Prepare Your College Students For These Workplace Realities

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Consider just how long your students have dreamed about their first jobs. Possibly even before Kindergarten, they were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

For most, of course, their responses evolved over time. Once they reached high school and began visiting colleges, their excitement grew. 

The main goal of college is to help students discover their career aspirations and potential and realize their life goals post-graduation. Unfortunately, there are many graduate expectations that are not easily attainable. 

Especially with the prevalence of social media, students see idealistic career tracks that may not be within their immediate reach. While this may be inspiring, it can just as easily discourage talent before entering the workforce. In order to prevent your students from feeling ill-prepared, or worse, becoming depressed about their futures and losing motivation in the job search, it’s essential you ready them for the real world.

Here are a few of the realities you need to prepare college students for this coming school year:

Their starting salary may be less than they think

Today’s college students are wildly overestimating their potential starting salaries. In fact, a new Clever report found the average Gen Z undergraduate expects to make $57,964 one year out of college. The national median salary, however, is just $47,000 for recent grads with bachelor degrees who have between zero and five years of on-the-job experience.

Overestimating salaries isn’t just potentially devastating to students’ bank accounts. The realization that it may be challenging to pay for school loans, buy a house, and other fundamental essentials takes a toll on morale. 

Equip your students to prepare for real-life expenses with realistic salary expectations. Arm them with tools and resources about their specific industry. Payscale, for example, allows your students to put in their future job information to discover earning potential. 

If they’re disappointed by the starting salary, give them a glimpse into the future. Use Payscale to show what they can potentially earn once they have a few years of experience under their belt. You also need to help students understand how far their salary can go compared to their cost of living when they put down roots after graduation day. 

They won’t take home their full salary

When students see a salary figure, they often expect to see the full dollar amount on pay day. To them, it’s money in their pocket to be used toward bills, savings, and experiences. Many don’t realize taxes, health benefits, and retirement plan contributions consume a large chunk of their earned income. 

Give students the opportunity to learn how to set up a budget based on their potential pay. Layout how much, on average, they can expect to pay in taxes, what the company will automatically withhold depending on health insurance plans, and how they can save for their futures through retirement funds. 

They may need to start in a role they feel overqualified for

Unfortunately, 43 percent of Gen Z don’t feel their education has prepared them well for future careers, according to a recent Dell Technologies report. However, the reality is, your students are more likely to be offered a job they believe they are overqualified for. In fact, an intensive international study by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed almost one in three graduates are overqualified for their jobs.

This off-putting college student reality is a tough one swallow. They’re leaving with a degree that qualified them as experts. Now, many will start back at the bottom of the totem pole, wondering what were those four years were really for. 

Of course, you know education is important in creating well-rounded, educated individuals. Frame the “bottom of the totem pole” concept as a positive. Nothing will prepare them for career growth like on-the-job experience. It’s better to start in a role where they can excel and grow, rather than being in a position where there’s potential for them to feel overwhelmed and fail. 

They may not always work with the latest and greatest tech

Printer jams, old bulky laptops, network slowdowns, and server connection issues aren’t obsolete in office spaces. Many companies can’t keep up with constantly evolving, exciting technology. 

Still, 80 percent of Gen Zers aspire to work with cutting-edge technology, according to the previously mentioned Dell Technologies report. Your students need to know they may not be working alongside robots or have the help of AI to tackle mundane tasks. 

Let them know this may not be the case. However, they should be encouraged to take initiative once they’re settled in. It’s their responsibility to let managers know if outdated technology impedes their work. They should do their research and make suggestions on how new technology will directly impact not just their careers, but the company’s overall success.  

What workplace realities do your college students need to understand? Let us know! 

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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.