college graduation checklist

The Goodwin Go-To Graduation Checklist

The Goodwin Go-to Graduation Checklist:
From commencement to career-ready, tips to take control of your calling

This article was written in collaboration with Goodwin University’s Career Services team.

Graduating from an educational institution marks new endeavors and endless possibilities. It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments, glory in accolades, and praise hard-earned academic achievements. Commencement is a time to spend with family and friends, and for first-generation graduates, it’s a time to take a step back and recognize the academic actions taken to push your family forward.

Uncertainty of the unknown

Whether you’re from a long line of college graduates, or you’re the first one in your lineage to embark on higher education, it’s possible there still may be that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach about your professional future.

With classes no longer in session and scheduled study times coming to a screeching halt, the focus on your projected path may go from something to deal with off in the distance, to something that shows up on your doorstep sooner than expected.

Time and tenacity do not stand still, and neither should you.

The root of the word “graduate” comes from the Latin word “gradus,” meaning “a step climbed” or, “a step toward something.” Below, are a few key pointers to keep in mind for your future steps toward professional success.

Reach within to recognize your worth 

Although not always linear, many lifelong learners come to find that career progression may include the initial motions of finding a job, then moving up, and maintaining a career. Taking such steps can ultimately lead to uncovering your calling and professional purpose.

☐ As you move through this process, it is essential to know your value proposition and the exact talents you bring to the table.

Are you wondering how to identify your importance? Try some self-reflection. Ponder over your previous experiences, your passions, and what makes you unique. If you want to dig a bit deeper, try a Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator or Enneagram Personality Test to see which of your wonderful qualities exemplify excellence. Be sure to keep in mind that the more you know, the further you can go.

Alter and adjust as needed

☐ Once you have pinpointed your professional positives, it’s time to transfer your education, experience, and enthusiasm to your résumé and cover letter. When writing or editing your occupational outlines, remember to alter your cover letter and résumé per job application.

Are you questioning how to make this happen? Print the job post and highlight the keywords and qualities in the listing that stand out. Does the employer mention words or phrases like “great communication skills” more than once? Do they list the essential skills (sometimes referred to as soft skills) needed for the position? Do the job duties fall right in line with your previous roles? After you’ve marked up the job opening, add or substitute the same or similar words, phrases, and responsibilities into your résumé and cover letter. Keep in mind that the new words should fit seamlessly as if they were there all along, and that cover letters should typically be one page in length.

Striking syntax that sticks

☐ As a foundation for future success, touch up the transferable skills on your résumé for each prior position held. Instead of using commonly coined terms like “team-player,” add an element of individuality that will pull-in prospective employers. This will leave the hiring manager curious about you as an applicant and can prompt them to contact you for the next phase in the interview process.

Examples of modern, memorable essential skills include:

  • Adaptable in the face of adversity,
  • Analytical and articulate,
  • Business strategy specialist and personal branding guru,
  • A curious and creative communicator,
  • Time management master, and team motivator

It takes work to find work

☐ Be picky before sending your résumé and cover letter to a potential employer. Read and revise your résumé and cover letter, and then repeat.

Ask someone you trust, preferably someone who is detail-oriented, to review your documents with a watchful eye and fine-tooth comb. Once you’re satisfied that all content, spelling, grammar, and page formatting is up-to-date and accurate, then you are ready to send your application out into the world.

Create a professional profile that produces results

Build your brand. Create a LinkedIn profile.

  • Make sure your profile picture looks like you and is of good quality.
  • Your headline should have your job title and field-related keywords so others can find you faster.
  • Include a work-related background photo to make your page pop.
  • Fishing for your future? Hook readers stopping by your page with a stunning first sentence that lures them into your summary section. Tell a personal story that ties into your professional passions. Don’t forget to have enough white space balance on the page and include bullet points for optimal browsing. Conclude your summary with a Call to Action to engage readers to connect.
  • Give thoughtful recommendations and detailed comments.
  • Follow others and join groups that interest you.
  • Post high-quality, field-focused content.
  • Use hashtags to maximize your reach.

Even post-graduation, you can still stand out by studying

Take a look at your potential employers’ website, values, and mission statement. Make a note of the organization’s target audience, goals, values and charitable giving. Align any applicable attributes to your passions and personality. In doing so, you prepare yourself for initial questions like “Why do you want to join our team?” By planning, you position yourself for the next steps in online opportunities, phone screenings, and in-person interviews.

Make an impressive introduction

First and foremost, pat yourself on the back! Remember that many accomplishments and sound decisions earned you a seat at the table, so all you have to do is be yourself.

On the day of your interview, dress appropriately yet comfortably for the position for which you are applying. Be mindful of your body language and remember to smile.

Highlight your experience and your expertise. If you’re able to, throw in an interesting fact or story about yourself. When you do, what you share becomes “sticky” and helps differentiate you from other candidates.

Prepare your “tell me about yourself” spiel ahead of time. Write down a few professional facts about yourself in the past and present, and where you see yourself in the future. Shorten the speech to two minutes and shine a spotlight on your greatest attributes. Remember to mention something in your “elevator pitch” that makes you smile naturally.

Show and tell is popular in professional interviews too. If you can, bring in something from your professional portfolio that is meaningful; if that prop furthers your message to interviewers about your passion for the field or for that particular position, bring it in to share! Items to show can include reports, PowerPoint presentations, case studies you’ve worked on, or published articles. When you make room to be vulnerable and share a piece of yourself with others, great things can happen.

Remember, you’re interviewing the employer, too.

☐ Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are the organization’s missions and goals parallel to your professional visions?
  • Do their policies and practices align with your ideals?
  • From a consumer and employee perspective, do the organization’s online reviews rise-up against subjective five-star ratings?
  • Do you see yourself working at this organization?
  • Will this position enable you to grow and ultimately allow you to live the life you want to lead?
  • Does the position allow you to accomplish all you’d like to, professionally and personally?

Looking for a job can be a job in itself

Stay focused, stay organized, and stay positive. When you are offered a position that is a good fit for you, and when the employer checks off all of your boxes, remember that with education and dedication, you’ve earned it.

Good luck! Now go out there and show them what Goodwin grads are made of!

Are you a student or graduate looking for guidance with your graduation checklist? Goodwin’s got you covered.

Schedule an appointment with our Career Services team.