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.


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, http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern)