7 Things They Don’t Tell You at Graduation

Class of 2012: you’re either about to hear a really inspiring speech, or be forced to listen to an executive from a Fortune 100 company drone on about real world topics you don’t yet understand. Either way, I’m willing to bet your commencement speaker isn’t going to give you all the facts.

Here are 7 things they won’t tell you at graduation:

Your Diploma Alone Won’t Get You a Job

That’s right: Your diploma is not even close to enough to guarantee you a job.

Sure, having that little piece of paper is nice, but people in the real world care less about your degree. What they do care about is your relevant experience. If you don’t have any – get some, quick – because this is how you will be judged.

You Don’t Have to Have Life All Planned Out

If you leave college as an under-employed 20 something, don’t freak out. Your career is not going to be linear. What’s the fun in that? Take away some key lessons from each position, and bring more soft skills and value to your next career stepping stone.

You Do Not Get Rewarded for Being Average

If you do what your boss tells you to, you do not receive a gold star. You might, if you’re lucky, get a “Thank you”. Your high school teacher may have stopped using red ink to correct your papers to protect your feelings, but your supervisor will happily use all the ink in an entire box of red pens to make sure your work is acceptable. Don’t be average.

In the words of Steve Martin, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Your Path is Yours… Everyone Else Can Shut Up

Your path is just that – yours – and no one can tell you how best to navigate. Your parents will try to give you advice on next steps. You will read career blogs that tell you “exactly” what you need to do to get your dream job. These guides will help, but they are just guides – they won’t do the work for you. Life after graduation is different for everyone, so create your own rules… and enjoy the ride!

Nothing is More Important than Networking

Yes. The time you spent at fraternity parties and hanging out with friends was well spent.

Connections are everything, and you build valuable relationships while in college. It’s true what they say – you’ll never look back and remember class or an A on an exam. You’ll be reminded of the times you blew off your 6pm lecture to catch happy hour on Wednesday. You’ll remember the theme parties, barbecues, and slip-n-slides. Who knows? The guy who (less than half) dressed as Superman and ran across the field at halftime may become a new co-worker, or become an important component in your network.

Life Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better

You’ll have to navigate through some sticky situations in your career before that corner office is yours. This may include coming to terms with the fact that some of your friends are moving faster up the corporate ladder – this doesn’t make them more accomplished, it just makes their path different. And without warning, your friends will also become less “fun” as they begin getting married and having children. You’ll have to adjust – and grow.

You Must Keep Learning

You simply have to continue learning outside of college! Believe it or not, those classrooms and professors didn’t teach you everything you need to know about your craft. You will need to find resources to continually learn about your industry – webinars, blogs, the news, and books are generally good places to start. Don’t get left behind.

Congratulations, class of 2012! You’ll go on to greatness – just don’t try to get there in a few short steps, or in a straight line. Some things will happen to you that are completely out of your control… quickly learn to roll with the punches. Take the reins on everything else.

This is the advice they should give us at graduation – but probably won’t.

Top 10 Lessons Learned While 22

Well, it’s official. Today I am one year older… one year further into my journey. I’ve learned a lot over the last 22 years, but this time around I faced the biggest learning curve yet (besides, perhaps, learning to walk and talk – thanks mom & dad).

During my 22nd year, I learned, among other things:

1) Having a dishwasher is not a requirement in your first house – there is a lot of fun to be had jamming out to music and washing dishes with your roommate.

2) Cooking is hard, but it’s not THAT hard. Slathering chicken breasts in BBQ sauce and throwing them in the oven is a meal your friends will appreciate – and tastes like it was a lot harder to make than it actually was.

3) When surrounded by your family, you can get through anything. (Confession: This isn’t something new I learned, but it was reaffirmed through some pretty soul-rocking situations.)

4) Being poor isn’t all that bad. It’s a huge feeling of accomplishment when you pay your bills with barely any money left in your account each month.

5) Writing is not a static skill – read as much as you can and have more experienced people edit everything you plan on publishing.

6) Moving to a strange city and staying in a hotel for seven months is both really fun and really stressful – do more yoga.

7) College students need to complete more internships and learn their craft outside of the classroom.

8) There is a lot to be learned from webinars and autobiographies of successful people.

9) Making connections online can be is just as valuable as making connections in real life – but it’s more fun to sit over a cup of coffee than to tweet back and forth.

