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  • Writer's pictureJaki Suter

Why Today’s College Grads Should Aim High for That First Job

The last couple of weeks have seen just about all the country’s college students head off to school for spring semester. For some of those students, though, this is also their last semester before facing “the real world” of work and (finally) independence.

So… About that first job. Ever since some guy holding a martini cornered Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate” and told him that his future should be in “plastics,” adults everywhere have been more than ready to talk to college seniors about what they should do with their lives. And as it turns out, there is some serious advice that this year’s grads-to-be should hear now.

That first job out of college can be an important indicator of how a career will unfold in the years to come. According to a recent report, college grads who start off underemployed have a higher likelihood of remaining underemployed five and 10 years out (except for those in some STEM disciplines). That means the old advice to just get a job and work your way up could turn out to be seriously bad advice in today’s job market — especially since more than 40 percent of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree, according to the research.

Conversely, the study found that, “Those who start out well employed rarely slide into underemployment. An overwhelming number of workers (87%) who were appropriately employed in their first job continued to hold positions that matched their levels of education five years later.”

Of course finding “appropriate” employment can be harder than it sounds. That’s why, if you’re a college student, it’s so important for you to begin thinking strategically about your career well before you show up for that final semester. While it’s perfectly okay to not know exactly what you want to do after you graduate, it’s not a good idea to assume you’ve got plenty of time to figure it out. Beginning with that first day of freshman orientation, most schools offer a ton of great opportunities to discover what excites you – both in and out of the classroom. You just need to open yourself to the possibilities and follow your curiosity.

Internships or co-ops – either during the school year or over the summer – are key to figuring what kind of work is worth pursuing, and what’s not. In fact, some schools and academic programs make them a requirement for graduation. But whether you’re looking for an internship or that first job after graduation, the hard part for many students can be figuring how to find those opportunities and determining which ones have the most to offer. That’s one of the ways I can help, by showing you how to discover and evaluate what’s out there and then coaching you through the process of applying and interviewing.

And it’s never too early to start networking. I know that for many people, the idea of networking can be daunting. Talking to strangers – or even emailing them – can turn otherwise confident individuals into absolute scaredy-cats And that’s what makes it such a valuable skill to master; because it gives you an edge over everyone else.

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