To the Class of 2023,
I hope you have had a good summer and are excited to start college in the fall. I am a recruiter. I have spent most of my career working with companies to find and hire the right employees for their company. I also have a great understanding of what companies want in the new college graduates they hire.
As you embark on your college career, I wanted to offer you some objective career advice that you will not get from your parents or college career office. If your goal is to get a great job after college that pays well, read on:
Begin with the end in mind. There are many undergraduate majors that will lead to interesting and lucrative jobs after college. There are many that do not, at least without having to pile on graduate degrees – and still might yield lower salaries than many majors. Colleges are in the business of selling education. Very few will tell first year students that the average starting salary of a social science major is half that of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) graduate. The Top 25 majors that pay you back during your career are all STEM or business administration related. However, not all STEM majors are equal. Most engineering majors can go straight to the workforce. Many science majors (i.e. Biology) will require graduate school.
Electives can change your life. Your electives are a great way to explore new fields, interests, or life skills. One of the best elective classes I remember taking was Economics 101. It gave me a knowledge base that I use everyday.
Double majors are OK. You might really enjoy Spanish, Philosophy, Literature or Art. Adding them as a minor or second major can be very complimentary to your career and job prospects. For example, a double major in business administration and Spanish would be very attractive to a multi-national company. It’s a way you can pursue academic interests while maximizing your job prospects.
Get a job. Any job. College recruiters often complain that they interview many students who have stellar academic resumes, but they have never earned a paycheck. Even summer jobs like lifeguarding, fast-food, or retail, show to employers that you know how to be an employee – one less then they need to train you on.
It can take time to find your passion. Few people in the workforce are doing what their 18-year old self thought they’d be doing. A big part of college is figuring that out. Maybe you take an astronomy elective you absolutely love. Or find you have a knack for organic chemistry, or marketing, or computer programming. Don’t freak out if you don’t have a defined life-plan at freshman orientation. College is a way for you to explore a bit. But don’t forget rule #1 above.
Internships can help. Working through an internship can give you valuable experience and a leg up in getting a job. Most corporations that have internship programs are also looking to hire their inters upon graduation. Think if it as an audition. Internships are not created equal – look for ones that pay you and are project based. You’ll learn more that way than if you “just helped out in the mailroom” for free.
Lifestyle choices matter. College is a great place to make mistakes in a relatively consequence-free environment. That said, there is a line between “wacky college hi-jinks” and criminal behavior. Having to explain that public urination citation to a future employer will not be fun. Also, know that most employers will drug screen new-hires. It would be a shame to lose that great job offer because you and your buddies smoked a bowl graduation weekend.
Manage your Social Media. You can start building a professional network on LinkedIn at any time, especially by junior year. Get a professional-looking headshot (no red solo cups) and get a headline like “future accountant, expected graduation Spring 2023.” Start connecting with friends, family, & alumni. Check the settings on your other social platforms so that photos, posts and videos cannot be viewed by just anyone. You don’t want your future employer stalking your feed to find stuff that will kill your career before it starts.
The market determines your income. Your future salary will be determined by the job market for your field. There is more demand for nurses, accountants, and engineers than social workers, so wages tend to be more competitive. More expensive cities will land you a higher salary but cost of living will be much higher. Employers don’t care what your rent, car payments, student loans, and other bills add up to – they pay employees based on being competitive in the market in the city where they are. So do the math, figure out how to make your lifestyle fit your salary, not the other way around.
Your parents mean well…but take their advice with a grain of salt. They want what’s best for you but are filtering their advice based on their life experience which might not be relevant to you or to the current job market. Their priorities might be different for you – maybe they want to brag about “their daughter the doctor.” Maybe they see being an accountant as a secure and stable career choice. Becoming a doctor or accountant just to please your parents is a recipe for an unhappy career if it doesn't interest you. Also, parents at their stage in life have a much lower risk-tolerance than you do, and might encourage you to take a job with a Fortune 500 vs. that risky tech start-up.
The next four years are going to be exciting and full of new experiences and learning. Make friends, have fun, learn new things. It’s not all about the income – many of my classmates took high-paying jobs after graduating and hated them. Try to strike a balance between where your interests lie, and what will offer you a career after graduation.
If you need help figuring out what you want to be, let us know how we can help. Our career coaches specialize in helping people figure out how to find their passions. When you get ready to graduate, let us know as well – we can help you with your job search strategy. We wish you the best of success!
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