Post-Grad Career Expectations: The Good,
The Bad and The Truth

By: Dolores Dell

As a former Career Counselor at a well known college in New Jersey it was my job to help prepare college students to look for work upon graduation. I would sit down with every student from the criminal justice and information technology programs and discuss their future goals and possible places of employment. It was my job to keep them honest and keep their heads on straight.

It is the ugly truth that you will start at an entry-level position right out of college. Most likely no matter how well you do in your classes and even at your internship, you will be hired at an entry-level job at an entry level salary. My advice is to embrace it. This is your time to figure out if you like the career path you’re on and to be the little fish in the big pond. Observe how the senior workers do it and strive to be like them. In time when you have the experience and maybe extra education you will be ready and will be quite successful!

The first step to being happy with your entry-level position is to figure out what you are certified to do with the degree you have just obtained. A co-worker of mine was in charge of the visual communications program. He would always ask his soon-to-be graduates where they would like to work and nine out of ten students would say for Disney studios. My co-worker wanted to encourage their dreams but also ask them how they were hoping to get that job with little to no experience and an associates’ degree in visual communications. He would then offer to assist them in finding entry-level positions to help them begin pursuing their dreams, like at a Kinko’s or Staples. But they thought that work was below them. Apparently working at all was below them because most of them are still waiting for their dream job at Disney to suddenly appear!

Another important step is to realize what you are allowed to do by law with your degree. It sounds dramatic but when I would help criminal justice students look for work, many of them had criminal backgrounds. It always astounded me how people would go to school to be a police officer with a criminal background in theft or drug possession. Find out ahead of time what a criminal record will do to your job prospects in the field you want to pursue.

Another point to consider is to find out the age requirements for the job you are hoping to find. I had a student come into my office one day and tell me how he couldn’t wait to be a state trooper. He had even bought the stereotypical cop sunglasses and dressed as a cop for Halloween just to see how it would feel. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that he was too old to be a police officer. The cut off is 35 years of age; he was 42. Sadly, my want-to-be macho cop cried in my office for about two hours. I felt terrible having to be the one to end his dream. But that is my exact point. I shouldn’t have had to be the one to burst his dream. He should have done his research long before getting to me!

So, the best advice I can give is, before deciding on the career of your dreams, check out in-depth what is needed to succeed in that career, and make sure you meet all of the requirements. That way you don’t end up waiting for an out-of-reach job that will never come, or you don’t end up having your hopes dashed after you’ve spent tons of time, money and labor working towards a goal you cannot achieve.

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