers and customers.

Time and time again, I find that many relationships with people that I have built in the past come back around in some form or fashion.

Since leaving Apple, I have been contacted by close to 20 people who have all been very supportive with reaching out to me out of the blue to check-in and let me know how good it is to see that I am still progressing, even though I am not remotely in the same line of work as I used to me.

Past coworkers from the aerospace company, Harley-Davidson, and Apple have all directly reached out to see how things are going after seeing the updates I put on my LinkedIn profile.

Even my past direct contacts at suppliers I used to work with at Harley-Davidson and Apple reach out to me on occasion. Today, I actually just had someone I used to work with from a supplier of Harley-Davidson reach out to me and last week I was messaging a guy from one of my old suppliers at Apple.

Through relationships you create in your career, you will build a great network and support system that can help you out down the road, as long as you work to truly build meaningful relationships with people.

These relationships and this support can become references that help you land a job that catapults your career out of a bad situation, or even give you open door, direct opportunities that you can always take them up on down the road, if needed.

At my first company, there were several people, including a few people who were in high levels of management within the company, who helped me with giving references I needed to get the job at Harley-Davidson. Although some had regret that they were losing a good employee and felt obligated to notify the company I worked for after I got the job and put in my 2 week notice that they had helped me leave the company, they helped me because they knew my situation of getting suppressed within the company and not allowing me to reach my full potential. Because of the relationship I had with them, they were willing to help me out when I needed it the most, to move forward in my career. I have been very grateful for their help and putting themselves sort of on the line for me, as I know it came with some costs after the fact.

As a result, I also paid it forward by helping others grow in their careers. I submit several resumes of people I thought were great people with a solid work ethic into the recruiting systems with my positive reference, with hope to help out people who I had a great relationship with and who I thought could achieve great things if they had a position within the company.

I have also helped past coworkers with giving references so they too could get unstuck from dead-end jobs, all due to the great friendships we had built from when we worked together.

Now, on the flip side, if you chose to not be pleasant to work with and be sort of a dick, that can also come around to haunt you.

In my career, I had several resumes come across my desk by recruiters and hiring managers asking for my personal feedback on each individual who I may have worked with at previous companies. Most of the time I knew who they were and had worked with them in some capacity.

I would strive to give my honest feedback based on experiences with different situational stories to help the recruiter and hiring managers decide if it that person would be a good fit for the open job they were looking to fill.

In one situation that sticks out in my mind, I had a resume come across my desk that happened to be an old manager of mine. Every manager I ever had prior to Apple, I would give a glowing review for – aside from this one. This manager was the only one I had that I didn’t have a solid relationship with.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a good working relationship, but I truly felt that some things – said and done – crossed several lines of being unprofessional.

I truly felt that it would not be a good person, job fit due to the nature of the requirements of the job. With all this in mind, my feedback was not the best and it resulted in him not being considered any further for a position.

Although that was the hard feedback to give, it was all fact based on how the person handled situations, did things that weren’t necessarily professional, and crossed many lines that were just not acceptable in my eyes.

But, it all came down to the nature of the relationship. The actions taken by that individual were more aligned with personal gain, rather than team work, building quality relationships, and the success of the company.

With that said, make sure you work to be authentic and build quality relationships. I am not in any way saying that you can’t play the political game and work to excel in your career, but make sure you aren’t burning bridges or making poor decisions that could lead to bad and uncomfortable situations down the road.

However, don’t feel like you have to get all of this right. Making your decision to get the perfect first job is difficult. Gaging your fulfillment as you progress in your career, especially when you are just starting out, is difficult – since you don’t have much to reference it against. Sometimes, people just get on your nerves and bad relationships are created at work. We are all human and shit happens.

That’s why in the next episode, we are going to transition into how to re-align your career with your life’s work with some tips on how to transition into a new job or a new career all together.

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That’s it for today’s episode.

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We’ll see you next week!


3 Tips for a Successful College to Career Transition Tips and Strategy Guide
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