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.
Fireman – that is what my career assessment said I should be… All 5’3”, 100 pounds of me (I was 17, mind you)! Needless to say I could have used some professional help in my career planning. However, I made my way. My way included transferring colleges, trying to change majors (I stayed with my original psychology pursuits when credits wouldn’t transfer), dropping out of college, working a low paying administrative job, realizing I couldn’t do that forever, going back to school, completing my degree, pursuing sales, securing a recruiter job and the rest, as they say, is history. I made it! I landed a job I loved, making good money; a career that suited my strengths (and weaknesses) with tons of opportunities. It only took me eight years and more money than I care to admit (there should definitely be PhD letters behind my name for what I spent). There had to be an easier way… there is an easier way!
I’m frustrated to see young adults making the same mistakes I did; after all these years we still don’t prepare our children to select a meaningful career. We (the collective we) put so much time, energy, effort and money into preparing them to get into college but once they are there we say “okay, figure it out”. As I tried to “figure it out”, I made numerous fruitless trips to guidance counselors and deans of programs in which I was interested. What I needed was to explore, truly explore myself and the world around me. I needed an in-depth understanding of what I liked, disliked and what that meant to my future profession. I needed to understand what I wanted, what it would take to get there, the pros and cons, etc. I needed a mentor, a coach, an expert to guide me through this enormous decision.
So, after 20 years of helping people build their careers I’m going to help young adults launch their careers. I’m taking those 20 years of lessons learned, insights and expertise to help young adults explore themselves and a world of possibilities. I’m going to help them figure out what they want and how to make it happen. I’m beyond excited to be that mentor, coach, and expert!
With this first post my talented colleague and friend, Sara Wegmann-Krider, and I start the next phase of our career journey. As founding members of Career Prep we believe thoughtful self-exploration ensures long term career satisfaction and success. Our goal is to help students make meaningful career choices and give them the skills to obtain a great first job. Please take part in this journey by following our blog. We will provide insights, thoughts and information on developing the careers of young adults. Until next time…