6 Things Today’s College Graduates Must Unlearn

UnlearnAll around us, the caps have been thrown; the gowns have been stored (or at least thrown in the closet). Several million graduates are now descending on the workforce.

And, sadly, way too many of them don’t have a clue what it takes to be successful at the next level.

Before they can learn what it takes to survive in what has become our new “normal” economy – they need to unlearn much of what they’ve been taught. Here are six examples:

Your Degree Is Special

We know how proud you and your parents are of that degree. We get it. And we know you’ve been taught to believe that all you need to be successful is that diploma. Unfortunately, that piece of paper no longer makes you special in today’s workforce. Don’t believe me? Ask the millions of unemployed and under-employed graduates out there; some who come from schools with pedigree lines long enough to circle the earth.

Celebrate the win. Be proud of your commitment to education. You deserve this moment. Just realize that from the perspective of many decision makers in today’s job market, your college degree isn’t a differentiator so much as a minimum requirement.

Your Major Matters

Without any practical experience or in-depth knowledge of the careers involved, you were forced to choose your major. You agonized. You sweated. You chose. And many of you, after more agony and sweat, chose again. And guess what? Except for some STEM majors… it doesn’t matter. There are Psychology majors doing great work as community managers – and there are Ancient Chinese History majors leading their own start-ups.

Your major was a course of study. Like most everything else about college, it doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t limit yourself; do not get pigeon-holed. Go find fulfilling work at the organizations hiring now, no matter what your diploma says immediately after “Bachelor of…”.

You’ll Find Jobs on Job Boards

I was moderating a business panel at NYU this winter – and the subject of job boards came up. One of the panelists had data that showed 1 in every 237,000 applications on a big job board leads to an actual job. One in 237-THOUSAND. Yet by some estimates, up to 96% of a job seeker’s time is spent on… job boards. Why?

Two reasons: 1) It feels productive and 2) It’s so much easier than doing the job search right.

The big job boards are dead. They are scrambling to rebrand as we speak. Don’t tie your career to a dinosaur. Be smarter than that – and search for a job the old-fashioned (and effective) way… by networking.

All Employers Want to Know is “Can You Do the Job?”

This advice worked for your grandfather, and maybe your mom and dad – if they worked in a union shop where doing the minimum was good enough. This mindset, however, is not going to serve you well. Today, every employer has many candidates just like you to choose from. The question is no longer “Can you do the job?” but “Can you do the job better than 138 other applicants – and half the current team at the company – while fitting into our existing culture and helping us build a better culture that turns ordinary customers into brand ambassadors?”

If you present yourself as that person… you stand a chance. Anything else in today’s workforce and… you’re an also-ran.

You Are Graded Solely on Your Effort

I blame the helicopter parents. They gave today’s graduates trophies when they were kids, for showing up for soccer practice half the time. Ribbons were passed out for coming in eighth. They stopped keeping score in Little League because it “wasn’t fair to the losers”. Well, in the workforce, there are winners and losers. Your employer expects you to show up all the time. They do keep score. To stay on their good side, (i.e. to keep your job) you must constantly improve – and at some point you’ll need to be a winner more times than a loser.

Show up, every day, ready to compete. And know that effort doesn’t matter if the result of all that work doesn’t meet expectations.

Your Career Should Go As Planned

“You can be anything you want to be!” say the Tony Robbins types. If that was true, I’d be playing first base for the San Francisco Giants.

Here’s the reality: you are far more likely to work in a field you had never considered than in the field you had all figured out in your head. Never thought of going into sales? That’s where the jobs are. Never thought you’d end up in customer service? 3 million others thought the same thing. Never saw yourself walking into a Federal Government facility for work? 4.5 million. Administrative Assistant not for you? 17 million.

If your career goes exactly as you (or your parents) planned it… you’ll be in the one-percentile of all graduates this year. Don’t be afraid to start. Don’t waste your time waiting for perfection. And no matter where it comes from, embrace change and welcome opportunity.

Because I get to work with them every day, I know today’s college graduates are some of the brightest of all time. And yet so much has changed from when they started college just a few years ago. Much of what we – their parents, educators and mentors – have steadfastly told them since they were little kids (“go to college, get good grades, you’ll be fine!”) turned out not to be true.

They will adapt. They will unlearn. And pretty soon, they’ll be our bosses.
 

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Mark Babbitt AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and Forbes regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors,” HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and CareerBliss’ “Top 10 Gen Y Career Experts.” Mark is currently working on two new books: “A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM, August 2014) with Ted Coine and “The Ultimate Guide to Internships (And Making Your College Years Matter Again)” (Allworth, September 2014). Questions? Contact Mark on Twitter.

 

 

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