This interview first appeared on OpenColleges.

“Most students I talk to are seniors with five people in their LinkedIn network. This is a huge mistake.”

1. What is your number 1 tip for getting a job after finishing study?

Don’t wait until your final months to get serious about your career. I did that. I waited until my last week and made some pretty bad choices out of desperation. (Like following some girl I barely knew to Japan to teach, hating it and leaving after 9 months).

I don’t mean finding a practical major. I mean start having conversations with people outside of school, such as alumni, about life and the options that you have available. Consider volunteer opportunities that might get you connected with influential people. Start building a large LinkedIn network…do this early.

know it’s painful to face. And I know you care more about passing classes and having fun than facing life after university. The people who have the courage to deal with it sooner will be more successful later.

2. What’s the secret to successfully negotiating a starting salary?

Take what you can get. Honestly. Unless you have very rare and very valuable skills to offer an organisation, you don’t have much power in negotiation. You have to earn the right to ask for a higher salary through the acquisition of valuable skills and experience. Don’t look for shortcuts. Your employer will respect the fact that you don’t have an attitude of entitlement, because chances are your competition will.

3. How do you recommend dealing with interview nerves?

Breathe. Breathe deeply. And most importantly, practise. I practised for an hour a day for a month before my first interview as an MBA. I practised with my career coach, in front of a camera, and in front of the mirror. I wrote out my answers, and delivered them again and again. This was the only reason why I didn’t piss my pants when three interviewers grilled me in a dark, cavernous room.

4. What’s the one thing you wish you knew about applying for jobs when you first finished your qualification?

Don’t bother following your passion. That’s terrible advice that puts way too much pressure on yourself. I was very idealistic. I wanted to work in the green energy field and save the world. And it took lots of failures to realise that it just wasn’t for me. I wish I had built up a very specialised set of skills and then marketed myself.

I made the mistake of blasting out hundreds of resumes and the two companies that bothered to get back to me were so unimpressed by my actual qualifications, they never called back.

It wasn’t until someone I knew referred me to a job that I actually landed an interview. And I did well in that interview because I had two hours of sleep after an international flight, and just answered the questions so directly and honestly, they loved it! Who knew? Lesson: It’s all about your network.

5. What do you see as the main advantages that vocational training graduates have over university graduates?

Don’t get me wrong. I think there’s value in education for its own sake. And I’m glad I got a Religious Studies degree (sort of). But most academics don’t understand that after you graduate you have to face reality. They often see career issues as beneath them, while they vainly try to recruit you to their graduate courses.

I’ve been told that most engineering graduates would much prefer to be English majors, but if they’re going to invest so much money into their education, they need to make sure it pays off with a major that will help them get hired.

A vocational qualification will simply give you marketable and valuable skills without pretending. It’s a much more practical path. And if you want to study philosophy or international relations, then you can listen to iTunes University for free! I admire intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. But do you need to go $100K in debt for it? So good for you for picking a vocational qualification. You’re the smart ones. Really!

6. What advice would you offer on networking using LinkedIn?

Start early. Most students I talk to are seniors with five people in their LinkedIn network. This is a huge mistake.

The number one way you’re going to get hired is through networking. And that takes time. So start your LinkedIn networking as soon as you can, and get up to 500+ connections as soon as you can and by any means necessary.

You can’t network in LinkedIn until your profile looks good. So use this tool to grade your profile and get tips to make it better.

7. What are the top 3 things you should avoid putting on your resume?

No idea. I don’t use resumes and if you can avoid it (i.e., by using networking), do so. If you have a good LinkedIn profile, use it to network. And if someone asks for your resume, send them the link to your profile or just convert your profile into a resume format.