Avoid post-col­lege ca­reer melt­down

Job anx­i­ety can strike as kids pre­pare to leave cam­puses

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Jobs - By J.T. O’Don­nell

In a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive poll con­ducted for Quartz by Sur­veyMon­key Au­di­ence, 30 per­cent of mil­len­nial and Gen Z em­ploy­ees re­ported they ex­pe­ri­ence anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion to the point where it dis­rupts work “all the time” or “of­ten.”

At this time of year, my in­box gets in­un­dated with emails from par­ents whose chil­dren will soon be grad­u­at­ing from col­lege. They want tips on how to help their child land his or her first job.

This is a typ­i­cal email:

Hey J.T.,

My son is grad­u­at­ing in May and has no idea how to look for a job. I’ve told him to go to the ca­reer cen­ter at his school, but he says they were no help. When I sug­gest to him that he needs to start ap­ply­ing to jobs now, he gets up­set with me and says he will deal with it when he grad­u­ates. What can I do to get his job search in gear?

I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes and won­der­ing why this par­ent thinks it’s his or her job to mo­ti­vate the child to look for work. But even with the un­em­ploy­ment rate low, stud­ies show young work­ers have the high­est rate of ca­reer anx­i­ety across any gen­er­a­tion.

In a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive poll con­ducted for Quartz by Sur­veyMon­key Au­di­ence, 30 per­cent of mil­len­nial and Gen Z em­ploy­ees re­ported they ex­pe­ri­ence anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion to the point where it dis­rupts work “all the time” or “of­ten.”

The jour­nal JAMA Pe­di­atrics re­cently re­ported that 1 in 7 young adults and chil­dren have men­tal health con­di­tions, though only half are re­ceiv­ing treat­ment.

Try­ing to land an ap­peal­ing job that won’t add to their anx­i­ety likely leaves many grad­u­ates un­cer­tain and par­a­lyzed.

I’ve yet to see a school with a Ca­reer Devel­op­ment and Job Search ma­jor. And even though al­most all col­leges have cam­pus ca­reer devel­op­ment cen­ters stu­dents can visit for as­sis­tance, most stu­dents don’t lever­age this re­source prop­erly.

Why? In my ex­pe­ri­ence, they’re so busy with school, re­la­tion­ships and the over­all process of adult­ing, they can’t imag­ine try­ing to look ahead to life af­ter col­lege.

When a stu­dent grad­u­ates, he or she hears, “You have so many op­tions!” That sounds amaz­ing to sea­soned pro­fes­sion­als who wish they could go back in time and make dif­fer­ent ca­reer choices. But to a new grad, it’s like go­ing into an ice cream par­lor that has 352 fla­vors and be­ing told to pick one in 15 sec­onds.

Col­lege grad­u­ates feel a lot of pres­sure these days to build an amaz­ing ca­reer straight out of school. If they aren’t set­ting the world on fire with their great­ness, then they are con­vinced some­thing is wrong with them. Mean­while, they haven’t worked full time in a pro­fes­sional set­ting, which means there’s an en­tirely new learn­ing curve for them to get through.

With that in mind, here are the tips I typ­i­cally give to par­ents of col­lege grads each year:

Cre­ate sim­ple first-job goals

Make it clear to your child that the first job out of school will not be the last one. Ev­ery job is tem­po­rary, es­pe­cially to­day.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2018 re­port from the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, a per­son will change jobs, on av­er­age, 12 times dur­ing his or her ca­reer. Many work­ers spend five years or less in ev­ery job. The days of be­ing a com­pany man for 40 years be­fore retiring and draw­ing a tidy pen­sion are long gone for most peo­ple.

The main pur­pose of a first job is to help new grad­u­ates get used to life af­ter col­lege. The time com­mit­ment and struc­ture of a job can be a big ad­just­ment for many new grads.

Help your child see that this first job is go­ing to teach im­por­tant skills such as build­ing re­la­tion­ships with co-work­ers and learn­ing work­place do’s and don’ts, and if the job is not a good fit, he or she can move on. But show­ing up on time, work­ing hard and be­ing en­thu­si­as­tic are im­por­tant. These prac­tices will carry you through your ca­reer.

The op­por­tu­nity to change the world will come. First, fresh grad­u­ates need a year or two or three to gain per­spec­tive and much-needed work­place knowl­edge.

Don’t let your kid take the sum­mer off

Many kids try to con­vince their par­ents this is their last sum­mer to have fun and re­lax, and par­ents hop­ing to spend time with their freshly minted adult may agree. But the job search is a process that doesn’t hap­pen quickly. It will likely take your child all sum­mer to iden­tify the kind of work he or she wants to do, build net­work con­nec­tions and land in­ter­views to get hired.

In the mean­time, he or she should work a job that doesn’t re­quire a col­lege de­gree in or­der to earn a lit­tle money and mo­ti­vate him or her to fig­ure out that first ca­reer faster. Also, noth­ing screams “en­ti­tled” more to a re­cruiter than a stu­dent who says he or she took the sum­mer off to re­lax and travel and have some fun.

Com­pa­nies like to hire young pro­fes­sion­als who are ea­ger to get work­ing. En­thu­si­asm is a big plus when you don’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you man­age ex­pec­ta­tions, en­cour­age your child to do some work and ease up on the pres­sure, you can help him or her avoid hav­ing a ca­reer melt­down af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

J.T. O'Don­nell is founder and CEO of Work It Daily, a site ded­i­cated to help­ing peo­ple solve ca­reer prob­lems.

BORIS ZERWANN/DREAMSTIME

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