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Saturday, March 07, 2015 6:14 PM

Advice for College Grads: 16 Tips For Those Who Land a Job, 8 Tips for Those Who Don't

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I was asked by a career placement organization if I had any advice for college graduates that I could share.

Specifically, I was asked "If you were going to give career advice to a fresh college graduate based on your experiences what would it be? Would it be to settle for nothing less than something they are passionate about? Would you tell them to not put too much stock into their first job? Would you tell them to put as much money into their savings as possible?"

I look at this two ways: Advice for those who landed a job and advice for those who didn't.

Grads who land a job should also take a look at the second set of tips. It's easy to find yourself out of a job for any number of reasons.

16 Tips For Those Who Land a Job

  1. Live below your means.
  2. Pay down student debts as fast as you can.
  3. Build a cash cushion in case you lose your job. Ideally, you need one full year's salary, in the bank, in cash, for emergencies, not for trips to Aruba. Six months is a minimum.
  4. Think about bills before you move out on your own.
  5. Consider sharing an apartment with someone to cut expenses.
  6. Consider living with your parents for a while.
  7. Don't buy a new car.
  8. If you buy any car, make sure you understand what insurance, gas, and maintenance will cost
  9. Don't have kids right away, if at all. If you have kids, then understand the commitment in time and money, and be prepared for both. If you have kids, that cash cushion mentioned in point three is even more important.
  10. Don't purchase a house or condo even if your job pays well. Housing is back in a bubble in many areas. Condos are especially hard to sell. Besides, you may decide you do not like your first job and want to move. Take your time. It's easier to find a house you like than get rid of one you don't.
  11. If your job has a company matching investment plan, take advantage, but keep the money in cash or guaranteed funds if offered. Assets are way over-priced here. Wait for a huge dip in the stock market to invest. Recent grads have plenty enough time to dollar cost average. Early mistakes will not cost much. However, it's important to think about valuations, safety, bubbles and other factors as a process now rather than taking the attitude it doesn't matter much now. It will matter eventually, and the quicker one starts thinking about such things, the better off they will be down the road.
  12. Don't think you are special because you show up on time and put in eight hours. Those are a given. Depending on the company you work for, work-life balance may come later or perhaps not all. Few companies are remotely close to Google. Go above and beyond what's expected, every day, without complaint. A strong work ethic is one of the few ways one can stand out and get promotions and raises.
  13. If you took a job you are not passionate about, be grateful you have a job. Keep looking, but don't quit. It's easier to find a job if you have a job.
  14. If you are with a big company and don't like your initial assignment, opportunities can arise in other areas. Talk to personnel after you have been there a while. Give your first assignment a fair chance.
  15. Evaluate your job four ways: Do you like what you are doing? Do you like who you work with? Do you like your boss? Are you happy with your pay?
  16. If the answer to all four questions in point 15 are no, you are in the wrong place for sure. Sometimes one can be so bad you want out. If pay alone is the problem, then please self-assess your skills and what others in your field make. If your boss alone is the problem then talk to your boss or bring up the problem with personnel.

8 Tips For Those Who Don't Land a Job

  1. Purchasing new cars, buying houses or condos, or starting a family are out of the question unless somehow you are independently wealthy or have a spouse that picks up the slack.
  2. Don't go to grad school thinking it will help you land a good job. Most likely, and especially if you are in a low demand field, all you will do is pile on debt.
  3. Be realistic about your job prospects. If you got a degree in history, art, English literature or any other low demand field, face the facts: your job prospects are not that good. You may have to take any job in retail (or elsewhere) that you can find. You may be passionate about art, but don't expect museums to come running to you.
  4. Have a friend interview you and give you honest feedback. If your speech skills are not good, then you better improve them.
  5. Have someone critique your resume. Don't ever lie about your skills, grades, experience, or anything else. The interviewer may figure it out. And if you are hired, it's grounds for immediate dismissal, even if they like you. I have seen it.
  6. What about your appearance? Do you dress properly for interviews?
  7. When you land an interview, find out everything you can about the company. It is imperative to not only understand what the company does, but to also formulate at least one intelligent question about their business that you don't know. Examples: Have you thought about ....? Why do you ....? Why don't you ...? What areas do you seek to expand?
  8. Self-assess. Do you have other issues? Employers are not supposed to take looks and health issues into consideration, but if you are extremely obese, your odds of landing a job are much worse than if you are physically fit.

Good Luck Grads!

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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