College graduates today have been bombarded with messages about pursuing their dreams and passions. Forbes calls them ”relentless optimists” stating that “millennials would rather hold out for the best job.” Unfortunately, pursuit of the perfect position can often lead to frustration and a failure to launch. That’s why it’s wise to see if your job search needs a reality check.
So how do you put a reality check on your job search without sacrificing your dreams?
First, leverage your strengths to your advantage.
Millenials are driven, eager to contribute and make a difference. In many ways, they are the driving force behind the new economy. Their passion is something to be both leveraged and managed.
Passion often is what separates a great candidate from an average one. People who are passionate about what they do generally are willing to put in longer hours and more effort than those who lack passion. Properly channeled, this passion can lead to extraordinary results. The key is “properly channeled”.
Next, understand employers’ perceptions of your shortcomings.
The Millennial generation has been derided as the “instant gratification, ADD, fame seeking” generation. That’s a lot to pile on anyone who is only in their early twenties. Many of the traits that older generations tag Millennials with are both unfair and untrue. Know that these perceptions exist but don’t let yourself get lumped into a label that doesn’t fit.
Another important step is to know the skills employers want.
Focus on honing the critical skills that lead to job offers. Of all the key skills, clear written and oral communication skills are the most prized. So, use your time on campus to develop strong writing skills. Take a seminar or build a writing class into your class schedule.
Then do a reality check.
As a college graduate, the reality is that you have a very limited exposure to the working world. Unrealistic expectations can often lead to a failed career launch.
In his blog post entitled “If I Were 22”, Deepak Chopra said “The flame of discontent is still fueled by idealism.” Expecting your first job to be in the field of your dreams with great pay, good benefits, reasonable hours and meaningful work is asking a lot. Unrealistic expectations often lead to frustration or passing on great opportunities.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a young woman, who was working as an unpaid intern in her dream industry, as feeling as though “our dreams are holding us hostage.” The reality is that you have a choice about your career. Only you can hold yourself hostage to your dreams. I often cite Voltaire’s adage that “perfect is the enemy of the good” when advising my clients.
Confirm your perceptions with real research.
Start by pursuing jobs in fields or industries that appeal to you, but first research them thoroughly to make sure that your perceptions are based on facts.
Use LinkedIn and your college career center to connect with others and alumni in the fields that you are interested in.
Leverage informational interviews to get a realistic appreciation for the industry and learn what skills and traits are considered “must have’s” in those fields. Spend time reflecting on whether those skills match your natural strengths and talents.
Finally, get an early start on your career search.
Set a goal of getting that first “real” job prior to graduation. Realistically, it might take three to six months after you graduate. Yet having an aggressive goal will keep you focused and on track.
You may need to accept a “less than perfect” job initially. If that’s the case, choose a job that will help build your skills and move you toward your dream job. You might be amazed at where your first job leads you. Remember, the key to successful career is launching it.
P.S. If you haven’t seen it, watch the movie. There’s a reason that it’s a cult classic.