By: Maria Mosman

My final year of college was a bittersweet reminiscence of fond memories I had made with all people I had met – and then the anxiety set in. After spending four years and a lot of money to earn a degree, the last two months of my senior year were a panic-fueled frenzy of applications and interviews. I was fortunate enough to secure an internship within my field of study, which eventually segued into my first full-time position after some trial and error. Breaking into an industry is challenging to navigate when you’re starting from scratch – here are a few things I learned along the way that I wish I had known then.  

Values Matter 

When searching for opportunities, the best place to start is finding a company whose values align with your own. This vital research sometimes gets set aside when the number one priority is to get some kind of an income. However, factoring in a company’s beliefs can make all the difference in creating genuine enjoyment in your job, as opposed to suffering through eight hours for a paycheck. Moreover, that passion is a highly attractive quality to employers, which boosts your chances of stretching your temporary position into a long-term career.   

Find a Mentor 

When I first started at Atlas, it took some time to get my feet under me and learn the company's operations. The transition from the classroom to the office can be jarring, and my irrational hatred of asking for help did nothing to help matters. Like me, many young professionals are hesitant to go to their coworkers with questions because they are embarrassed and afraid to highlight their inexperience. Although it may be intimidating at first, the best way to speed up the settling-in process is to overcome this hindrance. Better yet, find a mentor with whom you feel comfortable asking for advice. By utilizing your new coworkers as informative resources, you’ll boost your value to the company while banishing any lingering imposter syndrome you may have.  

Dive In 

Once you’ve got your bearings, it’s time to buckle down and get to work. Demonstrate that you’re serious about becoming a permanent team member by going above and beyond your job description. Produce quality work that you can be proud of, take on new tasks, and offer your support on projects that interest you. Enthusiasm, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to learn are the three most sought-after qualities companies look for in an intern, making them the three most valuable characteristics for recent college graduates to cultivate as they get ready to embark on their careers.