5 Things Career Services May Not Have Told You

04/13/2016 05:17 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2017

Spring has sprung. Mother's Day is right around the corner, but more importantly to many is college graduation season. It is an exciting time for students and parents. As exams and writing term papers comes to an end, the focus moves to the next chapter in students' lives. For some that will mean graduate school, but many will be eyeing the job market. Colleges and universities have become more proactive in recent decades in preparing students to find that important first job post-college. More and more families face uncertainty paying back rising student loan bills. The average borrower from the class of 2015 owed around $35,000. In 1993 this figure was less than $10,000, ultimately putting more pressure on job searches. For colleges, high job placement rates for graduates reflects well on the institution and can be an attractive recruiting tool. As students transition to employees, here are five things career services may not have told you.

Job Searches Can Be Time-Consuming

Members of generations Y and Z may never fill out a paper employment application. The use of online applicant tracking systems by employers, however, has not made the process less time-consuming. For those applicants applying to multiple positions with a variety of organizations, they can plan to spend significant time filling out applications and answering questions. While this can be frustrating, it is important to give each job the attention it deserves. Recruiters and hiring managers can instantly be put off if they think they are reviewing a generic cover letter or someone did not spend the time to fully complete the application. Treat finding a job like a job.

Experience Matters

Some new graduates are under the impression that their pre-college and college years do not matter once they start seeking their first "real job." This could not be further from the truth. Employers are going to be looking at what candidates were doing throughout their formative years. Were there internships, part-time jobs, leadership roles, sports, artistic ventures? Potential employers will be looking for at least two things in those experiences:

  • How do they apply to this job?
  • How did the candidate handle competing demands (time management)?

No matter how little experience someone thinks they have, there are opportunities to relate it to the job for which they are applying.

You May Start at the Bottom

After so many years of forming an educational foundation and working toward a certain level of mastery in a major, it is a rude, but true, awakening, when one has to start out at the bottom. A lot of this will depend on the organization and the industry, but for the most part, new graduates will be low person on the totem pole. It is important to recognize this when it occurs and use it as motivation. It is not a personal slight, but a great opportunity. Use it to learn, prove how valuable your work ethic is, and work to leave that bottom rung in the past.

Find Something You Are Passionate About

Piggy-backing off the previous topic, if you have to start out at the bottom anyway, why not get into something you are passionate about? Many people get midway through their careers and are burned out by either their job or the field in which they work. People that go into fields they are passionate about tend to spring out of bed in the morning, excited to go to work. To many people, this is going to be more important than making money, and a more sustainable choice for the long-run.

Negotiating is OK

Many new graduates are unprepared for actually receiving a job offer. They work hard to get an offer, then are not sure how to proceed. Candidates should have a salary expectation in mind going into the process, but that should be based on data. Was there a salary or hiring range in the job advertisement? Is there reliable salary data available for the type of job to which you are applying? Knowing this information can help you know what to expect from an offer if it comes. Once an offer is made, if it is lower than you expected, it is okay to enter into a discussion about the offer, so long as you are armed with information.

Keep in mind, also, that salary is not the whole picture. Think of your salary and benefits in terms of total compensation. While the salary is important, how much are the rest of the benefits worth? Are you going to need time off over the next year for a vacation or to go to a wedding? You may not have accrued enough time off, so maybe you can negotiate leave. What sort of development opportunities does the company offer? Will they provide financial support for you to pursue graduate school, or do they offer student loan repayment assistance? These are all good questions and topics that can be explored when weighing whether or not to accept an offer.

Michelle A. Riklan, ACRW, CPRW, CEIC, CJSS

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