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This article was written by Elisa Sheftic, creator of PrepareForYourNextInterview.com, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. Whether you are searching for your first job or looking to advance your career, the most valuable piece of advice I can give to any recent grad is to develop a "One-Upper Mindset." This framework will help you differentiate yourself among the crowd of young professionals in the job market.

Recruiters always talk about how competitive the job market is, and I think speaking about it in this way has become a little staid. So, let's create a visual. Picture "Bob" and his pursuit of being a "one-upper." Bob graduated with you, delights in being your competitor, and whatever you do to advance your career, his goal is to do it significantly better. Here is a real world example: I intermittently speak at colleges to give students some insights on the most productive way to job hunt. Each time I present, numerous eager students introduce themselves, connect on LinkedIn, and - in general - do all the right stuff to establish the initial networking process. They ask if I can review their resumes and provide some constructive feedback, and I'm happy to oblige. I often recommend some changes and provide a format that I like or make some suggestions, and I let them know that I'll be happy to review once they revise. Then, weeks go by and... crickets. Eventually, I may receive the revised resume a month later or longer with no explanation. What they obviously don't know is that I also met Bob at the same presentation. At the event, all were equally enthusiastic and professional. But Bob sent me his revised resume within 48 hours of our meeting, thanking me for my time, and asking additional insightful questions. Bob made it known that he is looking for an internship during the summer and asked for my suggestions. Bob also asked for additional feedback on his resume and presentation and seemed receptive to constructive feedback and, generally speaking, seemed like someone who would make a great impression with my clients. What the "slow responders" also don't realize is that they had unintentionally sent up a red flag. The best way to predict future success is to look at past performance, and since recent grads have limited professional experience, recruiters must make assumptions through our own brief interaction with them. By not responding for a month or more, what assumptions, right or wrong, can be made? Not responsible, not a strong communicator, and not good with time management, just to name a few. So, the lesson from this scenario is to ask yourself, in any professional or job-hunting situation, what would Bob do? Then beat him on the "one-upper" mindset. If only one person will be hired or recommended or promoted, then you need to do everything you can to stand out in a positive way (and mitigate any potential red flags as well). Go the extra mile and "one-up" the competition, including Bob.

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Everyone needs to feel their voice is heard and their contributions are important. Something as simple as sharing a drink the last hour of the day on a Friday with the team to recap wins and give praise can build camaraderie within the team.


All of the above are fairly simple to implement but can make a huge difference in morale and motivation. Have any of these tips worked well for young the past? Do you have other tips to motivate your creative team? If so, please share them with me!

Encourage curiosity. Spark debate. Stimulate creativity and your team will be better at handling challenges with flexibility and resourcefulness. Create a safe space for ideas, all ideas, to be heard. In ideation, we need the weird and off-the-wall ideas to spur us on to push through to the great ideas.

Sure, there are a ton of studies done on this, but here is my very unscientific personal take. When team members can make decisions about how they work on projects, they are more engaged and connected to the project outcome. When they see how potentially dropping the ball would affect the entire team, they step up. When they feel like what they are doing is impactful and valued, they are naturally motivated to learn more, and be even better team members.

Rarely does a one-size-fits-all style work when it comes to team motivation. I have found that aligning employee goals with organization goals works well. Taking time to get to know everyone on your team is invaluable. What parts of their job do they love? What do they not enjoy? What skills do they want to learn? Even going so far as to where they see themselves in five years career-wise. These questions help you right-fit projects, and help your team see you are committed to creating a career path for them within the company.

Most designers I know love a good challenge. We are problem solvers by nature. Consistently give yourself and your team small challenges, both design-related and not. It will promote openness within the team to collaborate, and it will help generate ideas faster in the long run. Whether the challenge is to find a more exciting way to present an idea to stakeholders or fitting a new tool into the budget, make it a challenge just to shake things up.

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