For college seniors heading back to school after winter break, their final semester means many things. They have capstone classes, final gatherings, and upcoming graduation ceremonies to anticipate. But for many it also means they can no longer put off trying to answer the dreaded “What are you going to do after graduation?” question. Parents are pushing, friends are curious, and even strangers seem to ask when they find they are in the midst a final semester senior.
As a career coach focused on helping college students launch their careers, I see how stressed these seniors are, and how little support they receive as they try to find the right career for them. Beyond the typical professions such as law, medicine, marketing, teaching, and engineering, most students don’t really know what options are out there.
Even if they do know “what they want to be when they grow up”, the reality is they are facing an improving but still challenging entry-level job market. The Class of 2016 can expect a tough time landing a well paying gig where they can put their hard earned (and often expensive) degree to work. Studies by the New York Fed and Accenture show that 44-49% of recent college graduates are working part-time or in a job that does not require a college degree. That’s not what many seniors, or their parents, are expecting come graduation.
I think we often forget that your first job is can be the hardest to land. You don’t have a long resume with experience to rely on. You don’t have former colleagues to recommend you. You don’t have industry connections to give you the inside track. And you probably haven’t done much interviewing.
So I want to encourage us all to rephrase the question. Next time you talk with a college senior, instead of asking them what they are going to do after graduation and putting the pressure on them, try a different approach.
- What are you interested in?
- What are you really good at? Have you ever considered…?
- Can I tell you about my work?
- Tell me more about what fields you are interested in. Can I help connect you with someone in that field for an informational interview?
- Would you like to come shadow me at work for a day?
- Is there a particular company you are targeting? Can I help you find a connection there?
Edina is full of professionals with successful careers. Many of us are in a position to lend a helping hand to these seniors as they find their way in the working world. If a senior reaches out to find out more about your job, company, or industry, be responsive and share your wisdom, connections, and insight. Better yet, go out of your way to offer to help.