Hey, seniors. How was spring break? Did you go totally crazy? Steal a street sign for your dorm room? I hope it was fun, because the real world is going to hit you like a bag full of bricks. And stones. And cement.
I'm sorry, that was some pessimistic imagery. But here's the thing: You need to brace yourself. You're entering one of the worst job economies in history. I know, not exactly groundbreaking news, but it doesn't hurt to hear it once more from the blogger who, like you, is pretty new to the real world. I say these negative things with love.
You had your fun on spring break. But from here on out, if you want to progress your career, you need to go into it with a zero laziness policy.
You've heard the saying before: searching for a job is a full-time job. It's tough taking on that full-time job when you're winding down your final school year, studying for exams, and tying up the loose ends of your college career. Luckily, the wondrous World Wide Web makes the job search easier, but I'll let you in on a little secret: that's where everyone is looking.
This is the part where you have to kiss your laziness goodbye. I'm not saying an online job search won't yield any opportunities, but you need to get creative on your career search if you want to rocket past your competition. Before you graduate, my biggest piece of advice would be to reconnect with every professor with whom you shared a positive relationship. Say a sweet goodbye to remind them you exist, and most importantly, tell them to keep you in mind if they know of any job opportunities. You may have a captivating resume with a 4.0 GPA, but if you have no one to give it to, then it's just wasted paper.
Here's the problem with the low number of jobs right now: Those who have experience are also looking for jobs, but since they can't find anything within their realm of proficiency, they take a step down in their search. So that entry-level job you had your heart set on? Most likely, it was taken by someone with just a pinch more relevant experience. I know, it's rough.
What's even more rough is the fact that companies are often understaffed due to the decrease in funding for more positions. So when you finally do get that job, be prepared to work long hours, take some tasks home, and occasionally, work so long that you forget about the homemade turkey sandwich you made for lunch.
When you start looking for a job, keep your mind open. Don't eliminate internship opportunities during the search. Although it's ideal to immediately begin your career, internships provide you with more of those personal connections I emphasized earlier. It also adds a little garnish to your resume while you buy time searching for a full-time position.
Grad school isn't necessarily the solution, either. Many go to grad school right after graduation simply to avoid the horrible job market. If that's the case, you're going to grad school for all the wrong reasons, especially considering you're digging yourself further into debt. Yet, unfortunately, grad school has become the new college. Back in the old days, an undergraduate degree was a wow-factor, considering it took a prominent position in society to continue an education beyond high school. But in this generation, there's an extremely high percentage of high school students, and even adults, who go to college for a bachelor's degree. So if you want to stand out from the crowd, a master's degree may be an optimal step.
Notice I didn't say the next step, though. Grad school is a lot of money, and I encourage all new graduates to gather a few years of work and funds before diving into the application process. And at 22 years old, there's a good chance you may still not know what you want to do. What if you start in your major field and end up hating it? What if you get a job just for kicks, and work your way up to the top? I know some people in their late 20's (and even early 30's) that still don't know what they want to do, so don't dive into debt for a master's degree from which you may never reap any benefits.
So seniors, get off your butt and get moving. Live up these last amazing moments as much as you can, but skip a nap or two to reconnect connections, reflect on yourself, and pursue the most reasonable next step. There isn't a definite answer I can give you to stand out from the millions of graduates this spring, but if you prepare well enough, you'll be able to dodge that bag full of bricks. And stones. And cement.
Follow Catherine Seraphin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CJSeraphin