May 9, 2018

The College Graduate’s Guide

It’s the time of the year where graduates walk across the stage and hit the pavement. But what’s the “real-world” like today? Glad you asked!

May marks the start of graduation season.  In just a couple weeks, students around the world will begin their journey across the stage and into the “real-world.”  Although this experience was over 20 years ago, I remember the feelings well: excitement, fear, optimism, confusion, and confidence all at the same time.

In general, a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

My solution to this pit in my belly: “What Color is Your Parachute?”  Not a very practical guide to the “real-world” (in my opinion).

For those graduates (and parents) who are looking for a real-world guide to the real-world, you’re in luck.

Here’s a summary of what I’m seeing out there today:

  • It’s a “buyers” market.  In other words, Hiring Managers have tons of candidates to choose from and are picky in their approach.  It’s tougher today to “get-in” due to the sheer number of applicants for most opportunities.  Most candidates today have to go around the traditional career/application portal.  As I tell my clients, don’t waste your time with the blind job application.
  • Relationships are (still) key. This is the one concept that hasn’t changed since I hit the pavement 20+ years ago – networking properly is really important. Use the resources all around you – through your college alumni network, through your own network, through your parent’s network.  Cast a wide net at first, then prioritize.  You’d be surprised how great your 2ndand 3rdconnections could be in your search!
  • Understanding your value (and potential impact) is crucial. This is where your Professional Story comes in. Students need to quickly and confidently articulate their experience (and future value) in every interaction.  Whether it be over email to a company insider or over coffee to a recruiter, organizations want to (quickly) know how to think about you/your experiences and where you can start making quick impact.
  • Resumes are important.  Because most college graduates don’t have a great professional network (yet), the resume is an important part of this journey. Translating non-professional activities into valued experiences is tough – let me know if you (or your student) needs help here. We can get this document into great shape.
  • Data is king.  You have to know the market and know your worth. Research, research, research. Knowing the organization and how they approach their business (and compensation) is really important.  As a Hiring Manager, I was always surprised when candidates didn’t really know what we did and didn’t really know our compensation model. It’s easy to get this type of information, either through Glass Door or your network. Do your homework first.
  • This is going to take time. As I’ve said in previous Case Studies, this journey takes time. Because the market is hot (especially tech) and because organizations have their pick of candidates, this could take months.  Several months.  Be ready.
  • Chivalry isn’t dead.  Do what your mother says and send a thank you email.  It takes 2 minutes and will set yourself apart. Enough said.

Your homework this week: Getting ready to walk across the stage? Know someone about to hit the pavement?  Forward them this newsletter for some quick/easy tips on what’s currently happening in the real-world.  Think you (or someone you know) might value a couple hours of pre-real-world-freak-out-career-coaching? Shoot me an email!

Coming-up next:  I highlighted the importance of Networking above, but I’ve found many students don’t know how to actually make these connections. Creating a list and prioritizing is one thing, but actually reaching out to contacts can be really intimidating.  I’ll give you tips-and-tricks (and even a template) in the next newsletter!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

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