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New grads: Welcome to the real world

John Heckers //July 6, 2011//

New grads: Welcome to the real world

John Heckers //July 6, 2011//

You’ve got a brand new shiny diploma in your hands, and you’re ready to start work, hmmm? Good for you. Now, let Uncle John give some reality about the big, bad world out there.

First I’d like to share some stats compiled by another blogger:

• Only 57 percent of [recent grads] are currently working full-time.
• 43 percent of recent grads who have a job are working at a job that does not require a four-year degree.
• [33 percent] live with their parents. (courtesy of Entry Level Rebel)

Given these statistics, there are some things you really should be ready for. Here are a few of them.

1). Your first job is probably going to suck. You probably aren’t going to be doing much meaningful on your first job. In fact, you’ll probably hate your first job. Most of us did. You’re going to be the least experienced person there, and you’ll get the worst assignments. Prove yourself on the bad assignments and, in time, you’ll get better ones. But don’t whine about the work you’re given to do.

2). Your great tech skills don’t mean squat now. You can surely run circles around me with your Smartphone. You can probably fix about any problem on my computer much faster (and with less cursing) than I can. But these skills count for very little in the real world unless you work for Google or Facebook. You still need to learn to do things the way the company does them, get along with a very diverse group of people, and do your job. If that is playing around with your Smartphone, lucky you! But see #1 above.

3). Your social commitments mean nothing to your new job. Your new boss doesn’t care that you need to meet 6 of your best friends at 7. Almost all bosses are going to see that work comes first. It certainly comes way before your social life.

4). Your opinions mean absolutely nothing at most jobs. We started an 18 year old summer (paid) intern a few weeks ago. On her first day at her new job (which is also her first job), we threw her into a meeting where her opinion was heavily solicited on some new directions our company is taking. As I listened to her (mostly great) ideas, I wondered, “Am I doing this young woman any favors?” Because her next job is probably not going to respect her opinions or even listen to them.

5). You aren’t the smartest person in the room. I read a comment by one recent college grad on a blog where he made fun of his “stupid” co-workers because he was a philosophy major and, wow, they didn’t even know who Nietzsche was. Duh! Your co-workers have been doing other things than reading German philosophers. Like getting married, raising and supporting kids, buying a house, and making sure there is food on the table. Your education is important. But it is not a substitute for real-world learning. Nor will it, alone, support you.

6). Theory is nothing. Pragmatism is everything. Sooner or later you’re going to figure out that most of what they taught you in school is pretty useless, even in a job in your field. I know what these schools teach you – that you’re better, faster, smarter and more skilled than any previous generation. But after you’ve been around the block a few times you’ll see that theory and real practice often have a very large gap between them.

7). Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill almost every time. The person who gets the raises and promotions, especially in a mega-corporation, is the one who is best at kissing butt, not the one who is the most skilled or smartest.

8). You’re all alone now, except for the allies you make. Mom and Dad can’t help you. Your friends probably don’t work with you. It would really help if you rapidly made some allies, especially among some of the older workers. They can shield you from a great deal, and keep you from getting in over your head. Just be polite and nice. They really want to be there for you.

Not every job is going to be like this. But most of you will face these realities or similar ones. Be realistic. Make allies. Work hard and smart. Don’t mouth off. These tips will make your entry in to today’s workforce a little more pleasant. But just remember – they call it “work” for a reason.

Question: Would you attend a class in how to actually find your first post-degree job in this economy? If so, write me at [email protected] and we’ll put something together. Please let us know.

Tired of the Summer networking doldrums? Then join up to 30 of your executive colleagues at our exclusive Executive Structured Networking Event on Monday, July 11th at the Denver Athletic Club . No vendors! More info and required registration here.

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