5 For Your First 5: Own Your Career and Life After College

Five For Your First Five. The five areas you need to master in your first five years after college, to take the steps that you need to take to build a career and a life of intentions and meaning. In these five areas, you will learn how to show up and be a professional; how to seek out opportunities to grow your professional skillset; how to manage your time, your wellbeing, and your future; how to build effective relationships to support your growth and development; how to seek out feedback and navigate the impostor syndrome; and, how to create a plan to own what’s next, for you. Owning your career and your life after college means that you do the work. But it doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone. Here, we provide you with the tools, resources, and community that you need to start to build the career and the life that you want, today.

Learn about the five competencies below and check out three simple action items and reflection questions for each area that you can start applying to your life today! We also invite you to:

If you’re a recent Wake Forest graduate, we also invite you to download a free copy of our e-book, Post-College Starter Kit: Making the Most of Your First 90 Days After College by Allison E. McWilliams.

Using similar themes from the Five For Your First Five book, this Starter Kit provides new graduates with tips and resources for navigating work and life, and setting goals for the future.

Post College Starter Kit book cover

Jump to one of the five specific competency areas by clicking below:

Do the Work: Seek out opportunities to intentionally grow your professional skills and abilities.

Action Item:

Take the Life Values Inventory to clarify your values and what guides your behaviors, and explore how you might express these values through your various life roles.

Reflection: What gets you out of bed in the morning? Why do you engage (or not) in your current work?

Action Item:

Make a list of the skills, knowledge areas, and abilities you need to be successful in your current role.

Reflection: What are you missing, currently? How can you seek out opportunities to fill these gaps?

Action Item:

Read this article called The Four-Year Career and consider your approach to the world of work.

Reflection: When you think about “career” what do you envision? What do you think you will need to make that happen?

Build a Life: Effectively balance your personal interests with professional obligations.

Action Item:

Consider what roles you play in your life. Likely you have anywhere between 4-8 significant roles (employee, spouse/partner, parent, friend, student). Write down these roles.

Reflection: How much time do you spend in each role? What would you like to change about your roles and the amount of time spent in each?

Action Item:

Consider your energy gains and drains. Write down what is currently filling you up (energy gains) and what is causing you an energy drain.

Reflection: How do these things align (or not) with your values and key motivations? Are there opportunities or space to do more of the things that give you energy?

Action Item:

Read this article, Stop Expecting Meaning From Work, and consider how and from where you create meaning in your own work and life.

Reflection: What is one small change you can make to approach your work and life with greater meaning and purpose?

Create Community: Build relationships with mentors and sponsors to support your goals.

Action Item:

Read this article, Your Network Should be “Weak,” and complete the network map.

Reflection: What do you notice about your network? What themes do you see emerging? Where are your gaps?

Action Item:

Use your network map to identify one or two places you can broaden or deepen it.

Reflection: Where do you already know people? Where are the spaces that you need to fill in?

Action Item:

Identify one non-work-related group or activity you can commit to joining (or that you can create).

Reflection: How does this group align with your values? How will it broaden or deepen your network?

Practice Reflection: Seek out feedback on your personal and professional choices.

Action Item:

Read this article, Ask for What You Need, and commit to having one feedback conversation with a colleague or supervisor.

Reflection: What did you learn about yourself from the feedback conversation? How did it feel to sit in that space? What will you do next?

Action Item:

Make a list of the expectations for your role, and the success metrics. If you’re not sure what they are, seek out your supervisor to have that conversation.

Reflection: How do you feel about the expectations for your role? Have you accomplished them or is there more to do and to learn? What does that mean for what’s next, for you?

Action Item:

Have a conversation with a mentor or a supervisor about possible next steps, for you.

Reflection: What did you learn about yourself that you did not already know? What can you do with this information as you move forward?

Own What's Next: Use your experience, interests, and strengths to create a plan for the future.

Action Item:

Complete the Possible Lives activity in this article. Pay attention to any themes that you see emerging.

Reflection: What did you learn about yourself, your interests, and your strengths? How well aligned is your current role and life with what you imagine for yourself?

Action Item:

Watch this video and then seek out someone outside of your immediate network and have a curiosity conversation.

Reflection: What did you learn about the other person, their path, or their industry? How can you use that information as you think about what may be next, for you?

Action Item:

Use this document to create a plan for the next six months.

Reflection: How does it feel to write down your intentions? Who can you share this with to serve as an accountability partner to you?