A funny question you might be thinking. I thought the same just a few weeks ago when a senior sat down in my office to have her resume reviewed and then with a concerned and a bit hesitant expression on her face asked me, how do I adult? She followed that with a full sigh, hands over her face, looking like the definition of exhaustion. I smiled at her, admiring her phrasing, and paused.

Before moving into a laundry list of ways, resources and ideas about how she could “adult,” I asked her what she meant by that phrase. Clearly it meant something to her from her own experience and vantage point.

She said that she wanted to know what her next step should be, how she could determine what she should do for the rest of her life and how to manage the upcoming transition away from college. Pretty heavy questions even when they stand alone and, together, quite the burden for a twenty-year old who hasn’t had the chance yet to experience adulthood in the context of the workplace. These questions still arise for mid-career professionals, graduate students and other career-changers.

I proceeded to answer her question, allay her fears and help her de-stress by offering one strategy for each of her questions and to get her moving in the right (and most manageable) direction. Below, I share those same recommendations for all of you.

1. Identify what you need first/now. A resume review? Space and time to reflect on your experiences? Conversations with people in your field? We often associate being an adult with choosing one career that you will do for a lifetime after you graduate. College prepares us to think, sets us up with at least a baseline set of skills and a place to grow as social individuals. To “adult” you’ll need to prioritize, prepare and plan for what is to come in whatever way you see fit. There are so many entry points to the job search process. Do you know all of the ways? If not, take advantage of these options by talking with a career coach, trusted mentor, family member and/or your college’s Career Center staff to help you determine what next step makes the most sense for you.

2. Really look at your resume. So many times we get caught up in the minutiae of our resumes. What is the best format? What should my bullet point descriptions say? What types of bullet points should I use? What font do employers like the most? All of this is important but the details do not or should not matter until you’ve really looked at your resume. Ask yourself, what are the themes of my experiences? When I talk about my work with others, are those same reflections included in my resume? Am I missing a critical experience or skills that I’ve developed that weren’t important to me until I wanted “to adult?” Perhaps you need to throw your resume out the window altogether and instead focus on” target=”_blank”>building your LinkedIn or Twitter profiles, using these sites as primary tools for your search and connecting with potential decision-makers (company or individuals) in the hiring process.

3. Join digital communities, professionally. Once you’ve built your profile Your digital imprint is now just as important as the impression you leave in person. Learn how to use LinkedIn, build your profile and consult with a career coach on how to connect effectively with professionals in your areas of interest. Converse with industry leaders on Twitter, follow and engage others on Instagram. Building credibility in these spaces will take some thought and time over time but it will pay off, giving you national and even global connections that will last a lifetime. Which groups you join and on which platforms depend on your industry’s preferences. Pay attention to those trends for greater success.

4. Take time away from your search. Give yourself a break. Honor how much you’ve accomplished up to this point in the search process by building in celebratory moments. Take yourself out for a treat (mine would be ice cream as many of you know), go to the movies with friends, watch your favorite Netflix show or go for a walk. In the “adult” race, you are better off being the tortoise than the hare to begin with. As you gain momentum and clarity, your confidence builds and the question no longer feels like one. You’ll have the answers.

As you move further into your adult life, you will face similar challenges when navigating transition. Building good reflection, branding and celebration habits now will help you hear what you need and begin to hone strategies that you will always have in your toolbox. Make it your professional mission to not let them rust.

Meghan is an advocate, blogger, speaker and educator for women who want to build a career that lasts. She coaches groups and individuals on how to navigate their professional goals, negotiate transitions, and engage in both local and national leadership opportunities. She is also the Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement at Mount Holyoke College where she supports alumnae and students in building a community around career through on-campus and virtual programming and individual advising. Her advice has appeared in the Huffington Post, several higher education blogs for job seekers, NerdScholar, CardHub, Good.co and LinkedIn.

For a free LinkedIn profile or resume review, sign up for her newsletter at http://www.meghangodorov.com.

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