10) People want to help you navigate your path. Give up some power and let them.

So there you have it. The top ten lessons I learned while 22. I can’t wait to learn and discover even more this year!

Career Lessons Learned From “The Hunger Games”

Move over Bella Swan, there is a new leading lady in the world of teenage fiction! 

Image

Katniss

Her name is Katniss Everdeen – the fictional star of the extremely popular trilogy, The Hunger Games. 

Oddly, while watching this (super realistic) story about a country who forces its children to kill each other, I couldn’t help but think there are some valuable career lessons to be learned from Katniss’s adventure.

1. Let Others Help You

Katniss is understandably wary of the adults who surround her during her trip to the Hunger Games. However, she soon realizes the value of her mentor, Haymitch, who may be a stumbling drunk most of the time but won the Hunger Games himself as a younger man. Clearly, Haymitch knows exactly what to teach promising young “tributes”. Along the way, Katniss meets others willing to help her succeed in her endeavors; once she opens up to the idea of receiving advice, she finds their counsel valuable.

Letting others in on your job search journey can be scary, but it is absolutely necessary. There are people who have been in your place before you ready to help you find your career path. Take advantage of their knowledge!

2. Embrace Your Strengths

When first heading to the Hunger Games, Katniss doesn’t know how she will become a real contender in the fight to the death – let alone win. Before simply giving up, however, Katniss reflects upon what she has learned in her young life that might help her succeed. It turns out that all of those hours spent hunting small game for survival will aid her greatly in her fight at the Hunger Games.

It can be difficult to realize what you are truly good at – but once you do, take advantage of the skills you already have developed. This will make your career path easier and you will ultimately be a more effective employee.

3. Look Out for Yourself

One of the most valuable lessons Katniss Everdeen teaches us throughout The Hunger Games is that you must look out for yourself. When she was young, her father died, and Katniss immediately took over the duties of hunting and gathering food to provide for her younger sister and mother.

When it comes to your career, you are your own advocate. Others will be happy to help you along the way – but you must make the big moves on your own.

Spoiler Alert: All of these skills helped Katniss Everdeen ultimately win the Hunger Games. By following her lead, you can find success and happiness in your career – and win your job search competition.

Dear Employers: An Open Letter From Your Interns

Dear Employers,

As a young professional entering the workforce for the first time, I have heard one too many horror stories about what to expect from you.

I’ve been told to be cautious; to work with my head down; to put my emotions on hold and “wait my turn”; and to simply cross assigned tasks off a to-do list. I am no longer listening to any of this advice. I am too eager to contribute to a high-quality organization’s success to just keep my head down and wait for you to employ my skills!

I refuse to remain an under-utilized, misunderstood cog in the machine simply because I am young. I refuse to see myself the way you see me. Recent grads are often treated poorly because we have limited experience and are said to be “desperate” for employment. Too many millennials are given useless, menial tasks to complete, instead of being given real responsibility that many of us can manage easily, and are eager to take on right now.

You may think interns are only hired to accomplish tasks that are “beneath you”. You may see me as an intern in a bad economy who will do anything to keep a position. You may take me for granted because you (and I) know there are 1,000 people lined up behind me ready to work. You may see me as someone whose purpose is to get you coffee, schedule your ride to the airport, and pick up your dry cleaning…

I am so much more than that.

I am hungry to learn from you. I am itching to work hard to help you succeed. I am absorbing all of the (valuable) information you will impart to me as my mentor. I am willing to bust my ass to help strengthen your brand. And I would love to show you how much passion and energy I can bring to your organization. And… I am happy to complete tasks you don’t have time for – if they add value to the company I am helping you grow.

I chose to apply to your position not because I just need any internship. I chose to apply to your internship specifically. I am rooting for your success. I have the talent and ability to help you build your company.

If you treat me with the respect I deserve, and allow me to have some creative freedom and responsibility, I will prove myself to you.

