After years of endless essays and exams, what is it exactly that employers want to see in you?
By Galen Patterson, California State University, Fullerton
Graduating college can be a fearsome achievement.
You no longer have the guidance and tools of a structured learning environment, or the grace of grades to reflect performance on a regular basis. There is no hope of drastically changing the subject of study or the people in the environment. Professional workforce life can be intimidating and heartless, but there is no better teacher than experience.
Life after college has two phases. The first is arguably the more exciting of the two. Newly minted graduates can live in small apartments with several roommates without judgement. They can eat fast food or ramen noodles continuously and learn how to save money instead of living check-to-check.
While in this phase, mistakes will be made and hard times will fall, but it is just the beginning, and your quality of life will improve as you improve yourself. This is the time you should make mistakes. College prepares students for the real world, but the real world is something that takes hands-on training to succeed in, and learning comes from hardship.
A good place to start is to focus on your craft. Maintain an interest in what you do, so you can make those skills more marketable over time. The better you are at something, the more your pay will reflect that.
Do not shy away from entry-level jobs. Everyone starts somewhere, and learning an operation from the ground up is a highly successful method to make yourself an indispensable employee. Having a good work ethic at an entry-level job will also increase your chance of promotion when a position opens up in the future.
Many companies prefer fresh graduates over tempered workers because supervisors can train them in the methods and practices of the employer. Careers with this mentality often have the competitive pay and benefits that new graduates crave. The employer is ultimately able to entice the graduate into loyalty by investing in them.
Studies show that internships and employment during college are the two most important factors when companies are hiring new graduates, while relevance of study is one of the least important. The same studies show that college reputations have much less of an impact on hiring than you may expect.
The second phase of life after college is the cruise control-like mentality of pacing yourself. This phase is the ideal time to select mates, start families or acquire long-term debt, which may sound scary, but these are the things people dream of, like new cars and houses. Establishing a permanent residence and declaring a partner show insurance companies and banks that you can commit and are worthy of their services and deductions.
The second phase may sound more daunting than the first, but all hope is not lost. By the time you reach this point, you will know what you are doing and probably what you want. Understand that life is hard. Dreams will be crushed, but there can be victory in that.
By dispelling the belief that the world will be greatly impacted by your invention, business or art is to accept your current reality. Recognize that the impact you may be seeking is not impossible, but it is almost always a byproduct of something much less ambitious.
Attitude is everything. People respect a person who can maintain a professional bearing and control their emotions in the workplace. Management pays attention to the willingness and attitude of those under their charge, and a productive mindset will almost always pay off. Attitudes are contagious, and negativity will impact those around you.
It can take a few failed attempts to get it right. Mario Puzo wrote his third novel, “The Godfather,” after his two previous books failed to generate much income. It became the number one bestseller for 67 weeks in America and made it to the top of the charts in various European countries. Decades later, it became a film trilogy, and it still has lasting value more than fifty years later.
There is no wrong way to live your life. Famous Doctor of Journalism Hunter S. Thompson once wrote to a friend, “That IS the question: Whether to float with the tide, or swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives.”
Making decisions is one of the most important parts of being an adult. If you make the wrong decision, there’s a good chance you will figure it out eventually, and it will be easier to identify in the future. Fixing problems is better than lamenting lost opportunities.
In his dying years, Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote a book with timeless wisdom directed toward the world’s youth. “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” is an inspirational message passed from an old man to a young generation, telling everyone that everything is going to be okay. Your life will be worth it.