Prepare Your College Students For These Workplace Realities

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Consider just how long your college students have dreamed about their first jobs. Adults have been asking them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” since kindergarten! 

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 identify their career aspirations, potential, and 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 for some, it can just as easily discourage talent before entering the workforce. In order to prevent these younger job seekers from feeling ill-prepared or hopeless about their future, help them get ready for the real world.

Here are a few of the realities you need to prepare college students to accept:

Their starting salary may be less than they think

Today’s college students expect a lot from their potential starting salaries. In a Monster survey, 70% of Gen Zers described salary as their top work motivator. Vision Critical’s research further supports this idea, as it found that 65% of Gen Zers said salary mattered most to them. Only 54% of Millennials agreed. 

Overestimating salaries isn’t just potentially devastating to students’ bank accounts. The realization that it may be challenging to pay for school loans, hold down an apartment without living with roommates, 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 enter future job information to discover their earning potential. 

If they’re disappointed by the starting salary, remind them that they won’t be at that figure forever. Use Payscale to show what they can potentially earn once they have a few years of experience under their belt. Mention, too, that their cost of living will look different depending on where they hope to put down roots after graduation.

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 pockets 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. Outline the 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 the future through retirement funds.

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

Unfortunately, 43% of Gen Z don’t feel their education has prepared them well for future careers, according to a recent Dell Technologies report. However, your students are actually more likely to be offered a job they believe they are overqualified for. A study from the Urban Institute revealed that at least 25% of graduates are overqualified for their jobs.

This reality is a tough one to swallow because advanced opportunities is one of college students’ top workplace expectations. 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 those four years were really for. 

Especially since Gen Z values finding purpose and meaning in work more than any other generation, they may easily tire of tasks that seem too menial. The Monster survey indicated that 74% were willing to rank purpose ahead of paycheck in terms of what drives them to work hard. 

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 be 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, Gen Z has no patience for tech that is too outdated. In the job search alone, 54% would refuse to complete an application if the tech turned them off, according to a recent report from Yello. Additionally, Gen HQ says more than 30% feel uncomfortable if they are without their phones for 30 minutes or more.  

Remind your college students that not every employer can keep up with the constantly changing demands for updated tech. And not everyone in older generations will be able to see the value in it. Encourage them to give the job a chance anyway. Once settled in, they can do research and make suggestions for how improved technology could impact their career and the company’s overall success. 

While young job seekers will have to compromise some expectations, working for a trustworthy employer should never be one of them. Help college students identify that element of trust with these tips.

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.