Sincerely,

- Interns

Advice From a Recent Grad: Avoid My Job Search Mistakes

As a recent grad in this “new” economy (that’s what we’re calling it now, right?) finding a job has been nothing short of difficult. There are several reasons that I (along with a lot of other grads) am having this problem. To be honest, I made several key mistakes in my job search that had I known ahead of time to avoid, I would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

1)  I Have Really High Expectations

The truth is, Gen Y has somewhat unrealistic expectations when it comes to entering the workforce. I read a lot of books about corporate culture; how businesses got their start, and autobiographies of super successful CEOs. It’s difficult to grasp that right when I enter the workforce, in most companies, I won’t be able to unleash my creativity and take some leadership on projects. If I get a job in which I can’t work virtually, I want a COOL office building – I want bright colors, cool couches, and kegs on every floor. (W+K does it… why can’t everyone else?)

2)  I’m Out of State

Currently, I am living in California and searching for a job in Oregon – this has proven difficult. I’ve had several opportunities in Los Angeles, but upon finding out I’ll only be there for a few more months, those opportunities are (understandably) rescinded. Friends keep telling me to just get a job and not tell potential employers I’m moving soon… while this might work, it’s not an option I’m comfortable with. The same thing goes with opportunities found in Oregon; when interview time comes around, it’s necessary to explain that I won’t be moving there for a little while, and they always seem to need someone “yesterday.”

3)  I Wasted Too Much Time on Online Job Boards

Before and soon after graduation, I posted my resume on almost every job board I could think of, and every new one I came across. I searched these sites relentlessly for hours at a time – to no prevail. It wasn’t until after a LOT of wasted searching that I realized job boards simply aren’t the way to go. (Network, network, network.)

4)  I Didn’t Have a Clear Plan in the Beginning of My Search

I started my job search looking for any job. I just wanted a paycheck, in an office, doing anything. I didn’t have a list of target companies. I didn’t keep a record of companies I had applied to. I didn’t make it easy to customize my resume for every position – I didn’t even keep a “master” resume.

In short, I did everything you are not supposed to do.

Or rather, I didn’t do anything you ARE supposed to do.

The most important (and productive) thing you can do is to PLAN your search before you begin.

Learn from my mistakes… don’t waste several months trying to land a job at any company, from Monster, without a record, a list, or an idea of what you want to do.  Executing a well thought out job search will relieve you of endless frustration, confusion, and disappointment. (Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.)

Who Says Post Grad Internships Are Ridiculous?

Graduating from college without a career plan is disappointing. Being immersed in a job search with minimal results is beyond discouraging.

Image

I graduated recently, and I have been in one of those discouraged states – I was frustrated beyond the point of reason. I felt like a failure. I was embarrassed at the state of my career. I was disappointed because in one of my current roles I have the title of “intern.” And being an intern after graduation is embarrassing, right?

I thought everyone else had it all figured out.

A friend picked up on this mood while we were talking – and gave me a serious reality check. This friend very quickly changed my perspective… and I have since created a new outlook for myself.

“That is ridiculous.”

My title may be “intern”, but I complete more meaningful projects, have more responsibility, and have much more fun than I do in my other “real job” as a Marketing Coordinator. I continue to succeed in my role as an intern. Most important, if that level of success was occurring in a full-time position rather than an internship, I would be thrilled with where my career path was headed.

Here’s my thought now: Post grads put too much emphasis on their title… instead of focusing on their job functions – and learning their craft.

We need to remember that although “intern” isn’t an ideal position post graduation, most internships offer valuable learning experiences and can set the pace for our careers… that the value of an internship is in what you learn – not just about the tasks you complete, or your title.

And if that learning occurs after you’ve been handed your diploma, that’s okay!

Relax. You’re building your career path.

Take Some Risks in Choosing Your Career Path

Risk – a word that comes to mind when we think of entrepreneurs… or bungee jumping.

It’s not usually a concept we attribute to job searching.

But maybe we should.

After all, deciding what career path to take – determining your livelihood – is a risk. Without significant experience, how are we supposed to know what we want to do professionally for the next twenty, thirty… or fifty years?

Students have been conditioned since kindergarten to find what they love. When I was seven, my life aspirations were to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, and a mom. (Classy… right?) While a cheer-leading career would probably have made Dad proud, I didn’t follow through with that dream.

I still didn’t have a clue what I actually wanted to do when I arrived at college. Somehow, I thought that first time walking past the “Welcome to Oregon State University” sign would finally trigger me to determine my career path.

It didn’t.

Instead, I spent my first two semesters as an undecided major, enrolling in everything from Astronomy to Yoga. When I finally chose Business as a major, it was less out of passion and more out of necessity – I had to graduate in four years.

