It’s time for the reality check. America is in a recession, and jobs are fewer while competition is greater. It takes even more hustle, dedication, and tenacity to land a job today than it did for your parents. Having a degree isn’t always enough and, sorry to break it to you, but you aren’t likely to get your dream job right out of college. While that may be disappointing, it also allows you to clarify your expectations and set realistic goals. Excelle came up with the five things you’ll need to give up—or compromises you’ll have to make—to land your first entry-level job. If you follow our advice and keep on building your professional credentials, you’ll be able to more effectively network, interview, and succeed in the entry-level job you are eventually offered.
It’s called the dream job for a reason. That reason is that while it does exist, you’re going to have a hard time finding it, let alone landing it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have aspirations or that you shouldn’t constantly strive for bigger and better things. It does mean, however, that most of you will not be working at Google anytime soon. Unless you are going to a top-tier school, serving as the captain of the lacrosse team, acting as student body president, majoring in engineering and graduating cum laude in between starting your own business and volunteering in the developing world, you may have a tough time getting into the Googleplex. Are there exceptions? Sure. But understand that graduating from your college with a 3.0 G.P.A isn’t exactly a ticket into the most competitive jobs in the nation.
The Good News:
Just because you didn’t get a 4.0 doesn’t mean you are damned to an eternity of unemployment. It just means you still need to prove yourself. Instead of lamenting your misfortune, pursue a job that will give you the skills that globally minded companies like Google look for: intelligence, creativity, and measurable results. Work hard, innovate, and get promoted. Who knows, maybe in five years you’ll have developed just the skill-set they will be looking for in 2015.
You Aren’t Owed Anything.
“But I was in Golden Key. But I was the treasurer of SAE. But I always got As. But I got accepted to every place I applied. But I was voted most likely to succeed. But my professors all love me. But my Dad is the mayor…” That is excellent news. Unfortunately, so were thousands and thousands of other recent grads. If there are only X amount of jobs and there are 5, 10 or 200 qualified people applying for each one of them, not everyone is going to be hired. Competition from your classmates isn’t your only concern. You don’t have to be an economist to know that you are up against a national job market with overly qualified people applying for more entry-level positions because of mass layoffs.
The Good News:
By recognizing this reality you will be less likely to passively wait for what you think you “deserve.” Instead, by realizing that you need to stand out in a crowded field of people just as qualified or more qualified than you, it will make it easier to focus on things you can do to compete. Things like beefing up your resume with internships, externships and volunteering experiences. Things like getting new skills, and learning new languages, be they foreign or technical. This opportunity may also be a great time to go back to graduate school or to take a year abroad and learn the languages, cultures, and global perspectives offered by a temporary expatriation.
Money Matters, but It Isn’t Everything.
The average entry-level salary for Americans in 2010 is around $43,000. Some of you will earn considerably more than this and others considerably less, but most of you will fall into this range. When you entered college you may have had dreams of being a 22-year-old billionaire, but nobody reading this has started Facebook, so that is not something you should be worrying about. More Americans are going to college now than ever before, which means the degree isn’t as valuable as it once was. What used to set you apart with a BA may now require a master’s degree or other professional degree.
The Good News:
At this point, if you are lucky enough to be offered a position that pays your bills and will start you on a career path towards your long-term goals, then take it. You need experience and professional skills more than you need big paychecks right now. Work hard, learn a lot, challenge yourself, grow in your experience and the money will come later.
Summer Vacation? What’s That?
Somebody really should have told you this before, but you probably won’t be getting a three-month respite from work anymore. When you do get your entry-level job you will be surprised at how little free time you have. You will work through June, July, and August with the same regularity that you used to hang out with friends, work part-time jobs, and go to the pool. You will not get a week off for Thanksgiving, and you will not get two weeks off for the winter holidays. You will not be getting a spring break. You will, however, be much more excited about your Saturdays and Sundays and really cherish your occasional three-day weekends. As the low guy/girl on the totem pole you will probably only have between five and ten days of vacation to take all year. This can come as a shock to your newly matriculated system, but don’t worry, you’ll adapt quickly.
The Good News:
If loads of vacation are an absolute priority, then there are a few ways around this predicament. You could become a teacher. Teachers, as you know, have the same schedule you used to enjoy. Or, you could become a wild land firefighter or smokejumper. Maybe you’d like to spend your summers in the great outdoors battling wildfires and earning buckets of cash, so you can recreate for some of the non fire months. You can start your own small business and, as your own boss, take the summers for yourself. The catch with this last option, is that you have to earn enough money the other nine months to pay for this luxury.
Boss of Your Cube… if You’re Lucky
You may have been the president of your fraternity. You may have managed the restaurant you worked at. You may have been a fearless leader amongst your admiring friends. You may have been many things. You may even have exemplary leadership qualities. That still doesn’t mean that you are going to walk off the graduation stage and take your rightful place as the head of your company. If you are smart, resourceful, and a quick learner, then you may indeed someday grow into that leadership position. You will not, however, be starting out in charge. In fact you will be much, much closer to the opposite of in charge. You may have to wait outside of important meetings, make copies, fetch coffee, run errands, do tedious paperwork and many other unsavory things as you start off in your first year of full-time employment.
The Good News:
This isn’t forever. Remember when you were a freshman and everyone else had so much more experience and clout than you? The same thing will happen here. After a year or two you will be an upperclassman and you’ll be able to watch from your lofty perch as the new kid on the block replaces you as the resident newbie. This doesn’t mean that you’ll go from entry-level to CEO anytime soon, but it does mean that you can see the career ladder ahead of you and will have already gleaned an understanding on how to ascend that ladder.
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