(This post was updated on 6/22/2020)
College graduates are quickly learning the high expectations for their first job out of college aren’t exactly going to be met the way they pictured. There are many perks they hope to find at their first job that end up missing.
It’s important for career counselors to fully understand the anxieties of college students and the extent of their expectations surrounding that all-important first job.
Once you know what those lofty expectations are, here are a few ways to handle them as their career counselor:
Reading the mind of soon-to-be college graduates is an impossible task, but understanding their prospects will help you know what questions to ask. Fortunately, the results of a 2019 study from Kronos revealed unique glimpses into the Gen Z mindset. These insights show this generation is optimistic yet anxious about transitioning into the working-world and preparing for life beyond the classroom.
It seems these anxieties are valid. Given the job market in 2020, about half of this year’s college graduates may be headed for unemployment, according to The Hill. Knowing these numbers and anxieties gives you the opportunity to address the realities with students in a positive light. For example, if they don’t get the first job they apply for, it’s OK. Encourage them to focus on some back-up plans to resort to until they find the perfect career path.
College juniors and seniors are awaiting the great breakaway and daydreaming about what they want life to look like after college. Understanding exactly what students expect from life after college — not just in their job after college — will give you the tools needed to tackle their mighty visions.
Gen Z cited salary and advancement as the top ways they’d measure their success in their careers, according to the Kronos study. Additionally about one-third measure their success based on how respected they are by their co-workers and the recognition they receive from their manager. The report also showed that one in four Gen Zers admit they would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules.
All of these workplace goals are possible, but sometimes difficult to acquire. Students need to understand that a job with one or all of these qualifications may not pop up within the first year or two of job hunting. In the meantime, work with students to identify what skills they need for their ideal job and ways they can grow in those areas.
Not everything about the outlook for college graduates is dim, but bringing some of the negatives to light can help students be aware of what might lie ahead. This is especially important because many graduates feel that college didn’t help them better themselves in the working world. A 2018 Burning Glass study found that 43% of graduates said they ended up having to accept an offer for a job that didn’t require a degree.
Career counselors hold the power to have fewer students feeling college was unnecessary by asking broader questions and dishing out the truthful details about first-time jobs. Be sure to provide students with the expectation that their first job may not be their goal, but they can use it as a stepping stone to get where they want to go. Help them research jobs that are related to their ideal career, both vertically and laterally, so they understand all of their options.
The good news for college students is that they have career counselors to guide and prepare them for the difficult ride ahead. Only four in 10 college students believe that college adequately prepared them for the working world, according to a 2018 survey by McGraw-Hill Education. This knowledge is an overwhelming thought for career counselors. Still, this topic is a great place to start with your students.
Encourage students to be honest and let them know it’s normal to feel underprepared. If they don’t feel college has prepared them for the workforce, try getting to the core of this anxiety. What makes them feel underprepared, or what is intimidating about the working world?
Discovering what a student expects from a job is important in helping to choose a career path, but since careers are an enormous part of life, find out what your student imagines life after college to look like. They’re looking for jobs with high salaries to pay off school debt or buy a house, they want work-life balance and to work remotely to travel or have a family. These life details will give a clearer and broader glimpse of what is expected of their career.
It’s impossible to be an expert on every job. The best people to handle college students’ expectations are those who are working in the student’s prospective career path. Help students identify a mentor who is able to give the student a glimpse into the real world of their career choice. Forming relationships with mentors will be valuable throughout their careers, so it is important they learn early how to go about it. Schedule a follow-up meeting with the student and mentor once they’ve met to see what they each took away.
What are some lofty expectations that you’ve heard from college graduates? How did you handle them?