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College Grads Are Entering a Shaky Job Market. Professionals Have Some Advice

College graduation season is in full swing, and millions of students are preparing to enter the workforce

Many new grads spend months sending resumes into the void, collecting automated rejection emails. A
the labor market slows, the class of 2024 may have a challenging time getting their foot in the door.

Even for those who have a job offer in hand, making the transition from full-time school to full-time
work can be a culture shock. Some young workers have expressed despair on TikTok that the 9-to-5 life
they’ve been building toward for years has turned out to be a huge letdown — an experience that older
generations are, unfortunately, all too familiar with.

We asked Bloomberg readers to tell us about their first jobs — how they got them, why they chose them
the best and worst parts, what surprised them — and what advice they would give to new graduates.

Responses have been edited and condensed.

Co-Workers Matter

I found a help wanted ad to produce help wanted ads! Honestly, working for a recruitment advertising
agency was all I could get after I sent out hundreds of resumes to publishing houses in New York City
and Boston.

As it was my first “real” job, everything was an adjustment and a surprise. The camaraderie of the entir
staff was something I could never have predicted. It was like one big extended family in an office setting

The job taught me how to work on a weekly deadline while juggling dozens of active projects. Every
Thursday night we raced to meet the Sunday paper deadlines. It was fast, furious and stressful, but we
all supported each other and celebrated making it through each week. I made lifelong friends there.

Coming from the suburbs, working every day in South Boston was a fun place to be in the early 90s. Th
worst: walking from my train at South Station to the office in the hard driving wind and rain. No
umbrella was built to survive it.

When seeking a job, be intentional, but also open to ideas you may not have considered. Every
opportunity brings insight and learning you can carry with you.

Most importantly, look for good people that you respect, enjoy and can learn from. Relationships are
everything and can make all the difference in your career. Take good care of them.

— Christy Kemp, class of 1992, communications consultant, Boulder, CO

Be Open-Minded

did Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) to pay for college, and that included four years in the Air
Force. I didn't actually choose my first job. In the office I was assigned, different people had different
clearances. Four of us were in the same office, but we each had access to different programs. I didn't
know what my boss did, and vice versa. Lots of classified stuff. But I had a much different plan in mind.

My first job wasn't even covered in my initial training. It was specialized to the point that my boss didn'
even know what I did. I'll never forget his first words: "The guy you are replacing left six months ago. I
don't know what he did. I don't know what you do. There's your desk. Good luck." There were no real
expectations, and I was able to pull off a few miracles once I figured out what I was doing, so I had fun
with it.

The world is changing so don't be afraid to chart your own path. The working world of your parents no
longer exists. Build a model that works for you.

— Robert Longley, class of 1986, consultant, Williamsburg, MA

Find Out What You Don’t Want

My college internship, which was at the company I ultimately worked for post-graduation, was in
sustainability. However, the job they offered had nothing to do with sustainability. It was hot dogs and
beer: an associate concessions operations manager at a major sporting arena.

Isometimes got free tickets for family and friends to sporting events and concerts. But you work
whenever there is an event at the venue, so the summers were the slow season. Every other season was
six to seven days a week, 10 to 14 hours a day, largely on your feet.

I managed the concessions workers, so I was always walking the stadium. I came home with sore feet
and smelling of fries. It reinforced that I wanted to go into sustainability and that I needed to head back
in that career direction. I also knew I never wanted to work in a stadium again.

A lot of work is not fun, but any experience is good experience and makes you a stronger candidate for
future jobs.

— Bridget Keeler, class of 2015, climate strategy consultant, New York, NY

Learn From Bad Managers

My first job after graduation was an assistant editor at a medical journal. It was close to where I lived at
the time and the pay for trade magazine work was better than local news outlets. The owner was not sh
about yelling. She made a former New York City ad executive cry in front of the entire staff. The best
thing was I stayed only six months.

What surprised me was the micromanagement. I'd heard so much about "the real world," and yet the
company was run like the disciplinary office at my old high school. Having functional adults screaming
in a professional setting was an adjustment I never adapted to, but it taught me a lot about how not to
run a company or treat staff. I believe in leading with kindness. It can inspire loyalty and invest everyon
in the mission of the organization. Additionally, I learned that management by harassment and
indifference is the fastest way to lose good people.

Work for a complete j----ss at least once — preferably both early and briefly — in your career. You can
learn a lot from someone who doesn't know how to manage people. With luck and effort, it will make
you a better, more empathetic leader.

The key lesson is you don't have to be a jerk to succeed.

— Rod Hughes, class of 1997, public relations, Doylestown, PA
 

Embrace New Technology

My first job was as a business analyst at Texas Instruments. My father worked there and helped me get
an internship, which evolved into a full-time job. I graduated during a recession in 1980 and there were
not a lot of jobs available, so the most practical thing to do was take the offer.

Texas Instruments was, at the time, a preeminent leader in computer technology in addition to being a
chip maker and defense contractor. As a business analyst, I was doing my job on an early prototype of
office software that had been developed in-house. My first year crossed the bridge from large planning
sheets (think a spreadsheet on paper) to using an early version of a spreadsheet program on a
networked computer system.

As more companies started using this type of software I was able to switch jobs and use those skills
immediately. The downside to this was I was always teaching someone how to use the software or
stepping on someone’s toes who didn’t want to move forward with technology.

What surprised me most about the work environment was that, just like college, there was a hierarchy
of groups. Engineering was at the top, manufacturing was in the middle and business systems at the
bottom. We had been led to believe that business was the top and everything else below.

The other thing that surprised me was that the men were just grown-up frat brothers in better clothes.
Your first job will be a culture shock. Stick with it for at least two years before jumping ship. Take
advantage of any mentorship opportunities. Learn to budget and save.

— Anne Agee, class of 1980, business analyst and administrator, Hurst, TX

 

Value Learning and Pay

As a licensed merchant marine officer, I wanted nothing more than to go to sea. New oil tankers were
being built and put into service so there was a demand for US flag ship officers. I interviewed for a job a
an assistant engineer on an oil tanker and was hired almost immediately.

It was a tremendous learning experience. But the worst was my first day when the chief engineer told
me the sewage treatment plant was broken and I spent my first three days head down, feet up in a
sewage plant. The practical experience working as a union member in a hardhat and steel-toed boots
gave me a lifetime appreciation for the dignity of work.

When you take a job, balance the value of the learning experience at least as much as the income,
because the learning experience will go with you into the future.

— John Dabbar, class of 1982, energy industry executive, Houston, TX
— With assistance from Nikki Naik

 

Posted: 5/23/2024 10:00:50 AM by Jordan Davis | with 0 comments
Filed under: College, Graduation, Job, Search