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The Terrain – Guiding the Graduates

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 11, 2012 in Executive Coaching, Job Search

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I remember it like it was yesterday:  crossing the stage, shaking the Dean’s hand, smiling for the cameras, and feeling ready to take on the world.  Now, I see my friends’ children taking part in the same ritual. These graduates will come home after their graduation parties and beach vacations to find jobs, but will instead find that they are woefully unprepared to navigate the competitive job terrain that holds their fate in its hands.

A recent article in the Huffington Post stated half of college graduates won’t have a job offer upon graduation.

Most people are average.  Average grades with average income potential.  That’s where the term average comes from, right?  It’s the middle of the exceptionally talented, or those with really high GPAs compared to those who may have prioritized the social aspects of college over the academics and may have even worked their way through school. Perhaps they didn’t get to take advantage of the career center prior to packing up and leaving campus.  Within the average pool of people, there are still exceptionally talented people waiting to be plucked into their destiny of success.  Hard work does pay off, and finding a job after college is hard work.

If your recent graduate didn’t have summer internships relating to their studies, or part time work to offer them a glimpse of what professional life would be like after obtaining their degree, they are probably going to have to pay their dues now, as painful as that might be for you to watch.  Recent grads often feel their education should preclude them from starting with an entry level position, but the fact remains, a job with a reputable company is a great starting point for anyone. 

Whether the business is large or small, publicly traded or privately held, full or part time, they need some work experience. They need to prove to an employer they are reliable, dependable, organized, have good communications skills, can follow direction, and that they can work both independently and in teams.  The basics.  They need to take any job they can get and make it their own whether as an assistant manager at a drug store, or as the administrative assistant in an office.  They need to build the list of references that will vouch for them in the future.

For many grads it’s too soon for them to really know what they want to do long term or where their career will take them, so encourage them to just get started. They will learn more about themselves while working than not working and you can learn something from any job, good or bad.  Some of the most valuable experience can be gained in the most unlikely situations. 

Many times the amount of rejections the grads face is overwhelming and they will retreat back to school for more education. Here’s the skinny on that:  Unless the profession they are choosing (like nursing, law, etc.) requires the education to get started, they are going to be in the same boat a few years down the road if they don’t combine that extra learning with substantive work experience. It’s better to obtain that additional degree in combination with some practical application of their studies. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or special executive on site MBA programs that employees who are positioning themselves for promotion can take advantage of. Developing a healthy balance of education and experience is the most strategic and effective way to optimize your value to current and potential employers.

Telling all of this to your grads isn’t the easiest task, so you might want to consider hiring a coach to work with them.  Through the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/) you can search for coaches in your local area that offer career services.  The investment there will be well worth your time if you properly vet the coach you choose as someone who has successfully worked with others in the same situation in the past.

Teach your grads to network.  Currently, 80% of all jobs are found as a direct result of networking and utilizing personal connections. Ask your friends who work in your grad’s field for help. You’ll be surprised at how willing these personal connections are to help a young person and how quickly a small network can expand with just a little help from family and friends.  Encourage your job seekers to make a list of companies they are interested in so you can easily see if you have contacts there that may be able to assist them.  Having a well thought out job search strategy they can execute is important.  Setting timelines for follow up and evaluating results can’t be achieved if you don’t have a list to work from.

You might also want to take a look at your grad’s online profile because future employers are looking as well.  Their Facebook page and LinkedIn profile should be clean and professional.  Encourage your grad to remove any photos that may give future employers the wrong impression of their character.  Keeping a diligent eye on their online presence is very important and can be a deal breaker.  Just last week someone in our office pointed out that a person’s wedding website noted they had yet to graduate when the resume they presented to us stated they had completed their degree. That person was due to complete it this year in December but they are looking for a job now. 

Lastly, they can always do volunteer work to obtain more experience.  Many companies and non profits need help so don’t forget to consider those channels as well.

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