It is the moment you have been waiting for: college graduation. The day you moved into your freshman dorm seems like a lifetime ago and now it is time to tackle the real world after 4 (or 5) awesome years in the college world. When I graduated from Northeastern University in 2010, I really had no idea what to expect. All of a sudden, I was living in Harlem and walking to my first day of work in midtown. Over these last few years, I have realized how important and relevant the Countdown to Success Skills  have been in my own career path.
It is no secret that it’s a tough economy. More and more students seem to be unemployed after graduating from college. I think I wrote over 40 cover letters during the months of applying for non-profit jobs in NYC. I eventually was hired by a wonderful organization, Minds Matter of NYC, as their Program & Development Assistant. Three years later, I am the Director of Evaluation and Program Impact at Minds Matter National. How did that happen? A lot of hard work and the guidance of the ten core skills I taught 3rd-5th grade girls in SWSG. In this two-part blog, I will focus on how I used these skills in the real-world.

  • Building a Strong Foundationis crucial to starting your first job out of college. Once you are hired, you must work hard from day 1. As they say, be the first to show up and the last to leave. For the first six months, my job was by far my number one priority, and my personal life completely took the back seat. I spent time learning absolutely everything I could about the organization, the field, and the volunteers I was working with. I was detail-oriented and ensured that everything I did was of the highest quality.
  • Throughout this six month period, Good Communication was imperative. I was at a job which had several leadership boards I was working with as well as 400+ volunteers. I wanted to meet and develop relationships with as many of them as I could. Later, this would become invaluable to my continued success. I structured every e-mail carefully, prepared my talking points for meetings, and produced clear and detailed memos. Even if this seems to go unnoticed by your superiors or even peers, keep it up. That point leads me into…
  • Unique Talents & Abilities. We are all special and unique and bring something great to the table. However, when you are junior in an organization or company, do not try to take credit for everything. I have counseled countless friends who are frustrated by the fact that it seems like their boss does not respect them or takes credit for all the work that they’re doing . It is okay! They do realize and appreciate how hard you are working, and that will come out eventually. And if it doesn’t? Let’s talk about your next career move.
  • Cultural Sensitivity & Proper Etiquette is increasingly important in the diverse workplace. Get to know your colleagues and those around you, but be sure to separate the office from your personal life. It is okay to grab a drink after work with your co-worker, but don’t tell them about your boyfriend problems or the night you had a few too many. That’s what your friends are for.
  • Lifelong Learning is important and fun. Most companies will offer professional development opportunities – don’t pass up on any of them! Throughout my first couple of years at Minds Matter, I took advantage of every opportunity to learn all that I could. I attended workshops and conferences, devoured books and magazines on nonprofits, business, finance, fundraising and strategy, and requested informational interviews with anyone who had a job I was remotely interested in. My advice here – just keep learning. It is priceless and will help you in everything you do and every step you take in your career.

Stay tuned next month for how I used the final five skills to bring my career to the next level and set myself up for future success.

Kate Hayes was a Chapter Director with SWSG at Northeastern University.  She is currently the Director of Evaluation & Program Impact at Minds Matter National, Inc. and provides non-profit consulting at You can find more posts by Kate on our blog.  Twitter: @kdahayes