It’s Graduation Time: Now what?

Many of us are celebrating the graduation of friends and relatives this month. It is the culmination moment for students as they conclude a huge phase of life and enter the  challenge of finding vocational pursuits and a career.

Tips for finding a job after graduation

Tips for graduates in taking next steps toward a vocation or career.
Tips for graduates in taking next steps toward a vocation or career.

We recognize, perhaps even expect, that those who graduate from high school often do not know what they will be doing next. We also know that jobs at the entry-level in this economy have few good options. In fact, the dream job that was anticipated at the beginning of college may not now be possible. This kind of disappointment can be extremely anxiety-provoking for students and their families because decisions must be made about where time and energy will be spent in perspective of the rest of the graduate’s life.

As our students consider this significant set of decisions, I would like to encourage several ideas to begin the process.

I am disconcerted that many individuals are working in jobs that they do not like or have an interest in. In addition to causing various problems later in life, it also makes for a depressing and stressful work experience.

I am a firm believer that we should focus on our strengths as a way to determine a fulfilling career. Let’s be careful to understand a strength is not something that we are necessarily good at, but rather it is an activity and achievement that is both natural and energizing.

Many of us can be good at something but be bored to death. A strength is something we are born with and will continue to have all of our lives.

One tool that I highly recommend is the book Strengthfinders 2.0.

This book is significantly researched and really helps people find their areas of strength. When you purchase the Strengthfinders 2.0 book, you receive an entire list of strengths with researched descriptions and a 20-minute online test you can take. After taking the test, you will get a listing to print of your top 5 strengths along with descriptions of how you might envision the world around you.

For many people I have worked with, the accuracy of the tests was almost spooky. The information comes as affirmations, and if you understand your strengths correctly, then you will have a good idea about what kind of job, work environment and career you should pursue.

A second idea that I like is job-shadowing.

When my oldest son was searching for his career, I had the good fortune of knowing several people in several different job environments who were willing to give him a day or two, just to let him follow them around in their jobs.

He took many days over several months to visit corporations, small businesses and other situations to gain a broad view of the job market. Probably one of the most significant discoveries was what he learned he did not want to do. One of which was that he did not want to work behind a desk.

Consider an internship.

Sometimes internships can provide a similar learning experience once the career choices are narrowed down. It gives a person a chance to “try on” a job for enough time to make an assessment and if it “fits,” the internship can open the door to a full-time position within the company.

The benefit of a mentor.

However, there is nothing like exploring what a job can be like with the benefit of an experienced mentor. A mentor knows the specifics of that job and has some experience in the “big picture” of a career.

Finally, I believe any job can be a learning experience.

I was fortunate as a teenager to have a lot of different job experiences. As a CEO today, I can honestly say that I still draw on some of the worst of those experiences learned in my teenage years. None of that time was wasted, although what I thought I was learning at the time felt like it was just not important.

Therefore, it is important to realize the first, second, or third job may be helping to prepare you for the future.

As you become attuned to your strengths, learn from good mentors and grow in capabilities, there can be a growing confidence in where you are going. Then do what you need to do to find the career that energizes, grows and supports your future. This can be an exciting adventure with twists and turns. But these ideas for post graduation steps can lead to an intentional process of discovering a meaningful and purposeful career.

Congratulations to our graduates!

I’ll be writing a bit more on this topic in future posts.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO

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