I recently took up two mentees from a student organization, and part of the Get To Know Each Other phase, we talked a lot about what they know and what they would like to know, about the “outside world”, the corporate environment.
We’re talking about a reputed, large, well structured and well organized student association; with clear processes and frameworks, and a high entrepreneurial spirit. Their members meet often with managers from the corporate world. And yet, when asked about their careers, many have no clue what they want to do or how to get it.
The Myth of Endless Possibilities
The late (graduating 1992-2000) Gen X-ers in my country were faced with a world of sudden freedom and endless possibilities. Many of them became entrepreneurs and lead today’s successful local enterprises.
The wave that came after them, to which I also belong, entered the world of clear career planning, corporate work and multinationals. We learned fast, adapted, and changed rapidly what we didn’t like. We were not afraid to “job-hop” for more money, or to work late hours because we knew that’s what’s required in order to climb the career ladder.
Today’s young graduates are faced with (perhaps) too many possibilities, and yet, limited availability. The education system hasn’t changed, but the job market has. There are internships, apprenticeships, exchange programs, studies abroad, volunteer programs abroad or in-country. There are training programs, business schools, student events, and summer camps.
And at the end of it all, still, almost impossible to find a good job when there’s 10+ applicants on one spot (I take this from last year’s statistics of the Coca-Cola Management Trainee Program, where, in true honesty, the numbers were even higher). Companies afford to cherrypick the “creme de la creme” of young graduates, and, let’s face it, the ones who are really dedicated, know what they want and have worked already to prove it.
So, what’s there to be done?
First and foremost, don’t worry too much about your degree. If you find your passion lies outside of what you learned at school, don’t be afraid to pursue it.
Grace Richards, who kindly pointed me to this article about what to do to get work after college, writes that the most important things to do if you’re having regrets about your degree are:
- get an internship or a job completely unrelated to your degree to help you learn new things and broaden your profile
- network, and get to know people outside your area of study
- consider online studies or degrees that complete your profile in the area of interest.
Second, don’t be afraid to take steps that show you’re driven to get into another field. Take classes; meet new people; go to clubs or meetings where they teach in that field of interest; research online; read; get into voluntary work that’s connected to that area. And put it all in your resume or CV.
I was pleased to meet a few young students last week at a Learning Event, who knew what they wanted. Two of them were studying Finance and wanted to get into HR. They were worried that companies might disconsider them because of the major change in their field.
On the contrary, I said. Two such different areas of interest make an outstanding candidate profile. As long as you show that you didn’t just decide “let’s skip Finance and say we want to do HR” but also have some work to prove it, it’s not a temporary fling. Secondary, it will always allow you to make a change of career; to have another option open. Maybe you’ll realize in 5 years, that HR is not for you; and then you’ll be able to turn to Consulting or even take up an MBA.
In the end, knowing what you want, at least in the short run (next 1-3 years) is critical to building the first steps of a career. Many young graduates see their decisions as life long, and it can be scary. But as long as you see each step as a self standing experience, it becomes an interesting and enjoyable journey.