I’ve graduated from college – now what?

This summer I received several requests from different friends of mine, wondering if I would work with their new college grad niece or nephew. I am always happy to assist individuals who are ready and willing to start a new career. I was very fortunate to work with a couple of young people who were motivated to find jobs and get started on the next phase of their lives. What I learned from working with them was that college might not equip everyone with the tools that they need to look for work. All that money that was spent on the education helped them become experts in their field, but didn’t necessarily give them what they needed to take the next step of finding a job. Below are some of the things I learned from my own experience and working with new college grads:

• Your college degree is only the first step. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guaranteed a job. I had a college professor tell me that realistically only 25% of college graduates get a job in their field of study. That means you need to be flexible. I’m a case in point. My degree is in Kinesiology and I am working in business.

• These days, it’s a good idea to evaluate your skills to see how they translate into the working world, whether you get to work in your field or not. Take time to jot down all the skills you have. Start with your personal or soft skills—are you likeable, do you enjoy being around people, are you honest, etc. Next, consider what skills are needed in the world of work as a decision maker, interpreter, or facilitator. Spend time at the library, bookstore, or even Google to help you create your list.

• I found that the young people I worked with this summer had a difficult time talking about themselves. It really doesn’t feel natural to talk about yourself, especially to strangers. When an employer asks, “Tell me about yourself”, you need to be prepared to discuss your skills, experience, and abilities with confidence. How do you do that? By practicing. Write down what is called your “elevator speech”. Put together a description of yourself and what you are looking for in employment, along with some of your strengths, then practice repeating it. Repeat it to yourself in the mirror, practice in front of family and friends, and get feedback about how it sounds.

• Of course, you need to come up with a resume. But how do you do that if you’ve never worked? Start with your list of skills, add your elevator speech, establish a career objective and summarize it all. Employers are more interested in what you can do for them, how you can save them time and use your skills to make them money than what employment you have had. You have to show you have the energy, enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly to get the job done.

• Let’s face it – unless you were lucky enough to have an internship or several internships, the jobs you have held probably are not related to anything you want to do for a career. However, the jobs and volunteer positions you have had could show that you are responsible, have a good work ethic, can work with a team and that you are conscientious.

If you are a new college graduate, congratulations! You have a lot going for you and employers are looking for you. Be positive and don’t give up on your job search. It may be that you would benefit from some expert advice during your job search. Getting help during these difficult economic times is certainly commendable – and recommended!

Velta Worley has over eight years experience in corporate management, five years of that specializing in workforce development as a Technical Assistant and Office Manager for Workforce Solutions.