New graduates in the Class of 2019 are going into the best job market in more than a decade. With a 3.6% unemployment rate, the Job Outlook report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that employers plan to increase hiring of new graduates by 17 % in 2019.
For the 1.7 million new graduates with bachelors degrees and the 1 million with graduate degrees, this is good news. Yet, there are a number of recruiters lamenting the lack of talent coming out of colleges right now. Apparently, some new grads just don’t appear to have what it takes to be ready for work.
There are many reasons why recruiters say that graduates are not ready for work. Some say that new grads don’t have the majors they need, others will say that new grads are confused about the next steps and still others say that new grads aren’t ready to seriously commit to work. In fact, Gallup polling shows that only 13% of Americans strongly agree that new graduates are well prepared for success in the workplace. That’s not good news.
There is no guarantee that as a new graduate you are going to love your first new job right out of college. Please know that this first job won’t necessarily be an indicator of how you will do in future jobs and how much career success you will probably achieve. All that being said, it is really important that as a new graduate you show that you are ready for work.
Here are some of the ways to do that:
1. Learn how to think. Once you are out of college, there is no spoon feeding of knowledge like you might have had in the college classroom. You will need to learn how to think independently, use judgement wisely and apply analysis to your work. Yes, you have earned a degree, but you will now need to think about how to actually apply what you have learned. You need to be able to think critically to apply what you have learned.
2. Discover your skills. There is no one job that is tailor made for any new grad specifically. For example, a graduate with a degree in marketing is probably going to roll right into a job that doesn’t even have the word “marketing” in the job title. As a new grad you will have to shape shift your experiences and education to fit the job role. Remember, only 27% of graduates have a job directly related to their college major. So as a new graduate, you will need to stop focusing on your college majors and start focusing on your skills.
3. Know what YOU value. As a graduate, you are concerned about how you are valued in a pay check by an employer. You should. However, I urge you to think about what you personally value. Once you are in the workplace, it may be tempting to start chasing financial value. Trust me when I say that it will take a while to figure out what’s important to anyone just starting out in a career. As a new graduate you should focus early on understanding what you actually value in order to find meaning in your work. People are often amazed at the difference in one’s performance when people find real personal value in the work they do.
4. Change how you use social media. So far, I am guessing that most of your social media has been about your college life, socializing and photo-sharing. You need to take your social media activities to the next level. This doesn’t mean reach out and ask people for jobs, it means research companies, industries and careers. Look at what professionals in your field are talking about so that when you land in an organization, you know what you are getting into, what is expected and you are ready to work.
5. Know how to actually work. Too many recruiters and hiring managers say that new graduates just don’t know how to work. What do they mean by that? Knowing how to work means, knowing how to show up on time, how to access the tools and resources to do the work you have been assigned, how to manage your time, how to ask questions and how to stay focused for the required number of hours in a work day. Yes; workdays can be quite a bit longer than college days.
6. Start off confident and keep it up. Confident about what you might ask? Well, it’s a given that you don’t know the job until you learn the job. You have to show you are confident enough in your ability to learn new things. Managers are trying to discover your pace and your style. They will move at your pace in terms of assignments, but only at first. They will expect the pace to pick up. If you fold, cower or underperform every time they put a serious assignment in front of you, that could be sending a message that you have no confidence in your ability to learn new things.
7. Quickly understand work flow. Managers don’t want to do your work and theirs. They really can’t. You have to learn how to carry your own weight quickly. You must know how to have your output ready for when your manager needs it. Your work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is possible that someone else’s activities drives your output and your work drives someone else’s output. Don’t leave people hanging.
8. Learn on your own time. You won’t always get it done within the work day. Why? You might have to learn supplemental skills before you can complete your assignments. For example, you may need to learn how to do Pivot Tables in Excel, before you can finish the spreadsheet assignment. Much of that learning will have to be done on your own time. Stay late, arrive early and do what it takes. This will show that you are ready for work.
9. Explore your V.I.S.A. Every new graduate needs to start the exploration process to understand, what I refer to as the real V.I.S.A. Not your credit card. Instead this V.I.S.A. is about your Values, Interests, Skills and Abilities. Start paying attention early to what, for you, will fit into each of these little boxes. Create a career journal where you can start tracking what is important to you, where your professional interests and curiosities lie; what skills you want to build and what abilities are necessary to succeed in a desired field. Also, figure out how you will build on your innate abilities. Knowing these things will be worth more to you in your career success than you even understand right now.
10. Figure out how to research and filter. It doesn’t matter where you land that first job, we are all swimming in a sea of information right now so knowing how to find relevance and filter accordingly, is key. You will hear statements and buzz words in your workplace that you have never heard before. Know how to research quickly and quietly. Yes, you probably grew up with Google at your fingertips and the Urban Dictionary as your go-to research spot. You will need some new resources. Hand in hand with the research is knowing how to sort the important stuff from the really important stuff and figure out what you will need to discard.
If you are a little scared by this list, then I have done my job.
Graduation is an exciting time.
However, I know the excitement wears off and the reality sets in; sometimes like a cold sweat. Unlike when you entered college and everyone told you to expect four years of work before graduation; no one is telling you how long it will take for you to get comfortable in your new role as an employee. That’s because we can’t. It’s your call. What I do know is if you go into your professional life ready to work, you will find yourself clarifying your V.I.S.A. over time and becoming the professional you want to be.
Sincerely, Dr. R