As we move through January, this time of year holds different meanings for different people. For some it is a struggle to survive the cold Michigan winter, while others anxiously begin (and try to stick to) a long list of New Year’s resolutions. For those entering their final semester of college, one word rings truer than any other: future. And yes, that means finding the “big girl” or “big boy” job everyone has been droning on about the past four–or five or six or seven–years. It’s an exciting notion to be out in the “real world”, but it’s also a terrifying thought. It’s time to prove ourselves and learn how to survive outside the security of a college campus. With facing the world’s realities comes stereotypes already working against us; we must prove ourselves beyond the beer pong trophies, tailgating-induced amnesia and oversized sweatpants outfits we haven’t left since the first 8 a.m. freshmen year.
What should we be prepared to face? How can we defend our character and break stereotypes? Here’s the rundown.
“Generation Y college grads entitled.”
Our generation has grown accustomed to handouts on silver platters and being rewarded for simply showing up. While growing up believing the world will love us no matter what is a pleasant perspective, it instills the idea that we don’t have to put any great effort into success. Many employers have stated that recent college grads interviewing for open positions within their companies expected a higher salary than what the entry-level position merited, to enter the company with more authority and told the manager they expect to take over their position within months! Woah, now.
While some of these examples are rare and/or exaggerated, they do give a picture of the high personal opinion held by some of the recently graduated. When beginning with a company or an organization, you must be capable of showing humility and acknowledging you will be new to the company. Shut up and learn the processes now; you can focus on revolutionizing when you’ve earned the notoriety to do so (and that will not come in a matter of weeks). Research the position you’re interviewing for to understand what is appropriate and expected. Ask smart questions and show that you’re willing to engage in the business and learn from the experiences and wisdom of your superiors. Abandon any and all shreds of the know-it-all five-year-old left in your ego.
“The recently graduated are inexperienced.”
This one is always the conundrum… you need experience to get the job, and you need the job to get experience. Don’t let this discourage you! It’s unrealistic for employers to expect you will have all the knowledge and skills straight out of college, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have relevant, applicable experience. Many colleges are now requiring graduates to complete internships, which can definitely give you a leg up. Even without an internship under your belt, you aren’t out of options. On your resume, in your cover letter or during your interview, highlight a volunteer experience you’ve had or show how your other skills (communication, leadership, organization, etc.) are still beneficial to the job.
“Younger applicants are unreliable.”
College students are often pictured as flighty, flakey individuals with little to no direction. While some live up to this persona, many students are quite the opposite and have a clear vision of post-graduate goals and the commitment needed to succeed. Use your resume as a visual aid to demonstrate the personal and professional passions you’ve dedicated yourself to throughout the years. Did you work at McDonald’s in high school? While that’s not the most glamorous or specialized job, it shows that you can work hard in your academics and still hold down a job at the same time.
“New grads are unprofessional.”
It’s easy to think of the stereotypical college kid rolling out of bed and rushing to class in their pajamas. It is also easy to imagine the casual slang that permeates today’s college campuses. Yes, it’s wonderful to wear sweats all day and not care what anybody thinks, but there’s a time and a place for that (and that time is coming to an end).
So how can you show your transformation from college slob to polished professional? Before you get to know someone, presentation is everything. When you’re applying for a job, the hiring manager has no idea who you are so present yourself in the best possible way. Make sure your resume and cover letter are impeccably edited and visually appealing. Ensure any and all communication had with the potential employer (whether phone or email) is professional and articulate (a.k.a. no more emoticons at the end of each sentence). If you get called in for that coveted interview, make sure your appearance appropriate portrays your maturity and attention to detail.
As you begin this daunting process of job hunting and leaving the college bubble, there will be hurdles and disappointments. Hopefully you’re a little more prepared to take on the world… or at least conquer those stereotypes!
Sources: amandaabella.com, EZine @rticles, Fox School of Business – Temple University