Today’s economy is tougher than ever for college grads looking for their dream—or any—job. In her book, Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before you Join the Real World, author and blogger Lindsey Pollak offers her advice on how to find a job despite the tough market. She spoke to Youth Radio’s Rachel Krantz and offered some tips.
Q: So I'll be graduating college next semester. What do you recommend I should be doing now to prepare for the job market?
A: I think you want to get as much real experience as you can. Whether it’s internships, part time jobs--anything where you can have accomplishments, real world experience and are meeting as many people as you can. I don’t mean networking in a cheesy way, like using them. I just mean meeting other people and offering to help them, and someday they might offer to help you. Also use your college’s career services office. So many college students I know don’t take advantage of that. They can help you make sure your resume is excellent.
Q: What's the biggest mistake that grads make when they're job hunting?
A: The biggest mistake is doing nothing, becoming paralyzed by the bad economy. The reality is you have to get out there and do stuff, even if you don't get your dream job right away. Take a retail job, temp, volunteer, do something just to get out there. Don't stay at home playing video games. It sounds obvious, but a lot of people think it's better not to take a mediocre job or temp -- but it's better to be out there. If you're a barista at Starbucks, then be the best barista at Starbucks. That's better than sitting at home waiting for the perfect job. A lot of people disagree with that mentality, but I feel pretty strongly about it.
Q: You write about moving back in with mom and dad post-college. Do you speak from personal experience?
A: I lived at home after grad school. I hated it. I made the mistake of staying at home and trying to find the perfect job, and I became paralyzed. My advice about living at home it to have a postivie attitude about it. Use that time to save money. Use the opportunity if your parents are willing to support you in that way. Learn from your parents; if one of them is a good cook or good at job hunting, take advantage of what they can teach you. You also want a schedule. Don't sleep until noon, like you did when you were 15. Be a grownup even though you're living at home. There's no shame, especially in this economy. It's a smarter decision rather than struggling on your own.
Q: What are some of the most important things you recommend new graduates do to get from college to career?
A: The most important thing is to cast a wide net. If before you said, “I’m only going to work in
Q:What's some advice you have for grads they won't like to hear?
A: Your first job may not be perfect, and it may take you years to discover what you want to do. You might have to do grunt work and start at the bottom, but everybody starts at the bottom, even when you're really smart. There's a lot to learn about the professional workplace that you just don't learn in college. Make your mistakes early and don't get caught up in being perfect.
Q: Whatever happened to using your savings to travel the world after college?
A: If you have the money and you're not going to go into debt, it's a great idea. But if you're going to take a year to travel, I do think you want to have something to show for it when you get back. Maybe you travel to a country and get fluent in a language, or you volunteer. I don't want to look at your resume as an employer and feel like you used that experience only to party. Write a blog; take pictures, so when you come back you have something to show for it.
Q: Is there any good news out there for new graduates?
A: The good news is that there are opportunities out there. During a job search in a difficult economy, you’ll learn skills like persistence and resilience that maybe you wouldn’t have learned in boom times.