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College Graduation & Employment: A New Chapter & Challenge

We’ve been receiving calls lately from parents whose children haven’t been able to find employment after college. The stress and frustration in their voices are palpable. It’s a cross between, “I need to help” and “I have no idea how to help”. They are witnessing their children, who have accomplished a lofty goal of college graduation, now struggle to find a career.

Depending on the conversation, I send them back to their colleges to connect with their career centers, which by the way, I find they never engaged. I encourage them to reconnect with favorite professors to let them know they are struggling. I ask if they are actively using LinkedIn, which the answer is always no. I know this isn’t comfortable. It’s admitting, in their minds, they weren’t “success” on their own, which is not the case.

As I talk with the parents, I ask probing questions. What I find is students are not prepared for the “real world” in that somewhere along the way, they have missed the powerful conversation of the importance of networking and having a professional online presence. They expect to apply for jobs and within 10 or so applications being submitted, receive an interview, hence offer. It’s not reality. And this challenge can lead to significant depression which is when parents normally reach out to us.

I shared a story with a parent this week that I personally experienced. My oldest, who just graduated from college a couple of weeks ago, before deciding to continue for her master’s degree was applying for jobs. She was networking, having coffee, drinks, lunch, dinner, and conversations with as many people as possible trying to prepare for her next chapter. She was constantly working on her LinkedIn page and connecting with people she knew. It was massively time-consuming and was productive. However, she had applied numerous times to a company who had been on her radar for years with zero traction. Each time frustrated that she could not even get in the front of them to show them who she was with a rejection email almost automatically. Literally, two weeks before graduation, and after she had been accepted into her MBA program, she gets a message on LinkedIn from her dream company who said they found her on the site, were impressed with her background and wanted to know if she would be interested in a director level position they had and encouraged her to apply. Even though it was a full-time position, they were so impressed with her that during the interview they said they would work with her MBA schedule if she would come to work for them. If that isn’t the craziest story about the power of LinkedIn, I don’t know what is. She was completely shocked at the turn of events. I’m not going to lie, I found it quite humorous.

In addition, one of her new contacts who worked for the American Embassy in Berlin, and met informally a couple of times to learn more, has turned out to be not only a professional connection but also her biggest champion. So much so, he came to her college graduation to see her walk the stage as well as joined us for a celebratory brunch. I only say this because if you are like most people, sitting through a 2-3 hour ceremony where you know no one is not high on your list. Especially, if it’s not your child. But making authentic relationships can have incredible impacts, whether now, in the future or just gaining a new person in your life that is in your corner. I find most people are willing to mentor if just asked. It’s a right of passage because we’ve all been there. Never underestimate the power of finding a professional mentor.

As parents, it’s critical you understand the “destination rate” at the university you are considering for your child. This is the percentage of students in X amount of time that are employed in their field, graduation school or the military. If it’s high, they will proudly tell you. If they can’t…be wary. Or at least use this to help determine between school A and school B.

But no matter how great the university is about helping students; it is the student’s responsibility to do their work. And it should begin at least 6 months, if not a year before they are preparing to graduate. “Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan” and ask for help, if needed. It’s a sign of maturity, strength, and understanding this is how the professional world works. And if they need help, we are passionate about assisting so they Proceed with Confidence in their professional lives.

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