Workforce Realities: Advice for College Grads

May 2nd, 2012

Today’s workers have it tough. So much continues to change and there is too much new happening to fully absorb it all. For so many generations now, the western world has viewed education as the key to a better life for their kids. Education improves our quality of life, earning power and the ability to make a difference. All of us want this for our children. But there is a rude reality to all of this as of late. A college education is no longer a guarantee of anything. The numbers traditionally show that college education increases earning power over ones lifetime and also that less college graduates are unemployed than those with lesser education. But don’t ask this of recent grads.

Just this week it was announced that the number of recent college graduates unemployed or underemployed is well over 50%.
I can’t say that this statistic really shocked anybody. I am in the field of employment and my company certainly was not surprised. We all hear about high unemployment numbers on the evening news. Yes the economy is better, but there is a long, long way to go.

I was taught by a great mentor that the key to life is to make decisions with better information. See. Think. Act. Such simple words right? Try and apply them. So many times in work, life and play we don’t gather information before we act. We hope to, but we don’t know how to gather it. So instead, we simply act and shoot from the hip. Job seekers perceive any action as progress… they send resumes, surf job boards, do Internet research — feeling “good” about their job search.

So at the risk of being preachy, I have some hard-fought, earned advice for a college graduate looking to start their career and get their first real job. Perhaps the initial steps towards better information… But first, this disclaimer:

Each generation grows up heavily influenced by the events and trends of the world around us and with four generations working today? Well, let’s just say it is hard to walk in each generation’s shoes, to seek to understand other generations. While I may not know exactly what you’re going through because of these differences, bear with me.

Also, there are reasons why companies are not creating jobs for college grads. That is not your fault. However, you need to know what they are. Businesses add jobs when they can get a return on the investment, when they can grow and when the economic and political environment is more certain. So in the short-term over the next year or so the world is going to be extra competitive!

My Advice to College Graduates:

  1. This is not the first recession. Yes this is a bad one. But there is work if you are willing to work for it. Start in retail management if you have to. Think retail is below you? If you are a business school major, why not learn about hiring and firing, budgeting and customer growth in one of the few places that will give this responsibility to a grad. This is what I did.
  2. You are not owed anything. You have to work for it. Starting in an entry level job is not below you. Not even close. Your boss does not care about your debt or your life style. Starting at the bottom is where all of us have to start. The key is what happens next.
  3. Starting is the key. Once you have the entry-level job, take on the challenge. Ask for the tough project. Ask for the learn. Learn the business. Every business needs employees that are willing to grow themselves.
  4. While you just “finished” school, the learning has just begun. You and only you are responsible for bettering your skills and knowledge.
  5. Knowledge is followed by success. The more you know the more money you will make. The more your title will change. The more you will get to wherever it is you want to be. But…
  6. You can’t skip steps. In baseball, you can’t score if you miss a base. In work, you cannot be VP and drive a BMW without being of real value to a business. Risk and Reward.
  7. Take the risk and get the reward right? Well, life is not always fair. Starting a company is not easy, most fail. Working for a start-up builds great skills and will broaden your exposure. But it does not make you an entrepreneur.
  8. Your first job is not the rest of your life. The first one is like your first year of college, it is to grow up in the world of work. To learn about business, clients, culture, styles of leadership. The first job is about how to fit in and find your place. And most importantly, the first job is probably more about what you do not want to do for the rest of your working career.
  9. What you do not want to do. This is the most honest advice of all. It is up to you to fit in. The workforce won’t change for you. I know you want the world your way… working from home, time off, promotions, whatever. Work is about your ability to earn and gain influence. Your influence and trust (AND your ability to get results) get you what you want.
  10. There is a gap. And you don’t even know it yet. The gap is the space between who you are today and what you are capable of. Know that employers today long for a worker who knows this and works at it closing it.

Big words right? Are you now a college graduate that needs help? Do you know someone who is? Get them in contact with me. We will get them some help. Why? Good karma.

One Response to “Workforce Realities: Advice for College Grads”

  1. sam reed Says:

    would love to get referral for my soon-to-graduate son for career counseling. I did this for my older son and it was a tremendous help in honing his interviewing skills, presentation, etc. she provided 3-4 face to face coaching sessions and the cost was around $500-600. But it was back in Houston. No help to me here in northern NJ.

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