Got Your Diploma? Tips For College Grads Entering The Job Market

July 28, 2014  |  


To put it bluntly, the job market for new college graduates sucks. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute looking at data between April 2013 and March 2014, about 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 are unemployed. The unemployment rate for all college grads over the age of 25 is 3.3 percent, which, too, is higher than normal. But according to Chaz Pitts-Kyser, author of Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College,you don’t have to be a statistic.

First make sure you are in the right mindset. Remember, your degree isn’t “a magic wand.”

“From kindergarten and up, we have been taught that a college degree is the key to success, and while this is in many ways true, a degree in no way guarantees success—or a job upon graduation,” says Pitts-Kyser. “But still, too many recent grads expect for jobs to fall at their feet because they’ve earned a degree, but it just doesn’t work like that, especially in today’s economy. You can’t wave your degree around and expect for employers to come running, offering you a great salary, benefits, and room to advance. Your degree makes these great things much more likely—but you have to work very hard before you graduate and after to jump start your career.”

Remember and be prepared for the challenges you will face. There are some obstacles that are particular to female grads versus male. “The glass ceiling, of course, looms large above women—making it harder to position ourselves for advancement within companies and earn the salary we deserve. Because of this, having the confidence to step out and be seen and be heard is key,” explains Pitts-Kyser. “Too often, women wait to be acknowledged and rewarded, thinking that surely if we do good work we will receive what we’re due. But no, women have to open their mouths and ask for what they want—be it a better salary than what is initially offered, more responsibility within a job, or the promotion we have been eyeing. As a young exec I know said, ‘No ask, no get.'”

And get help along the way. It’s okay to reach out for people to mentor you. “Women suffer from a lack of mentorship and a large network. Since most jobs are obtained through networking, this can reduce their chances of getting hired within a company. Women need to expand their professional circles—to include men and women, people of other ethnicities, and professionals at varying levels—and take the initiative to reach out to people in positions of power who can help them obtain a job and advance,” says Pitts-Kyser.

Hit the job market running — whenever you decide to. “[W]hether you want a position in your field upon graduation or want to take time off during the summer and later focus on securing a position,” she says.

And don’t be afraid to negotiate a better salary even if you are a new grad. “Just keep in mind that your salary will be based on many factors, including your experience, educational background, where you live, and how much people in your job in your field are getting paid, so doing research prior to being offered a salary is key,” she says.

Here are five other things a new grad should do:

–Believe in yourself. “Trust yourself and be willing to take risks. This is the best time ever to confidently go after all those dreams you had in college—career related and not. While you’re young and perhaps without the attachments of a mate and kids, I urge you to consider what you really want to do and be willing to take the risks necessary to accomplish your goals,” suggests Pitts-Kyser.

–Be creative in your employment pitch. “Think outside the box when job searching. The faster you are able to recognize not-so-blatant opportunities and expand your idea of where you should work, the closer you will be to getting hired in a position you will enjoy,” says Pitts-Kyser. “Many people apply only to well-known, large-sized companies because they think the pay will be more and it will look better on a resume, but this isn’t necessarily true. You might actually earn more and put your career on the fast track through ‘thinking small.’ As a plus, smaller companies tend to be easier to get into because fewer people are applying for positions within them and it’s easier to gain the interest of the actual owner.”

–Use your network. “Leverage your former professors, employers, family members and network like crazy on and offline as part of your job search,” she says. “Hiring managers or potential bosses should know your name and what you desire—because you reached out to them on LinkedIn, emailed them your resume, called and asked for an information interview, and followed up on any jobs you have applied for. You have to be on it and stay on it.”

–Go beyond your industry. “Networking with people in and outside of your industry is a necessity at every step of your career. There are so many opportunities out there, but if your professional network is small, or filled with the same type of people, you’ll never know about them,” she adds.

–Have a side hustle. “Whether you have a job you love or are pounding the pavement to secure a position, I encourage you to nurture a business that aligns with your passion and work actively on it until it provides a regular stream of income,” says Pitts-Kyser.

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