An interesting article points out that 240,000 college graduates had minimum-wage jobs last year. What a shame. How can that be? I decided to look into this phenomenon.
I needed a pool to consider. I have had recent college grads as clients at The Interview Doctor who are unemployed and working at minimum wage. I also checked in with my 24 year old college graduate daughter for an informal assessment of her friends.
Marissa has worked steadily since her graduation in her chosen profession. Most of her friends are also working in their chosen professions as teachers, doctors, college professors, political operatives (like Marissa), and various business specialties. Some of her friends have gone to graduate school.
Two factors seem to separate recent college graduates who are fully employed in their chosen profession and those under employed or working at low wages: Networking and knowing exactly what you want.
Networking is critical. In Marissa’s circle of political operatives the folks who called everyone they know and leaned on connections with persistence are currently working at good jobs.
She and her friends all finished the last election cycle at the same time at the end of November. Marissa was on the phone constantly and landed a great job in Washington DC. Tia called her old bosses repeatedly and also found a good job in DC a few weeks later. Rob and Andrew have done no networking and are still unemployed, living on friends’ couches. They will get a job eventually but picking up the phone and making some calls will speed things up.
Know exactly what you want. Marissa and her friends know exactly what they want. They don’t just work in politics. They do very specific jobs with specific titles that are valued by specific people and organizations. This is critical.
No one can help you with this. You must say exactly what you want and you must say it loud and confidently.
I had an inquiry from a young woman with a marvelous educational background. She just finished an assignment with AmeriCorps after college and decided she wanted to work in non-profit. That is not enough. Until she decides exactly what kind of job in non-profit she wants and why, she will probably not find a job. How can she network? Who will she call and what will she say when she calls? Her resume and LinkedIn profiles will be generic and not attract any attention.
Something is missing. Notice I did not talk about the kind of degree these folks have? I do not think degree matters that much. Why does an engineer have an easier time finding a job? A small portion of the reason is that engineers are always needed in American business. A larger part of it is that an engineer college graduate already knows exactly that they want to do. They are an engineer. More than that, they are a specific kind of engineer whose education means they can work in a very specific kind of job.
Knowing what you want and networking to get it trumps degree any day.