This is a guest post by Mariana Ashley.
There are only a few instances in your life where you feel completely thrilled and utterly terrified at the same time. Skydiving is one of them, and college graduation day is another. College grads are faced with many prospects and overwhelming emotions. There is promise of freedom from final exams and early morning lectures; there are also the looming threats of unemployment, student loan debt, and other “real world” issues.
College graduation is one of those rites of passage that don’t really hit us until a week after the fact. We’re extracted from our college bubbles and plopped into an unstructured world where the rules aren’t clear. Then we’re told to find a job, pay our bills, and find a way to be happy about it all. It’s a challenging time.
That being said, things do seem to be looking up for recent grads in many ways. While college grads in recent years past were shoved into a failing economy without much warning, graduates today knew what was coming and could brace for impact. For the past four years, these college students sat through their philosophy lectures and literature classes quietly preparing themselves mentally for the unforgiving “real world” that news stations, older siblings, and dejected adults have been talking about. These students have, whether they fully realize it or not, spent the past four years preparing for a miserable economy and a steady, unpromising unemployment rate. All of this means that graduates are better prepared for the brutal realities of the job market they’re entering.
The importance of networking has not been lost on the newest graduates. Campus job fairs were packed by mid-spring semester. Students are starting earlier than in the past. They go to events to seek opportunities for employment, of course, but they’re also making connections at these job fairs, taking important networking lessons from the professional world before entering it. While the economy is still struggling, there are more reported jobs in almost every market, and graduates are entering a stronger job market than they were just four years before. So, with better prepared grads and a slightly upturned job outlook, prospects are looking up.
Most new grads know (at least have heard over and over again) that times are going to be tough. A week after graduation, they hear, you’ll be sitting in your apartment (or at your parents’ house where you now live) you will have submitted your 100th resume, and it will hit you: you’re not in Kansas anymore. (or Ohio State, or wherever.) But, you’ll make it, if you get out and make connections.
As you may have learned in your campus activities, networking is the key to success. It’s not just who you know; it’s who knows you. Go out, meet people in the areas that interest you, talk to them, get to know them, meet their connections—make things happen. If you can’t find a job right away, finding the right volunteer opportunity or internship can be the next best thing. These positions, while not typically well paying, are ideal environments to expand your skills and your network. Lack of experience is often the biggest hurdle most new grads face on their resumes and it makes it harder to compete where significantly more experienced candidates are available. By volunteering, you’ll exchange cash flow for experience and references. Prospects for the future are looking up, but you may need to give the future a push of your own.
This guest post comes courtesy of Mariana Ashley, who frequently gives advice on applying to online colleges to prospective students. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.