College to Career: A Soon-to-be-Grad’s Perspective

Transitioning from a college atmosphere to a steady career feels like being blindfolded and thrown off a cliff. You aren’t really sure where you’re going, but you’re going. You don’t have a choice and you don’t usually have a plan. It just happens.

Most people would believe that four years of college is the exact amount of time needed to earn a degree and kickstart one’s professional life. However, The New York Times states that, “At most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. Even at state flagship universities — selective, research-intensive institutions — only 36 percent of full-time students complete their bachelor’s degree on time”. To me, it seems as if students spend more time trying to figure out their future than completing the course work that will actually get them there. Then, after students do choose the field of study they’d like to make a profession, they’re thrown into an even harder task; finding a job.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 20.2 million students attended an American college or university in the 2015 fall semester. That means, at least 4 million students will graduate this year and try to enter the workforce. Of those 4 million, only 14% of those students will obtain a steady, career-like job immediately after graduation.

Finding a job post-graduation is difficult, but moving from one environment to the next can be the real struggle. One of the tallest hurdles tends to be adapting to a new schedule. Many students are able to create their own class schedule, picking and choosing the times that lend to becoming their most productive selfs. While it can certainly be helpful, this practice also creates the bad habit of going by your own schedule only, and avoiding early hours. As a result, jumping from the life a night owl into a 9-5 job can be a challenge. The Huffington Post suggests that soon-to-be-graduates wean out partying in the week, to help begin to adjust to more appropriate hours, and improve overall health. My suggestion: skip the twisted Tuesday and only go to thirsty Thursday every other week. By slowing down a bit, you’ll create a sense of consistency focus on future goals.

Personally, I think a major problem that college students face when entering postgrad life is the separation anxiety of leaving friends. When you start college, it’s your first step into any legitimate responsibility. Therefore, over the duration of time you spend in school, your peers become a kind of support system to depend on. When that support system is taken away, it can be difficult to figure out what to do in stressful moments, especially when you feel that you’re on your own again. When a new job becomes demanding or asks a difficult task, it can be hard to figure out what to do by yourself. I suggest you put the phone down and log off social media sites for a bit. Start spending a little time with yourself and create a sense of personal confidence. If you have confidence in yourself, you’re much more likely to be able to face any situation thrown your way, instead of just panicking. I’m not saying to abandon all of your relationships; just cherish them while learning to walk on your own.

Optimized-DU0O1PCIMHWhen it does come to landing that first job after graduation, students should stop putting so much emphasis on the idea that the only job for a recent graduate is “entry level.” While it is indeed entry level, truthfully, the connotation can feel quite negative. But why? All soon-to-be-graduates are seniors, and naturally they have a sense of seniority. They’ve spent the last four or five years working up from the ground level of freshman status, and there’s a lot of self gratitude that comes from that. It can be difficult to accept the fact that you’ll be starting from the bottom once again. So remember, as you approach your graduation date, no job offer is beneath you; it’s just a new starting place.

Time matters, your appearance matters and your behavior is crucial! I think it’s fair to assume that almost every student has walked into class while wearing sweats or fighting last night’s hangover. The professor will usually give an awkward smile and that’s that. But, that can’t happen in the real world. Understanding how to conduct yourself in front of fellow employees or managers is essential to keeping your job. Unfortunately, a lot students can’t bridge the ideology that they’re the ones paying to be in school, while in the workforce, the business pays you. It’s simple. If they like you, they pay you. If they don’t, you’re gone. Understanding that there will be new responsibilities and added expectations once you leave college is absolutely necessary for success.

Sure, college can be extremely stressful, but pushing yourself to make the most of your years in preparation for the next chapter of your life can be incredibly rewarding. For example:

In 2013, median earnings for full-time year-round working young adults, aged 25–34 with a bachelor’s degree, were $48,500, while the median was $23,900 for those without a high school diploma or its equivalent, $30,000 for those with a high school diploma or its equivalent, and $37,500 for those with an associate’s degree. In other words, young adults with a bachelor’s degree earned more than twice as much as those without a high school diploma or its equivalent (103 percent more) and 62 percent more than young adult high school graduates (NCES).

Transitioning into any new environment is difficult. But, when you can expect specific changes to take place, you can start to prepare for the future. Starting from the bottom once again can be all that’s needed to initiate the momentum to carry you to top of your industry. Understanding the stress of moving from college to a career, and finding ways to over come that stress, can be the perfect start to kickstart a successful future.