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Practical Tips for Jump-Starting Your Career

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A career is not something that just falls on you from the sky. It is something that requires hard work and plenty of time. But though there is no magic solution to gain a successful career, there are definitive steps for succeeding.

I know it seems daunting at times, especially for someone just starting out, but here are five easy, practical things that you can do to get going on your quest to your ideal career:

1. Constantly refine your resume.

Your resume is your calling card. It is the first impression that potential employers will get from you. Keep it recent,  real (no loading it with fake experience), and to the point. List technical skills as well as your former places of employ. Talk less about the company you worked for and more about what you did while you were there. The person in charge of hiring is trying to see the person behind the resume, so be genuine and upbeat in your writing tone, too. Show them your best stuff, but try not to waste their time with verbose language and too much information. The one thing a person in HR hates most is to have their time wasted.

2. Manage your social media.

If you are in the running for a position, your name will be googled, and your various online profiles will be combed over. That old MySpace account that you've hung on to for sentimental reasons because it reminds you of your silly middle school days? Delete it. That Facebook profile picture of you as a baby with chocolate cake smeared all over your face? Yes, we think it is cute, too, but change it to the current you so employers can see what a fine professional you are. It is all about impressions, people. If you want an edge over the competition, don't let something as minor as a Twitter account make you get nixed from the list of candidates.

3. Socialize with professionals online and offline.

You'd be surprised how many people find great jobs through friends and acquaintances. A personal reference from an existing employee is actually a preferred method of hiring for many companies. So get out there and get around people! Start following the movers and shakers in your field on your Twitter account. Read, comment on, and share articles from industry websites to start conversations and establish your professional reputation on your social media accounts. Keeping on top of industry news will also let you know when conferences and meet-ups are happening in your area. Go to them and try to meet as many people as possible.

Ultimately, the goal is to become familiar name and face with people in your field, so when a position opens up,you will be the name that comes to their mind for a recommendation.

4. Volunteer and intern.

Nobody ever got anywhere without some initial sacrifice. Volunteering at a hospital, community center, or non-profit organization is a good way to build some work experience to put on a resume. Interning is great for your resume as well, but it is best for establishing some connections like we mentioned before, especially if you are interning on a company you'd like to be eventually hired by. Managers and coworkers will be able to see your performance first-hand, and make you more likely to be considered a top prospect for an open position.

5. Go to school for a degree, certification, or training.

There will never be a substitute for education. You will help your career prospects out immensely by graduating with at least a bachelor's degree in your field, if not a master's degree. Your chances of being hired, not to mention your pay grade, will go up dramatically.

Your field may not require a traditional degree, but formal schooling can also used for gaining valuable certifications in careers like IT, computer science, or healthcare. With some companies, certifications and technical skills could mean as much as a degree, because they show real-world know-how, not just classroom education.

Hope these tips help you out! Good luck in your career quest!

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