Over the past few months, I have spoken with a number of recent college graduates and young professionals whose career choices and expectations for employers seemed misaligned with the realities of the job market. I would like to share some actual conversations that I had recently with young professionals.
I spoke with a recent college grad who had a very specific request regarding their job search focus. That would normally be very positive for us, as career coaches. However, when speaking with this person, I asked how they came to the conclusion about their direction, given that none of the internships or academic coursework represented any of the necessary qualifications. The jobs that this person was looking at were at least 3 jobs and a Master’s degree away from where they were now.
The response I got was that of someone who was completely uninformed. “I spoke with a professor who thought this would be a great job for me.” Many college professors and campus career counselors are out of touch with the job market and they don’t know what employers are looking for in prospective hires.
When going through all the requirements to obtain this role, I mentioned the requisite entry level role that would be required to build toward that goal. The response was, “I have no interest in working in that area.”
Insight: Some college grads are looking for a job that they lack either the qualifications or experience to pursue.
In speaking with another young professional recently, they expressed the importance of working for a company with good benefits. Understandable, until we unpacked what that meant. This individual prioritized a job where they host happy hours, pay for Uber when necessary, and had kitchens that had an array of snack offerings along with a fully stocked refrigerator. This is in addition to a hybrid work schedule and predictable work hours.
Insight: Young professionals are prioritizing employers that offer an array of benefits as a pre-qualification to interview and/or accept an offer of employment.
How can recent graduates and young professionals make more informed decisions about their career that can be successfully executed?
Start thinking about your career plan by the time you have declared your major. Before you begin applying to jobs, do some research to determine what skills and qualifications employers are looking for in their interns and full-time employees. Make a list of the skills and coursework that make you stand out in the application and interview process. Learn about the job responsibilities, salary range, and career trajectory as well as the types of companies that hire people for these roles. If you have no idea what career paths make the most sense for you, consider the Priority Candidates Career Assessment Program which is tailored to help our clients find the best roles for your interest, cognitive capabilities, and behaviors.
Once you have identified some career options, try to speak with people who are already working in those roles. Having conversations with people who have 5 years of experience or less will help you to understand the day-to-day responsibilities and what these people like and dislike about their jobs. Speaking to more senior people will provide a more long-term view of where this career can take you and what skills and qualifications are required to succeed.
Every job requires compromise, especially those that are more entry level. Remember that whatever company you start at is just the beginning of your career. Be adaptable. Find somewhere that you think you can spend 3-5 years and show career growth in an increase in responsibilities. If you can’t find a job in your top choice industry or location, consider a different industry or geographic location where you can build your skills. You will likely have the opportunity in the future to pursue your top choice industry if you build your professional credentials.
In evaluating entry level or early career opportunities, be realistic about what roles you can be a competitive candidate for hire. If you are applying for 50-100 jobs and getting no responses, it is time to re-evaluate your plan. I have seen that one of the greatest obstacles to young professionals is applying to jobs they want but are not necessarily qualified to do. Persistence is admirable, but it is unlikely that alone will get you a job that you lack that qualifications to do.
Working with a career coach brings a fresh perspective to the equation. When you’re job hunting on your own, it’s easy to loose sight of the big picture.
Don’t waste time feeling frustrated about your job search. Contact Priority Candidates so you can get a plan that will help you find success!