Graduating college is exciting. You did it! You’re a college grad! But let’s face it: it can also be daunting. For 16 years, you’ve done something—gone to school—and you’ve gotten really, really good at it. Now that’s finished, and you’re supposed to do something completely different--and succeed at it. Say what?
The good news is that you and your friends can work together to navigate life after nabbing a diploma. We sought the help of Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide,” to guide us through the common concerns students have when they’re entering the workforce.
1. When your friend says: “Should I take this entry level job, even though it pays nothing?"
You say: “Is it critical to your long-term success?”
In order to figure out if a low-paying job makes sense in the short term, you have to think long and hard about your current finances and your long-term goals. Yes, now is the time to experiment and explore your passions, and sometimes you’ll have to take a leap of faith on a low-paying (and super-intriguing!) job. We don’t suggest that your friend live in fear, but you’ll want to help him take an educated leap of faith.
“In most cases, entry-level jobs don’t pay that much money,” says Cohen. “If you can’t afford to pay back student loans, if you have made commitments to friends to share an apartment and you need to be earning a certain baseline compensation, that will certainly affect your choice.” If you’re absolutely sure this is the path to a career you want, you just might have to make a few adjustments to your lifestyle. You might have to consider a part-time job to supplement your income. You might have to move home, or to a cheaper apartment.
“Talk to some experts in the field and get some insight from them,” says Cohen. “See what they think about taking a low-paying job early on and how long you would have to stay in that role before you could be making more money. If we’re talking months versus years, that will certainly influence your decision.”
2. When your friend says: “I’d like to blow off the career networking event and go to the movies instead.”
You say: "I'll go with you.”
According to a 2014 survey from Jobvite, 4 in 10 job seekers have found their "favorite or best" job through a personal referral, and employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate (i.e., they comprise only 7 percent of the applicant pool but account for 40 percent of all hires.)
If your friend is hesitant about networking, he isn’t alone; inexperienced job-seekers often find it arduous and intimidating.
“Sometimes, people have unrealistic expectations about time frame, or how much time they need to invest in terms of making something happen” in their job hunt, says Cohen. If your friend is truly passionate about pursuing a certain career path, he should be excited about going to events and meeting people whose careers he emulates. The truth is, it takes a lot of work to find your dream job.
Another possibility is that, like many people, your friend finds these events, well, awkward. He might feel discouraged by the job hunt. But just like dating, job-seekers have to “put themselves out there,” which is hard work. Accompany him to events if he’s a bit hesitant.
Although nothing beats putting in some real facetime, don’t forget that LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for networking as well. Do your friend a big favor and endorse his skills so everyone in their network can see how great he is!
3. When your friend says: “I have nothing to wear to job interviews!”
You say: “Let’s go shopping!”
Self-explanatory. But you don’t have to spend exorbitant sums of money to find good workwear. Try deals websites or retail stores that sell discount designer clothes to lighten the load on your wallet.
4. When your friend says: “Interviews terrify me.”
You say: “Let’s rehearse.”
“Interviews scare everybody,” says Cohen, “but the only way to face a fear is to confront it and be aware of what scares you.”
The first step is realizing that interviewers aren’t trying to send shivers down your spine. They’re asking you tough questions because they want to make sure you’re a good fit for their company, not because they want to see you sweat.
The second step is to practice and rehearse your answers so you won’t be thrown a curveball. Work on the easy ones like “What’s your biggest strength?” “What’s your biggest weakness?” or “Tell me about a time when you tripped up and how you recovered.” Here’s a longer list of potential questions that you can prepare for together.
“Once you feel comfortable practicing, it’s going to feel a lot more natural,” says Cohen. “Practice with friends, anticipate questions by looking at your resume […] and address that in how you practice your interviews.” You might also want to gather your own questions (some of which are here), as managers like it when interviewees have their own set of concerns.
5. When your friend says: “I don’t know what to do with my life!”
You say: “How do you spend your free time?”
If your friend is a recent grad, don’t overlook college career offices. They will be able to offer assessments that can sketch out some possible career paths for your friend. You can also find these types of assessments online.
More broadly, encourage your friend to connect the dots in terms of her passions and hobbies. “The more we think about [our careers], the more we become aware of some threads and themes that define our interests,” says Cohen. “Then we begin to explore different options that might be interesting for us.”
And the last, big secret? Very few people know what they want to do with their lives. Even people who have graduated from law or medical school abandon their paths for a passion they discover later on in life.
6. When your friend says: “I’m freaking out!”
You say: “Let’s talk.”
We can all benefit from someone to talk to, a neutral party who truly has our best interest at heart. Be there to listen to your friend, and encourage her to seek out mentors who can help her take tangible steps in the right direction. Graduating college can be challenging; it’s a big change from what you’re used to. Talking to an older friend or sibling, mentor, a counselor — either a career coach or a therapist — can be a huge help.
7. When your friend says: “I’m up to my eyeballs in debt!”
You say: “Make a budget.”
According to research from the Institute for College Access & Success for its Project on Student Debt, the average debt of graduates from public universities is $29,400. While that number can seem overwhelming, don’t worry -- it’s completely possible to whittle it down. Focus on what you can do right now to ensure you emerge from debt in the future. One way is to make a budget and stick to it. Write down all the things that you absolutely “must have,” the things you need to survive. Then write down all the things that you’d like to have, but can manage fine without. You can then create a plan and a budget for how long you think it will take you to pay off your debt. Another option is to call a financial aid advisor to help you figure out the best way to begin paying it off. Whatever you do, don’t write off your friend’s concerns, and help him focus on making a plan.
8. When your friend says: “I feel like I’m running out of time!”
You say (calmly): “No, you aren't.”
It’s easy to feel as if there’s a ticking clock when it comes to finding your dream job, especially among anxiously competitive post-grads. Try to remember that the rest of your life is a long time.
“It’s a very big world out there, and there will always be a lot of opportunities, but maybe not on the calendar” that you’ve laid out for yourself, explains Cohen. He continues: “Find a way to sustain and enrich yourself in the meantime."
Follow your passions and hobbies, make educated career moves and find ways to build your skill set wherever you can.
With hard work and a little bit of luck, the rest will follow suit.
When you need expert advice, always look to a friend. State Farm will be there to help you with every turn your life takes.