You recently graduated from college. You are either unemployed, underemployed, or fully employed but not doing what you want. You are not alone. Unlike any time in recent history, most college graduates are in the general situation described above.
If you are unemployed, you need a job. If you are underemployed, you need a better job. If you are employed but disliking what you do, you need a different job.
How can we help?
We are quite good at helping recent graduates do better in the job market. You may think you understand job searching techniques.
You may think you created a good resume.
But… we can assure you that you can do better.
Why do you need help? Because you need every possible career advantage in the current economic landscape. Sure, you could attempt to figure things out on your own. But, how has that worked out so far? If you are similar to most recent college graduates, you have nearly complete lack of experience/knowledge/know-how about the world of work. This is the reason why you are struggling. This is not your fault. High schools and colleges do next to nothing to help their students with their career planning challenges.
You are young. That is a great career advantage. But, time has a way of going faster than we anticipate. We meet with many 25 year olds who seemed to think that “something would come up” after graduation that would put them on a career path. Three years passed with nothing more to show than random jobs in retail.
There is hope. Great hope! While your generation faces a tough economic climate, there are also more career opportunities for young people to thrive than ever before. Some in your generation will create a wonderful work world filled with wealth, time, and freedom. We call this The Path of Abundance.
Here’s the full answer: when I started providing career counseling services in Connecticut, well before The Great Recession, most of our recent college graduate clients had experienced some form of post-collegiate misery. Many had entry-level jobs where the biggest lesson was discovering what they hated. Others were floating in transitional stages. I felt particularly bad for those students who “did the right things”. They worked hard in school. They suffered for their good grades. The payoff was supposed to happen when they got into the work world.
Sure, many had landed prestigious and high paying entry-level jobs. But, a good number of them had sought out what they perceived as a top job without giving much thought – and through getting poor advice – about what jobs would suit them.
Consequently, I would meet unhappy financial analysts who had been told Wall St. was the answer. Likewise, law school, medical school and other prestigious post-collegiate steps were not working out for many of my clients.
To be clear, each of these options is wonderful for some. The problem for my clients was the mismatch between the so-called plum job and their particular interests, values, and preferences.
How could so many smart people wind up thoroughly confused about their careers?
Over the years, I have read many books on career counseling. This study related not only to my work providing career advisory services but also in relation to my own career transition. While some of the books have been excellent, almost all were written for those in the marketplace for such books – adults already in the workforce. Much of the literature requires a tangible understanding of the work world – certainly the corporate world – in order to be engaged in the material.
Other books that were geared for young adults have been broad overviews of the variety of typical professions. These books are helpful for providing a starting point for career discussions. But, the books are not designed, or perhaps are designed poorly, to help readers sort out what career is uniquely suited for the student.
The overview books typically provide a one or two paragraph generalization about a career. As a beginning framework, these books are helpful for high school students. But, most simply lack the sophistication to help young adults make career decisions.
Adult advisors who provide informal career counseling are usually not effective. The main reason: they are usually put in the position of being glib rather than thoughtful.
I made this mistake years ago. I was at a party when a friend approached me for career advice for her twentysomething daughter. “What do you think of X career?” I found myself doing what most adults do: I answered the question in an effort to be helpful. About twenty minutes later, I heard my friend tell her daughter: “Daryl said….” I suddenly realized that I made a terrible mistake. I didn’t ask questions about her daughter. I knew nothing about her. Yet, I was being quoted as an authority. I resolved then to either answer such questions thoughtfully or to pass on answering with the reply that “being glib might end up being more harmful than saying nothing.”
Yet, many of my young adult clients tell me that their Uncle or Dad’s friend or professor gave some generic advice that they thought was worth following. How do those 10 minute conversations go? Soon to graduate Johnny asks successful Uncle Bob what he should do. Bob tells his success story to Johnny and suggests that Johnny might want to follow a similar path. This “advice” might be helpful if coincidentally Johnny has a similar personality/psychology as Uncle Bob and, in the unlikely event, that Bob’s industry has not shifted much since Bob took his steps thirty years ago.
The advice might be decidedly unhelpful and potentially disastrous if confused Johnny follows highly respected Bob’s advice and then realizes that the path is absolutely the wrong trail.
The most common adult advisor for a college student is a helpful professor. The job of the professor is to educate students about her expertise. Professors are experts in history or philosophy or marketing. They are usually very smart. But, they are not, and rarely pretend to be, career advisors.
Unfortunately, students have so few resources to turn to for career advice that their professors are often the only adult resources they have on campus.
When I hear one of our career counseling clients say “my professor suggested that I look into…”, I usually cringe. The professor was most-likely a well-meaning educator trying to help the student but might not have realized that the suggestion of a trusted professor would translate into “the authority told me I should…”. Most academics have only been in the education world. For the most part, they went to graduate school after college and then began their professorial careers. Much like anyone who is a specialist, they know little about other areas of work life and lack a broad based knowledge regarding the variety of careers, particularly those most relevant today not twenty years ago.
Likewise, the other possible adult career advisors, Uncles, neighbors, cousins, are in the same category. They are often well meaning adults who do not fully understand the new work world. Their advice, when taken seriously, often leads to bad career choices.
Career services in college are usually designed as career placement services. There is a huge difference between placement and counseling. The job for placement is to get employers to come to campus to hire their students and to help get their students employed.
This is an incredibly valuable service. But, typically, most do not focus on helping individual students figure out their career paths. They simply do not have the time for such work.