So you’ve recently graduated from college. Congratulations. You’ve made it! Or have you? The job market is growing more competitive by the minute, and graduates are discovering that a bachelor’s degree alone won’t guarantee they’ll land a good job within the first year. So what does guarantee it?
Dr. John J. Hubbs, a licensed clinical social worker with Joy Miller and Associates, believes that graduates who are competent individuals are more likely to attain employment after graduation than those who lack workplace competency. Jay, as he is known by his colleagues, defines competency as being able to successfully achieve life’s goals in all life’s domains. Competency also means possessing the ability to be proactive and productive, skills students may have when preparing for an exam but sometimes lack when searching for a job. Fortunately, Jane Linnenburger of Bradley University’s Smith Career Center offers some tips to set young adults on the path to workplace competency as early as their freshman year and take them from student to professional.
The best way that students can prove to employers that they are productive, proactive individuals is by starting their job search early. Even as early as their freshman year, students should make an appointment with their career advisor to discuss their field of interest, their major and the skills they can list to begin preparing a resume. “Parents should encourage their young adults to begin building a resume by jotting down skills they have acquired, such as team experience, leadership qualifications, related work experience and community service and volunteer work,” Jane says. “Students should learn to communicate their strengths effectively on paper and to give examples desirable of employers.” Students who are undeclared majors may wish to contact employers in fields of interest. Researching companies early as a freshman or sophomore in order to explore different fields shows that a student is a self-starter and one to take initiative—qualities employers love.
In addition to creating a solid resume, students can take a proactive approach to their career by demonstrating that they know the traits employers are looking for in a potential employee. Students can learn this information by speaking with a career counselor and planning their college years around subjects and activities that will help foster desirable traits for the workforce.
For example, a student’s participation in a math or science club would show employers he possesses knowledge of his field as well as social skills. “Developing competency requires attention to a variety of dimensions,” says Jay. “These can range from competency in intellectual areas, as well as social, spiritual and financial areas of life. Having this type of balance in everyday life will lead to success in the workplace and in workplace relationships.”
Balancing work and play will also help new grads achieve work-life balance, a new phenomenon emerging into the workplace. “Work-life balance centers around a 60-hour work week,” Jane explains. “Employees must decide how much of this time to spend in the office versus how much time to spend with family or working from home.”
The All-Important Internship
Having a solid resume and knowledge of what employers are looking for is a good start, but it isn’t enough. Depending on a student’s area of study, he or she will need at least two internships on his resume before he leaves college. “Internships are extremely important,” Jane says. “Seventy-five percent or more of graduating students have career-related work experience.” And experience can take several forms. Co-ops, academic practicums, student teaching and volunteering give valuable hands-on practice for finding business success. Says Jane, “The experiences students gain from their internships will ultimately give them something they can point to during their interview that says: I am qualified to do this job.”
For students in fields where the job market is slow, long searches have the potential to leave them feeling emotionally drained and more prone to negative thinking patterns. According to Jay, cognitive
restructuring can help students beat the job search blues. “We are creatures of habit and habitual thinking,” says Jay. “People who experience prolonged difficulties may become so used to negative
thinking that they are unable to recognize a negative thought when they have it. Cognitive restructuring helps individuals turn a negative thought into a positive.” For instance, a young adult may have this negative thought: I’m a loser because I didn’t get the job. Cognitive restructuring involves a more positive outlook: I’m one step closer to getting the job that’s right for me.
So, if you’re a recent graduate searching for employment, take heart! Your desire to succeed, coupled with a strong resume, work-life balance, internships and a positive outlook, will soon earn you the job you’ve worked so hard to achieve! IBI