How to Handle the High Expectations of College Grads

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College graduates are quickly finding out that the high expectations they have for their first job out of college aren’t exactly what they had 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:

Understanding the prospects

Reading the mind of a soon-to-be college graduate is an impossible task, but understanding what their prospects are will help you know what questions need to be asked. Fortunately, results of the July AfterCollege Career Insights Survey reveal unique glimpses into the millennial mindset. Among this glimpse is growing anxiety about transitioning into the working world and being prepared for life beyond the classroom.

It seems these anxieties have validity. The same survey showed that 22 percent of graduating seniors said they didn’t have a job lined up after graduation. Knowing these numbers and anxieties gives you the opportunity to address the realities in a positive light. For example, if you don’t get the first job you apply for, it’s OK. Focus on some back-up plans to resort to until you find the perfect career path.

What students expect

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 are expecting from life after college — not just job after college — will give you the tools needed to tackle their mighty visions.

Recently, a LinkedIn survey of 25,311 people showed that, when searching for a job, compensation was the top factor cited by students and recent graduates. Among this top factor, the AfterCollege insights report showed that students and recent grads also value working remotely, a visible career path, work-life balance, regular social activities, and a casual dress code.

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.

The reality

Not everything about the outlook for college graduates is dim, but bringing some of the negatives to light can help students become aware of what might lie ahead. This is especially important because many graduates feel college didn’t help them better themselves in the working world. A 2015 Accenture survey found 49 percent of college grads consider themselves underemployed or in a job that didn’t require a college education.

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.

How to deal with high expectations

The good news for college students is that they have career counselors to guide and prepare them for the difficult ride ahead. Knowing that only 55 percent of respondents on the AfterCollege survey believe that college adequately prepared them for the working world is an overwhelming thought for career counselors, but 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 ever known to man. The best people to handle the expectations of college students are those who are working in the student’s prospective career path. Find a mentor who is willing to dedicate a few days toward giving the student a glimpse into the real world of their career choice and schedule a follow-up meeting with the student and mentor to see how they felt about this path.

What are some lofty expectations that you’ve heard from college grads? How did you handle them?

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.