In less than two months over 3,000 students will walk across a stage and reap the benefits of what they have spent four (or five) years working hard towards. A college degree.
Although, the uncertainty of where you will end up after graduation is enough to make anyone cringe and want to hide under their bed. If you have decided against continuing your education with the grad school route, then it’s goodbye lecture halls and hello real world. How terrifying.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015 the employment rate for young adults (age 20 through 24-years old) with a bachelor’s degree and higher was 89 percent, which was higher than that of young adults with some college but no bachelor’s degree.
If those statistics don’t settle you, then here is some advice Chris Call, a 2012 Auburn graduate. Call graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and has worked at V3 Media Group in Opelika, Alabama since his graduation.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had received while you were still in school regarding how to prepare for your future?
That your relationships with people are just as important as the skills you develop. It's necessary to be skilled at your field, but your interpersonal skills are what set you apart to not only get hired, but actually succeed. You have to be able to work with people.
What are some things students should do in order to help them stand out when applying for jobs?
Know who you are. Your personal identity or brand on how you live your life is a major factor in determining workplace culture. Let yourself shine through. If you are honest about who you are and what you are into, you'll be more satisfied with the jobs you get, and less upset about the ones you don't. And know what the company you're applying for does. Don't apply for a job with a company you know nothing about.
Most valuable abilities or qualities a recent college graduate can have?
The ability to learn a new concept or idea quickly, and to work on a deadline. Having to teach someone how to do something is a necessary evil, and having to repeat is understandable. But the sooner you learn something, the better for both you and the teacher. It's totally fine if you have to be walked through something the first couple times, though if you're 10 weeks on a job and still don't know the basics, you're doing yourself and your employer a disservice. You can get better at this by opening yourself up to new experiences and hobbies. Try golf once, practice at home a couple times, then go back out there. You'll be much better (assuming you've never golfed before). New skills are learned, so practice learning some.
Your professors that have real-world experience or know people that do. It's incredibly valuable to talk to someone that remembers the first steps to get started in a given field. How to break into a market, etc. Those relationships also pay dividends after graduation if you keep them up.
How important is a social or online presence when looking to hire someone?
Depending on the job, that would vary, I assume. If your social media presence makes you look bad, then don't have one. Or at least make it private. We have not hired people because their social media accounts are filled with language or pictures that would change our public perception of a company. You don't have to be as clean as a potential politician, but don't be reckless either. It's really easy for us to find out information about you, so don't make your public online life a train-wreck. Great example is the way you handle a breakup. If you make that public for the world to see, and it's drawn-out and passive-aggressive and makes everyone's eyes widen, then what happens if we have to fire you? Or if you have a dispute with a coworker? Could we expect the same level drama there? Maybe you're not worth the hassle. See?
Best places to look for a job coming out of college?
Wherever one is available. Don't be afraid to go somewhere, but don't feel you have to leave immediately. If there's a job in your desired field and it's where you already live, then great. The work experience for an entry level job gets you that "2 year minimum experience in a related field" that so many people lack and complain about not being able to find. Just get a job, go do it, and if you like it, keep at it. If not, get your relevant experience and get something better. You probably won't find your dream job straight out of college.
Your thoughts on networking? (do’s and don’ts)
If I don't already know you, I am less likely to pay attention to you. Cold calls are the worst - they assume that the person being called is available to talk. If you're networking, actually NETWORK. Don't just grab for likes or followers. Build a relationship with people.
How far in advance should a student start applying for jobs?
Before graduation, no doubt. I'd say that if you still have a full year left, that's probably too early. Somewhere in the middle.
Take any job, or go for the dream job?
If the dream job is available, take it of course. But odds are good it's not, or at least not at the capacity you want it. Get relevant experience first, then go get it. You want to be a marketing director? Great. You've only worked a part-time job at Hollister? Not great.
Any advice you would give to a recent college graduate?
Just start working. This is kind of my soap-box apparently. I have a friend that expected to make 80k a year straight out of college just because he has a degree. You first job will probably be in that 20k - 35k range because that's what entry level is. Why would we hire someone fresh out of college with no work experience at 50k+ when they've done nothing to earn it? But, if you can prove that you can have an empirical, measurable effect on a business, or you can show work that you've done and how it relates to the company you're working for, they can offer you more money because you have VALUE in the sense of a business. You just have to make yourself valuable to the business. Not valuable to your mom, boyfriend, wife, whatever. Valuable to company that has to make money to survive.
Any other thoughts/ comments you think would benefit students regarding how to prepare for their future?
Everyone likes to feel motivated, but few people act on it. Just do something.