The first year or two after you leave college to enter the working world can potentially be the best years of your life so far, as you make possibly your first major shift in your day-to-day lifestyle since you left secondary school a number of years before.
You think you have your whole life in front of you (which you do) and have unlimited possibilities (which you also do) and that should breed excitement to start your next adventure.
However, sometimes the dream doesn’t always pan out as you hoped it would. Recent graduates purported that they frequently face challenges in the transition from being a student to the working world. Not everyone gets their ideal job the first time out, I know I definitely didn’t.
I would also argue that is the case for a lot of people who go straight into any of the Big 4 which unless you’re completely sure that career path is what you want to pursue, you shouldn’t have to frequently work 80-hour weeks and paid below the market rate for a number of years to then qualify as an Accountant (especially when you failed Financial and Managerial some time back in first or second year college as I did.)
Putting that particular industry aside for now, here are some of the common challenges you may face as a new grad, as well as some simple tips on how to overcome them:
1. Unrealistic expectations ⭐
Great, you have a degree! But so do a lot of the other candidates, not only in your class but at colleges right across the country and around the world. Some initial obstacles graduates can face are a lack of experience in the field, a lack of connections and of other relevant experience that could be potentially applicable to your job search.
Hopefully, you don’t face all three and, on the bright side, if you’re only facing one of the obstacles, it’s likely that you won’t be too long in finding a job. Nice one.
However, it’s still not realistic to imagine that you’ll land your dream job right out of college or be running a multinational in three years unless your second name is Collison.
These things do, occasionally, happen — but they are the exception, not the rule. More often than not, you’re going into an entry-level job as you are an entry-level candidate.
If you know what industry you want to work in, start looking at entry-level roles in that industry and how you can tailor your skillset to what the day-to-day of the job entails.
A simple example is the sales industry. If you’re looking to pursue a career in tech sales (which is what I do and would highly recommend) you should be looking at Sales/Business Development Reps posted on LinkedIn and Indeed or wherever you search for jobs and try and up-skill now to ensure you stand out from the crowd.
I completely advocate chasing your dream but be aware that when you get into your perfect role/industry, you need to manage your expectations.You’re likely at or towards the lower end of the organisation. If you do good work in that role, you may land an elevated position and start to progress your career, but this is typically a much longer timeline than just a year or two into the future. Patience is required.
2. Not enough experience ⏱️
So you found your industry and have applied for a few jobs but then you get this back. It’s an absolute classic and something we’ve likely all heard of one point or another in our professional career. You put a lot of work into doing an extensive application for a certain role and then get the age-old response.
We’re looking for someone with a bit more experience.
Often employers prefer candidates with even a little bit of experience in their industry. Despite graduating with a degree knowing a lot about your chosen industry, real-world experience makes you more attractive to employers.
To gain some real-world experience, you should try to find an internship during one of the summers during college, if it’s not already built-in as part of your course. Still on the fence? It might be worthwhile reading one of our previous blogs, how a summer internship can accelerate your career.
If it’s too late to get an internship, reach out to lecturers you got on with over the years to see if they know of any companies looking for recent graduates. A glowing recommendation from them might catch the right person’s ear at the right time and before you know it, BOOM! You landed your first interview.
3. Poor Interview Skills 📞
So, you have enough relevant experience to get an interview but unfortunately, this is another area that college frequently does not prepare you for. Many students graduate believing that if they have the degree, the skills, and the drive, they’re good to go.
The reality is that the interview process is extremely important. The interviewers assess not only whether you’re a cultural fit, i.e if they think you’re sound or not. They’re also assessing your competency and whether they think you can do the day-to-day role. The process can sometimes be tough going.
Your experience will get you in the door but from the time you walk through it and into the room until you send a follow-up email, you’re being judged. It’s a difficult pill to swallow as one wrong answer may potentially mean you miss out on a great opportunity.
First thing’s first, I just want to clarify that I genuinely believe what’s for you won’t pass you. You will miss out on an opportunity because of a bombed interview at some point in your career and you’ll be disappointed but if you stick at it and do good work, you’ll get there at some point.
However, you should practice interviewing. Use any old material that your colleges (should have) given you on interview coaching and practice it. Or, Google It. There are plenty of good resources online on how to prep for interviews, particularly all the writing about using STAR method. It’s an absolute bonus if you have a relative or family friend in the field you want to pursue who you can bounce some ideas off. Use them.
Before your interview, research is your best friend. Search both old and recent news about the company online, follow their social channels and try to understand well what they do and get some context about the wider industry they’re in. Most importantly, be prepared to talk about the company and why you would fit in there.
Make no mistake about it, impressions matter here. Make a lasting one with the interviewer by preparing your answers well and doing your research and you’ll be in with a good shout.
Graduating from college is a great accomplishment and you should be proud of having done it! But as with any life transition, it comes with its share of challenges. Are there any others you would add to the list? Have you experienced any of these challenges and if so, how did you handle them?
To learn more about what we can help you with when transitioning from college to company, reach out to the Gradguide team, we’d be happy to help!
Gradguide is a career guidance and mentorship program designed to help college students and recent graduates land their first job in tech. We pair you with a mentor to help improve your CV, find the right roles to apply for, prepare for interviews and seek referrals to the best companies around.