A while ago, a 30-something began hanging out with our twenty-somethings. To them, he was cool and worldy-wise. This was surprising to us, as he had clearly gone, and was going nowhere, with his life. This was evidenced by his attitudes, his personal grooming, his body language, and his indefinable air that suggested he knew it. His response to his predicament had been to struggle to maintain his life of 12/15 years ago. I was both baffled and irritated that our offspring seemed to be idolizing this poster child for underachievement.
Fortunately it took them about a week to figure him out, and he then disappeared from the scene. Later, while chatting with our boys, I asked what happened to whatever-his-name-was and they replied, “Oh you mean Too-Long-at-the-Party?” We all laughed and one said, “Yeah, everybody calls him Too-Long now. He’s such a loser, but he thinks he’s going to be a rock star.”
College is great, and I wish we could all spend our lives there, but if you or a friend or a loved one is approaching graduation, please don’t make the five mistakes that started Too-Long on his stuttering life of thwarted dreams.
1. Knock knock. Don’t think a job is going to appear magically out of thin air, or that Career Services is required to get you a job; they are there to help you, but it is up to you to make the proper approaches in a timely manner. Partner with them and take advantages of the resources they offer. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
2. Anybody home. Don’t leave your job search until the last minute. If you do, you are more likely to get lost in the crowd, or worse yet trampled in the stampede. You don’t want to be two years out of school, with a paper hat and name-tag job, competing against your third class of graduating seniors.
3. Wake up. Don’t reply solely on the big job sites like Monster or CareerBuilder to kick off your career. It is arrogant to believe that all opportunity is available in only three or four places and on the days you happen to look in those places. There are a dozens of ways to find great jobs that will separate you from the stampeding herd; you’ve just got educate yourself.
4. Smell the coffee. Don’t forget the bottom line. To put it bluntly, cash will determine the quality of the life you live for the rest of your days. You cannot rely on Mom and Dad to pay your bills forever and eventually, like Too-Long, you will run out of friends willing to let you crash at their apartments. Be financially responsible.
5. Kick-start the big game. Don’t put off learning job search and career management skills until after graduation. Put yourself ahead of the pack and be ready to get in the game. When you arm yourself with these skills, you will be poised for long-term success, because your first job search will not be your last job search. You are just at the beginning of a half-century work life in which you are likely to change jobs every four years and experience three or more distinct careers in the process. Develop job search and career management tools now, because you will need them to succeed in the job you get, to earn promotions, to find new jobs, and to change careers.
Knock knock. Anybody home? Wake up and smell the coffee. Kick start your big game and don’t stay too long at the party.