Business was great for a while… until I had to declare an Option. Basically, my choices were Marketing, Accounting, or Entrepreneurship. Accounting was out of the question because I hatemath. I didn’t think I would be good at entrepreneurship – and, honestly, I didn’t like one of the professors who taught in that area (admittedly, not a great way to choose a course of study)

So marketing it was. I appreciated a good commercial… and figured that writing jingles and creating ads would be fun! Then I realized marketing wasn’t all about jingles and funny ads, and thought I was stuck. Something inside me said to stick with the major, and learned about the industry both inside – and outside –the classroom.

Yes, in staying with my Marketing major, I took a risk.

And because I took this risk, I fell in love with the industry – and have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities I have had thus far.

My advice to current college students: when choosing your major, which will eventually lead to your early career, take a few risks. Take a course or two in something you didn’t initially think would ever interest you – talk to professors and consider their advice on just how important a major is to your future.

Contrary to popular belief, the classroom won’t teach you everything you need to know – you should also get involved in your interests outside of class, intern and read up on industry trends. So most importantly, do your research.

Then… take the risk.

** This post was originally featured on the YouTern blog

Monster

Early on in my job search, I put my resume on Monster – I knew it wasn’t a great resource, but it seemed like a logical step. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have my information on one more job board. Who knows? I might even get a lucky phone call.

Turns out, from Monster alone, I have received no less than twenty “job offers” in the last few months. None of them were careers I would consider accepting – all of them were 100% commission based, and at least half of them claimed to have found me through a “targeted search.” That’s weird… I don’t remember putting “I sell health insurance” on my resume. Let me check it.

Nope, the words health + insurance are nowhere to be found.

While these emails are annoying and spammy, they can serve as a little pick me up in the midst of a discouraging job search. Even though I know these aren’t positions I am willing to get into, or have any interest in, it’s kind of nice hearing that I’ve been “selected” to sell an organization’s prized product.

Guess that’s why my resume is still on Monster somewhere.

Have you received these emails? Do they serve any purpose – or are they just frustrating messages taking up room in your inbox?

New Year Inspiration from Forbes Himself

Let us enter the New Year cheerfully. Let us resolve to look on the bright side, to make the best of whatever may befall, to maintain faith that doing the right thing will ultimately bring victory. Let us cultivate sunniness, resist sourness. We can better wrestle with difficulties, obstacles, problems in a spirit of buoyancy than in an abject, morose mood.  How much more the radiant mortal gets out of life and puts into life than the downcast, long-faced, self-pitying being!  - B.C. Forbes (1937)

 

… that pretty much sums it up. Happy New Year!

Gen Y: Embrace Your “Unemployment”

Last night, I was watching an episode of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery channel.

The show’s host, Mike Rowe, was doing what he does best (making sure life can go on in the case of a catastrophic event) and I started to realize how important “dirty jobs” really are.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon brooding about my current job situation; I was working on projects that didn’t inspire me; I felt like my talents could be better used somewhere else; why wouldn’t anyone hire me… blah, blah, blah.

Watching Mike Rowe work reminded me that sometimes it’s not about the task at hand; it’s about what you learn from that task.

Generation Y has sometimes been called “Generation Jobless” – and the name makes sense to many of us. We are the jobless generation not only because so many of us are unemployed, but because we are also underemployed as bartenders and baristas with college degrees.

Gen Y is doing what we have to do to get by… and complaining the whole time.

We should learn to be more like Mike. He became inspired by hard work; he embraced it and learned everything he could from crazy, sometimes unwanted – and almost always uninspiring – experiences.

I know firsthand how difficult it is to appreciate a job you aren’t inspired by. But I think as long as we are going to be dubbed the jobless generation, we should embrace our in-between, “educated and unemployed”, status – and learn what we can from the experience. Yes, take experiences such as scheduling appointments, shoveling coffee grounds and cleaning dishes – and learn from them.

There are a lot of transferable and in-demand skills to be gained from completing what may seem like menial tasks: time management and the meaning of hard work are good examples among them.

Instead of not appreciating the opportunity to work, embrace your current situation. Even the menial entry-level jobs are chances to network. Impress your supervisor with whatever task they hand you, and ask for a recommendation when the time comes for you to move on to the next stage in your career.

Just ask Mike Rowe. And me.

 

 

* This article was originally posted at http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern