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11 Feb

Grads, you need to get better....

Grads - I’ve got a question for you. Does your life plan involve being successful, getting a meaningful job, succeeding as an entrepreneur or manager and building a nice lifestyle? Do you think it’s going to be easy?

Here’s some tough love for you, from a business owner and someone who has seen dozens of young people through their career journey. 

Your degree means nothing. Not unless you get off your butt, show some spark and engage with the world.

Today, I received an email from a graduate who enclosed her resume and said she was looking to get her career started in event management, did we have any openings? I give her full credit for the initiative. However, when I responded that yes, we do have a client in that field who has a few entry level roles, she responded that she was ‘not interested’ in THAT sort of work. 

I opened my mouth to advise her that getting a foot in the door was more important than the job itself at this point in her career. That she was saying no to an opportunity to make industry contacts, impress them with her smarts and open her up to the 50% of jobs that are never advertised. That if she was any good, the ‘low level’ tasks she was scorning now would quickly be replaced with the sort of work she’s after. But I didn’t say that. I just let her go. No passionate and committed business owner is going to be interested in hiring someone with that attitude anyway, regardless of her degree.

And herein lies the point of this article. Graduates – if you believe there’s a queue of employers out there just waiting to make you rich and successful on your terms, you’ve got another thing coming.  

I am not going to roll out the ‘in my day’ diatribe, but what I will tell you is that life is hard. You have to start at the bottom and sometimes you will have to do the grunt work and menial tasks that aren’t glamourous to get ahead. Building a reputation of trust, reliability, initiative and all those soft skills listed in every job advert takes times. 

Your piece of paper doesn’t fast track that, it’s just a ticket to the game.

Last week a graduate came into the office for an interview, half an hour late and with a swagger. He didn’t make eye contact and wasn’t prepared enough to answer the most basic question about why he wanted to work for us. He hadn’t even visited our website before arriving! 

That’s what inspired me to write this article. Graduates - if you are ready for some practical tough love, here it is.

  1. Commitment

Lack of commitment is interpreted by employers as lack of interest and respect. Big fat fail.   

Having no experience is the biggest challenge graduates face when starting out in the workforce. Employers have to take a chance on you because you will take extra time, training and mentoring before you are an asset to the organisation. My advice: be eager. Say yes to everything. Follow up. Make it clear that you are committed to doing whatever you need to do to impress.     

  1. Engagement – do your research

People hire people they like. Unless you are going for a role where you work alone in a dark room, I recommend you make eye contact, smile and attempt to build rapport with every business person you come into contact with. You never know who knows who and can recommend you. 

Today’s Event Management graduate had taken the time to find my details and email me, but she was instantly dismissive and missed an opportunity to engage. Such a shame. 

  1. Research the company, understand why you want to be there

There is a 99% chance that if you make it to interview, you will be asked why this job/company appeals to you. Have an answer and try to make it one that isn’t entirely selfish. Show you have at least visited the company’s website, have some idea what they do and can see how you’d add value. 

“I just want a job / I am applying for every job / I have applied for 100 jobs, I don’t recall which one is yours” are responses that fail to impress.

In summary, it’s likely that no one to date has told you that you’re doing badly, that you’ve been mollycoddled or that your parents think you are better than you are. Get off your butt, get some skills, say thank you and show up on time. You will be surprised where that might take you.

Good luck.