Graduation… then what?

graduate-2276501_1280So perhaps your darling son or daughter or young family member has graduated from university or college and is now ready for the real world of employment. I’ve recently worked with a few young people who have graduated or are about to, and noticed that there’s a very real “deer in headlights” feeling with them; that while stepping out into the real world is exciting, it’s also terrifying and quite bewildering. They may be looking at graduate programmes, or internships or “filler jobs” while they figure out their game plan but how do they decide where to start? They want to be independent and not have to rely on anyone, but they need some help in finding direction…

Here are some questions or pointers that might help you as a parent or friend to help them… if you can get them to talk with you or think about it themselves for 30 minutes!

  1. What are your longer term goals? – do you want to travel, have your own place, run your own company, train as an astronaut… maybe these are daydreams but talking about them without judgement can help them to figure out what’s realistic or what motivates them and what feels like the right direction
  2. One small step… many young adults have friends who have known for 10 years that they wanted to be a doctor or accountant – a linear path which they never wavered from. In my experience most people don’t have that clarity; people have many talents and interests and change careers through their lives. It may be unrealistic for your son or daughter to have a “crystal ball” and have it all figured out – even if they think they should. The most important thing is a sense of the right direction for them, and an idea of something to try out for size – they’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe they will gain clarity through travel if that’s an option, but do something!!
  3. Don’t rely solely on jobs websites for employment opportunities – it’s the least effective way for a prospective candidate to find a suitable role. Use your network, contacts & family members to find out potential openings.. more on that below.
  4. No man is an island – even though graduates may want to be independent of parents and family – the reality is that they are your best source of contacts and potential introductions to prospective employers. If you’re clear about what you want and how they can help, then they will be able to do so.
  5. It takes two… the two most useful things to know when you want to look for employment are : who you want to work for and what you can do for them. Large or small, startup or established, fast or slow pace, non profit or commercial… it’s all about finding the right type of fit with culture and values. If they can make a list of say 10 or 20 different organisations that they like the sound of, and maybe know some people who work there, that they are willing to do some research on, arrange to make contact and meet someone for a research conversation over coffee – that’s a start. Find out what’s going on in these companies – what kind of positions they may have in future – upcoming projects etc. Don’t necessarily go in to look for a job – the objective is to learn as much as you can and make a positive connection. Getting an introduction through an employee is the best way to get the inside track.
  6. Prepare your pitch – next you need to know what you have to offer – what can you do for them; what problem can you solve? Think of the skills you demonstrated in that part time job or on your college project – how might they be of benefit to that company?
  7. Make sure that your social media usage and other communication conveys what you want it to – review photos, posts and anything in the public domain and ensure that people only see what you want them to. Lots of prospective employers have been put off by what they’ve seen on social media – think about the impression you might create. Any communication with prospective employers or contacts by email or other means should be appropriate in style to their industry and the people you are communicating with – not necessarily emojis and what works with your friends on Snapchat. Set up a decent LinkedIn profile with a professional looking photo, and showcase your work there – connect with previous colleagues and ask them for a Recommendation.
  8. Don’t undersell yourself, but manage your expectations of where to start. No-one should expect a free lunch or to walk into a really well paid job with perfect conditions. No matter what the company, most people will still have to work hard in a somewhat junior role to prove themselves and show the right attitude with colleagues and clients, which is more likely to impress people than lots of knowledge or qualifications.

Remember, as Sam Goldwyn said “The harder I work, the luckier I get”

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