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Tuesday, April 28th, 2015


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Five Myths about the Real World

While you’re in college, it’s easy to conjure up visions of the swanky apartment and high-paying job you’ll have after you graduate. Or maybe an older sibling or classmate told a horror story that made you petrified of finding your first job and negotiating your salary. There are a lot of myths floating around about post-college life, but the trust often falls somewhere in between. Here, we examine five common myths and discuss the realities.

1. Once I graduate and get a "real job," I’ll be able to afford a nice apartment and all the trimmings. Not quite. A 2007 survey conducted MonsterTRAK found that 46% of those surveyed planned to spend at least some time living with mom and dad post-graduation and that 22% planned to spend at least six months at home. David Kovacs was one of these "Boomerang" children when he first graduated from Boston University a few years ago. "Moving home for eight months after excelling in college is a blow to your pride," he admits, "and even after landing a full-time job in October… it took me a while to save up enough money to move out on my own."

Jennifer Williamson, who graduated from St. Lawrence University, agrees that living the high-life right out of school is more myth than reality. "When I first moved out on my own after college, I thought I could move to a great apartment in a cool section of town, within walking distance of bars, cafes, and stores," she says.  "Instead, I got a job with a publishing company. On my entry-level salary, I couldn’t afford anything better than a small apartment on the outskirts of my city." Don’t let this scare you, because if you’re smart about it, you’ll learn a lot about budgeting in your first few years and eventually upgrade your job and apartment.

2.If I’m not sure what I want to do, then grad school is a safe bet. Actually, if your career goals are vague, then you might want to do some soul-searching before you invest in another degree. According to Alexandra Levit, author of the forthcoming career book How’d You Score That Gig?, "so many people choose a graduate program because they aren’t sure where they want to go with their careers, when in reality, they should first be doing a cost/benefit analysis to determine what such a program is going to bring them in terms of increased job prospects and financial compensation."

This is your chance to test-drive career options before you settle on something longer term. Levit says she’s "heard lots of stories of twenty-somethings who graduate with a Ph.D., JD, or MBA only to end up deciding they want to do something else entirely." Talk to people in those fields to help you figure out if you’re cut out to be a lawyer or business executive, or if you might be happier in some other field.

3. If I have a strong GPA, then I should have no trouble finding a job. Again, another myth. Williamson disputes this one: "I was in the top ten percent of my graduating class at college… In five years of interviewing, nobody asked about my GPA."

Having a high GPA certainly can’t hurt, but as Kovacs points out, "GPA is only one factor in the hiring process." Employers also look at internships and work experience, so even some college valedictorians don’t get overwhelmed with job offers.

4. If I don’t have "real" work experience, then I can’t negotiate my salary. Many recent grads accept whatever salary they’re offered in their first job, but some are disappointed to discover that the person in the cube next to theirs is earning five or ten percent more simply because they asked for it. Williamson says, "you don’t need a certain amount of experience [to negotiate] this, but you do need to know certain things–like the going rate in your area for the job you’re applying for; the things that make you valuable, like extra certifications or qualifications." Check out Salary.com to find an appropriate salary range for your area and industry.

5. If I work hard for my company, then I will be rewarded with promotions and bonuses. Sorry, but not always. Getting graded on papers and exams in college gave you consistent feedback when you were a student, but not all bosses take the time to recognize achievements in the working world. This makes it tough for "graduates who leave school expecting results from a logical combination of education and effort," says Levit. "Getting ahead in business has little to do with intelligence or exceeding a set of defined expectations." But as you hone your people skills and build your work history, you’ll discover ways to advance your career and improve relationships with your boss and coworkers.

© 2008, Young Money Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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One Response to Five Myths about the Real World

  1. professionalism says:

    As a recent college undergraduate I can tell you all this?.

    In a perfect world, all of the smiling, resume giving, and note taking you did at your college career fair would have paid off immediately after you were handed your 60k+ piece of sheep skin, but it does not. Most companies and government agencies now list a bachelors as their ?minimum? requirements. Furthermore, many recruiters at career fairs (especial those on the federal side) are not really there to look for applicants, unless they have specialized skills (i.e. majored in engineering), they are just there to pass time.

    Unless you are privileged to have a ?daddy? with connections on the inside, you are going to be in line with everyone else, and possibly even working at 7-11 to get by till your apps come through.

    *Bachelors Degrees are a dime a dozen, and what employers really look for is experience,contacts,and work history. Today, anyone with enough money can go to any major university and BUY a degree. Hetch, they can be purchased online as well?

    *Your GPA and area of study do not matter. I had well over a 3.0, but so did just about the 1500 students in my school of study who graduated with me. Unless you are applying for graduate school or majored in a specialized field, employers do not care your GPA or what educational skills you gained from your study. They are only impressed if you were at the top of your class, have some graduate level work, or have years of work experience. If you try to make ?grades? the focal point if your ?skills? on your resume or during an interview, the interviewer may take it as insult or view you as a ?know it all? with no real experience.

    *Currently employers are looking for those with either a lot of work experience (+3 full time) or graduate levels of education.

    *Your internships, work study, or previous part time work experience do not matter unless you made strong connections and got good referrals from those jobs.

    *Government agencies are notorious for taking forever to respond to applications, and (from my own personal experience)they may call you in for interviews or test only to tell you you are inexperienced (already knowing that you were not what they were looking for.) Agencies/departments that recruit at colleges and career fairs do this the most.

    *Yes, it is true, many employers have unrealistic expectations of recent undergrads, especially those in high end companies and government agencies. They want applicants as young a new born lamb, but experienced as father time. In light of this there are three areas that WILL get you noticed when you apply for any job. They are LANGUAGES spoken, COMPUTER SKILLS acquired, and GRADUATE LEVEL COURSE WORK (a hint to all of those who are still undergrads or on their way to college.)

    * Unless you are applying for jobs in specialized fields, i.e. engineering, medicine/health, law, IT, accounting, etc. your graduate level work (if you decide to pursue it)really will not matter to employers. Most are simply impressed that you completed some sort of program somewhere?.undergraduate degree?forget about it.

    *In a perfect world EEOC, Fair Labor Standards, and non discriminatory mission statements would ensure that everyone?s interview lead to a job or at least got a fair shake. The truth is many apps are disqualified and many applicants are turned down for petty reasons. ?Lack of experience? is often a code for, ?Your young, and therefore stupid for wasting my time, come back when you fit my expectations not the company?s??, ?I just do not like the way you look?? ?Our diversity quota is full?? or finally, ?You will NOT help us meet our diversity quota??

    Face the facts, nepotism, contacts, and quotas are the way of the work world. A lot of HR managers have an axe to grind (and take their frustrations out on new applicants) and a lot more just generally dislike young applicants. It does not matter if your black, white, yellow, brown, the deck is stacked against you and even more so if you are young, have no contacts within the place you are applying for, and or lack a graduate, specialized, or IVY League level of education.

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