The Only Career Advice College Grads Should Read
The Divine Comedy of Cubicle Life
You’re about to graduate college, so in no time at all you’ll be a master in the post-grad basics. You’ll learn to dress up for interviews, even though you may wear flip flops for the rest of your career. You’ll learn that in the roshambo of the real world, connections always trump resumes. You’ll learn that every single character on The Office is real, and probably sitting next to you.These learning curves will be the cartography of your first career. Here’s some advice for grads about to make that leap:
Work in Marketing. When I was a post-college job-seeker aka waitress, my friends and I all dreamed about the two M’s: “marriage” and “Master’s degrees,” the magical terms that would deliver us from a life of fried onions and uniform flare. Little did we know there was a third "M" that could accomplish this brilliant deliverance: marketing! Why? Because we take anyone! And not in a bad way. Marketing is just a really diverse field in which almost all talents and fields of study prove valuable. At my Internet marketing firm we have hired ex legal assistants, waitresses (ahem), used car salesmen, and yes, people fresh out of college, all of whom have gone on to have inspired marketing careers. Best of all, marketing is a reasonably fun, reasonably well paying career field, so it’s a good first job for those new to the nine to five gig.
Think of your talent, not your title. When I started my first real job I was a copywriter, because my major was Creative Writing. Natural progression, right? Kind of. My mistake here was focusing on the conduit (writing) rather than the core talent that drove it (creativity.) If I had taken a step back, I would have realized writing was just one offshoot of the thing that really moved me: creative pursuits. Now, I direct photo shoots, help design web pages and landing pages, write sonnets and jingles, produce YouTube videos, and am generally both happier and more valuable to my organization. Moral? When you are job hunting, don’t search “Accountant.” Search “meticulous” or “detail oriented.” If you were a Kinesiology major, search “active” or “physical.” You could up being a store window designer or an event planner just as easily as a soccer coach or physical therapist-and be much happier!
- Never say “I don’t know” or “I’m sorry,” if you do and you aren’t.
Apologetic behavior is mistaken by young professions as humility, but really it is just humiliating. If you’ve done your research, present it confidently. If a co-worker is accusing you of wrong-doing, don’t automatically stammer an apology. Look into to it to see who’s really at fault. Similarly, never apologize for needing help or not understanding someone’s explanation. You’re a smart cookie, and it’s your superior’s job to explain things to you in a way you can comprehend.
- Cultivate a valuable resource.
If you want to be pricelessly popular in your office, there is a way to achieve it without going out drinking every night or typing everyone’s reports. It’s simple really! Just cultivate one valuable resource everyone else in the office is too lazy to buy, and be really generous about sharing it. In my office, I’m the Grand Swami of Scotch Tape, seated directly across from to the Czar of Kleenex. Across the way is the Sultan of Spoons. Sure, people could go by their own office essentials, but they never will as long as you are ready with a steady supply. Share generously, and people will come to value you as a priceless addition to the office-no overtime necessary!
- Job security is any career where you can never know it all.
This may seem contrary. You may think that once you have found out all there is to know about your field, you will finally be on top of your game. Wrong. Once you’ve learned all you can, you’ve exhausted what you have to offer to your industry. I work in Internet marketing, a job where it is virtually impossible (har har) to know it all, and that fact alone ensures me gainful employment for the rest of the foreseeable future. As long as there is more to discover, I will always be relevant and useful. Equally important, jobs where you can never learn everything keep you challenged, dazzled and humbled-a recipe for lifelong job satisfaction.
- It might take you up to a year to like your first job.
“A yearrrrr?” you groan. Yep, a year. It’s dog years in school time but it’s light years in a career field. As college graduates, you are the babies of the job force, and your development tracks as such. Consider the cognitive progress between a newborn and a one-year-old child. Babies pretty much spend the first year of their life processing their new world, taking in new sights and smells (in their case boiled carrots, in your case ink toner), deciding who they can trust and who they can’t, throwing a few tantrums and slowly, surely settling into their place in the world. On your first day in the office as a newly-minted office worker, you may be blinking in a disoriented darkness, wondering how you left the cozy womb of college for this unfamiliar new terrain. But as the year flies by you will find your job-legs, shakily at first and then with increasing confidence, picking up the industry language word by word, until one day you find you at last feel comfortable, and realize that you were in the right field all along. Baby steps, baby.