College Graduates: Will Work for…Nothing?

Despite the worst economy in decades, as recent college graduates, we tend to think that companies are going to be fighting tooth and nail for us to come work for them.

Graduates have fresh minds, new ideas, and are eager to use our enthusiasm and energy to propel an organization forward. Getting recognized from within a work force is our dream. Graduation day quickly approaches, and fresh from removing our caps and gowns, we sit by the phone waiting for the hundreds of job offers that we just know will come in.

And we wait some more… and the phone calls don’t come.

Seems this is a different life than what we were told to expect from life after college.

Should universities be more up front when it comes to post grad life? Professors and admissions officers make it seem pretty glamorous; they say we will make $60,000 a year right away and gain great experience while working for the top corporations of America.

They do NOT, however, tell you that internships are where it really all begins – and right after graduation, we probably won’t be making much, if any, money.

When I first started applying to jobs, I got so many rejection letters I couldn’t count them. I realized the economy was bad and companies weren’t actively hiring grads with limited experience. At first I thought, “No big deal. It will change soon.” The turning point for me was when I applied to join the marketing team for a brewery. They said they would love to see where my vision could take their organization – but I had to wait tables first. Wait tables… in marketing?! No thanks.

My university didn’t offer “How to Land a Job 101.” So all of a sudden, it was the month before graduation, and I still had no job. I furiously applied for internships and hoped and prayed for someone to pluck me up and teach me something.

I had been skeptical of intern positions because everyone told us that a degree meant a career. Looking back, I should have gone about my job search a completely different way.

I should have applied for internships and networked – and not waited until I was about to graduate to blindly send my resume into organizations.

Like so many other students, I thought that graduating from college in itself meant I deserved a paycheck. I had worked extremely hard the last four years, and I was excited to see my name and a dollar sign on a little piece of paper every two weeks.

I am still working part time, and I’m gaining some really incredible experience. However, college painted this post grad picture differently for me. Much different. And now I work for… well, almost nothing – just for the chance to enter the workforce and contribute.

So, if you’re about to graduate from college and are staring at a mostly blank resume, you may want to stop listening to those who don’t know this version of the real world. You may want to do some work – quick – to build a formidable resume with real world experience. And you certainly want to network to foster the relationships you need to succeed.

Or, you can grab a piece of cardboard and start making your “Will work for          _____” sign.




(This post was featured on YouTern’s blog,


3 thoughts on “College Graduates: Will Work for…Nothing?

  1. Erica, I’m with you! I had the same experience when I graduated. I sent out over 30 resumes and landed a handful of interviews but could not get a job that my education “prepared” me for. I think the underlying problem with education is that students are not being taught valuable, monetizable skills so much as they are academic fluff. We are trained with the notion that a job will be waiting for us on a silver platter. That’s not the way it works. More people need to understand this at a younger age.

  2. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one! :) I completely agree – “academic fluff” is a great way to put what is going on in higher education today. I hope there are enough blog posts & resources out now to educate college students about this issue! Thanks for the feedback, always appreciated!

  3. Pingback: December Grads: Don’t Despair! « Coach Kristi

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