Looking Back: The Time I Wished I Hadn’t Wasted

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When I was in college, I thought I knew it all. Then again, maybe most of us have a false sense of confidence at that time in our lives. I thought that I was going to be ahead of the game because I was working full-time while obtaining my bachelor’s degree. Not only was I making enough money to have financial independence, but I was also allowing myself to get some real-world experience so I would be a more attractive candidate than the others who only had their diploma. Oh yeah, I had it all figured out back then… but I was wrong.

Having a full-time job was definitely great but it didn’t help me get where I needed to be. When I was going to college, no one told me about the importance of honing in on a specific job function to ensure a smooth transition into my field upon graduation. I mean, surely having experience as an administrative assistant would be transferable to a role in human resources, right? After applying to jobs and interviewing, I learned that this was a big no.

I remember sitting in an interview for an entry-level HR assistant role and the recruiter asked me about my HR experience. “Um, well, I have my bachelor’s that focused on HR and I took plenty of classes that were HR related.” I thought that was a decent answer. After all, this was an entry-level position that would take recent grads. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

I called my brother that night to complain about the fact that no one would hire me for HR jobs. I just couldn’t understand how entry-level positions would say they were open to zero years of experience, but then would reject candidates for not having experience. Was this some sort of sick trick? How could anyone expect me to get experience if no one would give me a chance? “Why don’t you do an internship?” my brother asked me. At that point, I had absolutely no time to squeeze in an internship on top of a job. Also, I was living on my own, states away from home, and couldn’t afford to quit my job (and income) to take a non-paid internship.

I wished I knew what the hiring criteria was before I graduated school and before I made the move out of my parent’s house. I wished I would have taken advantage of my live-at-home situation to help me properly get relevant experience in my field while I had the time and option to do it. Instead, I wasted time thinking I was “growing up” faster and gaining “professional experience”, when in reality I was only gaining experience that wouldn’t actually get me where I needed to go. I eventually landed a job in HR down the line but I often wonder if I would have been further along in my career if I didn’t waste that time in college.

If you are in college, please take note of my career blunder and don’t waste your time. If you have a career focus, make sure you take the time to learn about the hiring criteria before you get to the point where you need to start applying. Learn what employers look for in candidates and take the time to somehow build those skills before you need to actually get a full-time job. You’ll be glad that you put in the extra effort during college, trust me.

For internship advice, check out YouTern – great resource.

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How Are You Preparing The Future Workforce?

Recently, I was talking to Megan Burkett about her blog post that dealt with preparing college students and recent grads to make informed decisions when picking a major and career path. As we discussed our experiences with this, we reflected on the things we know now that we wish we knew then. Although life is about the journey and making mistakes to determine what is actually meant for us, I think all of us can agree that when it comes to our futures, we’d like to be a little more prepared. We would like to make sure that the decisions we make today are the ones that will help us get to our ultimate goal, even if there is some missteps and stumbling along the way. So in this respect- what are Gen Y and our future generations asking for? Some real, individual guidance.

Our teachers and advisers try to help us when it comes to deciding our degrees but more often than not, they aren’t able to give us the most informed overview of what this degree can do for us. Sure, they can throw around some general job titles that we might be able to land with a degree like that and maybe some of the required classes will give us an idea of some of the things we will be dealing with once we get into the working world. But the issue is: it’s so general. Many of us are left with little information to help is figure out what the next steps are to prepare for graduation and the working world. Do we take an internship? If so, what type of internship will be useful? What should we expect? Is the experience we get through these internships, college jobs, and classes going to be relevant to what we’re aiming for after graduation? Do we even know what we want to aim for outside of college?

More often than not, we are unprepared for what we’re going to face in the real world. What we thought a job or role would entail is completely different than we had assumed. We learn that we didn’t have right credentials or we need more experience and schooling to land the RIGHT job. We don’t know where to look or how to get noticed. We don’t know anything about company culture, searching for a company that has values that are aligned with ours, or the importance of a company that offers us a future beyond the entry-level job.

Our advisers, professors, mentors, and parents try hard to give us an idea of what we should expect but often times it’s not detailed enough to work for our individual questions and needs. Colleges and companies are taking great strides to perform career fairs and bring awareness to students, but is it enough? I don’t believe so.

I would love it if more mentors and leaders took the time to really listen to early careerists or students and provide better feedback to help them be proactive in an effective way. Teach these individuals about internships, externships, and other programs that will help them build the skills prior to looking for full-time work. Teach them the importance of networking, effective job seeking, and how to research company culture. If you’re a company, help create transparency and take the time to help these job seekers easily understand why they should work for you, what to expect, and determine if it’s a fit for them. Employment branding is important but sometimes these fancy words and campaigns don’t make much sense to people who haven’t had experience or business-know-how to determine the message. Bridge the gap and help them transition.

Gen Y will be dominating the work force before we know it. And with that being said, it’s important that we prepare them in the best way possible to ensure that our workforce will be strong from the get-go. What efforts are you making to help prepare, educate, and offer experience to the generations to come?

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