I am a recent college graduate who is looking for work. My whole life my parents pushed me to get good grades, to try my best and then to try harder to do even better than what I thought was my best. I graduated at the top of my high school class and finished college almost a year early with an enviable 3.88 GPA. I have been looking for work since last spring hoping to have a job waiting for me when I finished my coursework over the summer, but here it is almost a year later and I still have not found a job.
I have gone on a few job interviews, but have not been offered anything. Here I was thinking if I worked hard and graduated at the top of my class the offers would be rolling in! Meanwhile, my friends who have lower overall grades and who spent their free time pledging sororities and playing intramural sports have all had job offers – a few have even moved onto a second job in their field after only six months, and one friend is working towards her graduate degree courtesy of her company’s tuition assistance benefit!
Tazi, I feel stupid writing to an advice columnist about my problem but I was crying in my cat’s fur and figured why not? I am starting to regret working so hard and missing out on life if this is where it has gotten me. I can’t talk to my parents about this – all they tell me is to try harder and to “network” among my friends. My cat just head butts me, which is as encouraging as any pep talk but not helpful in figuring out what to do next. I have considered graduate school, but I would rather not take out the loans for it and besides, I am afraid of being seen as over-educated and under-experienced.
Dear Missing Out:
It seems the one thing schools cannot teach is the one thing you need the most – “soft” skills. Soft skills involve the ability to connect with a person and make them feel comfortable dealing with you – a smile of encouragement, an easy laugh that makes people feel happy to be around you, good manners, and even networking skills. While companies are concerned with how well you will do a job they are also concerned with how well you will fit in with their corporate team. Some businesses are very no nonsense while others are very relaxed. You need to figure out what sort of company will be the best fit for you and target your search on these companies and organizations.
While it is great that you worked so hard to achieve such great grades, it appears you missed out on other parts of the college experience – social networking. By joining a sorority or playing intramural sports your friends made contacts with people who entered the working world before they did, so when they graduated they had established corporate ties even before they started working.
Although you have graduated it is not too late to make some important business contacts through social networks! Contact your school’s alumni association and see if there are opportunities for recent graduates to network with more established alumni. If there are networking events, attend them with the purpose of getting to know people – leave the business talk off the table until they ask you about it. Since this is an election year, you may want to choose a candidate whom you believe in and offer to volunteer to work on their campaign or at their campaign events. Numerous business leaders attend such events, and it will be a wonderful way to make a name for yourself among them. If politics is not your thing, charity work never goes out of season – from soup kitchens to homeless shelters, you would be amazed at the number of business executives who donate their time to these causes; donating yours will be a way to assist others while assisting yourself. Whatever you choose to do, be sincere in your efforts; if you truly do not care about the plight of the homeless, do not volunteer to assist in a shelter.
In the meantime continue your job search, but be sure to target it to jobs you honestly want with companies you can see yourself building a future. Just as you should not date someone just to have a date for Saturday night you should not accept a job that you plan on leaving as soon as something more interesting comes along. Employment managers would rather hire someone with lower grades/fewer credentials who is committed to staying than someone better who will be out the door in a month or two. The best fit for a job is not always the one who is most qualified on paper. Dig deeper and don't give up hope!
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.