College grads, get the right mindset in this economy
College seniors are often preoccupied by the question, "Where will I work after I graduate?" But with an economy still in recovery, the answer may not be clear.
Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder, author of "The Unemployed College Graduate's Survival Guide," addresses the concerns college grads have about entering a competitive job market, finding a job that can start a career and creating a mindset that will overcome the challenges ahead. Here is some advice taken from her book.
Beginning a career in a recovering economy
The economy has improved dramatically since the recession (defined as occurring from December 2007 to June 2009), but the job market is still competitive, especially for new grads. "If you're expecting someone to be impressed with your college degree, forget it," Snyder says. "It's not going to happen in this job market. Good jobs are very hard to come by, and there are many equally capable graduates competing for every position. You can't take anything for granted. You must go above and beyond in every endeavor and bring something extra to the game. That 'something extra' can be your winning, willful attitude."
That includes your expectations about starting your career and the work available to you. "As a new entrant to the workforce, you will probably be looking for an entry-level job within an established organization," Snyder says. "Entry-level work, by definition, implies that you lack prior experience in the field. Typically, entry-level workers are assigned the least desirable tasks within an organization, sometimes called 'grunt work.' This is how you are expected to learn the ropes of a business.
"As a recent graduate, this can be a very frustrating attitude to encounter. You may feel as if you already paid your dues in college. You certainly paid your tuition, and you may still be paying it in the form of student loans. You have a lot to offer right now and feel that you aren't being given a chance to fully demonstrate your worth because you are constantly being given such low-level assignments.
"You may be right. You probably are capable of much more than running a photocopy machine, answering phones or making macchiatos. In fact, I'm sure you are. And it's a good bet that your boss knows it, too."
Start strong, no matter the size of the company
When it comes to building a solid foundation for your career, the size of the company doesn't matter. Starting at a large, national organization can open up a lot of doors for you. "If you survey the situation carefully, you may notice that you are part of a major business chain with a powerful, recognized brand," Snyder says. "Big chains have national and international offices, which require the contributions of qualified and capable executives to propel the business forward. They appreciate the talents of someone who understands every aspect of the business, including the front line of dealing directly with the customer, yet is also educated at the college level. If you do a good job and make it your business to learn every aspect of the entire organization, who knows how far you could rise within the organization?"
Small businesses can create opportunities as well. "If you find yourself in more of a mom-and-pop operation rather than a national chain, this presents a different set of unique opportunities," Snyder says. "Because the business is small, you will have the opportunity to view every aspect of the entire operation close up, and you will have direct access to the final decision-makers. If you prove yourself to be trustworthy and reliable, who knows where it may lead? You might be offered significantly increased responsibilities. If not, you may learn, from observation and practice, how to run your own successful business and be a boss someday."
While there may be struggles as you start off, remember that the economy is fluid, that this is a temporary situation and that your long-term career goals do not need to be compromised. "You may need to adjust your short-term strategies to match the job market, but you should not scale back your long-term plans," Snyder says. "Go for what you really want in life. Don't let a recession stop you or cause you to lower your expectations. As long as you remain willing to work hard and are adaptable, you will still be able to reach your career goals. Your time frame for achievement may need to be adjusted, but your aspirations can remain the same."
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