Finding a Job Post Graduation


As published on LinkedIn Influencers on July 27th, 2019.

Last month I watched as my oldest child graduated from college. Yes, my son is now officially a college graduate, and no, I don’t know where the time went. What I do know is that I am one proud mother. My son is in full-time job search mode, and watching him go through this process has been eye-opening for me. I’ve been trying to offer advice, but it has been 30 years since I was in his shoes looking for my first job, and a lot has changed since then. That being said, it’s also remarkable how much has remained the same.

When I graduated from the University of British Columbia back in 1988, I was lucky because I knew what I wanted to do: enter a career in finance. I was also very lucky in that a number of firms, including Goldman Sachs, came to my campus to recruit. That made everything a lot easier. When a graduate takes a well-trodden path, such as banking or consulting, a university can be a big help. But if you’re taking the path less taken, not so much. It makes me wonder whether universities are ranked in some way by the support they give in helping their graduates find work. If not, they really should be, especially considering the investment these young people are making in their education. You would think that that would be an important benchmark.

Regardless, my son is not heading down a well worn path, and naturally, I want to help. But, and I can’t stress this enough, I want to help in a positive way. A recent study revealed that 40% of employers have had parents interfere in their child’s career. Employers have reported parents submitting resumes on their child’s behalf, calling the company to lobby for their child to be hired, and even sitting in on their child’s job interview. If you are a parent, do not, I repeat, DO NOT be one of these parents. Not only does it reflect badly on your child, but studies have shown that these helicopter parenting tactics do more harm than good. Give advice, sure, leverage your network, sure, but then let your child figure out their own path.

For myself, I decided that my way of helping and giving advice would be to do some research on the current job market and strategies on how to get a job in today’s connected world. Hopefully I can give him some helpful information and he can take it from there. Given my inclination to share, share, share, below is what I have learned. I invite you to have a read, and please share your favorite tips and resources in the comments below for all graduates to read and use.

First, some stats.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, American colleges and universities will award 1.0 million associate’s degrees, 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees, 780,000 master’s degrees, and 182,000 doctor’s degrees for the 2018-2019 school year. 

At the same time, 19.9 million students were projected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2018. My youngest child will be one of them. 17 million students will enroll in undergraduate programs, with 2.9 million enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs.

Your first job matters. According to a 2018 study by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work, 43% of college grads take positions that don’t require a degree. This study also found that 10 years after graduation, 1 in 5 college grads still weren’t working in a position that required a degree, meaning that once you’re underemployed, it can be extremely difficult to get out of that hole. This can impact your career and future earnings, so choose your first job carefully and strategically.

What about salary expectations? According to new data by College Pulse, analyzed by LendEDU, students expect to make $60,000 out of college, but in reality the average is $48,400. They analyzed over 7,000 responses from current college students from over 1,000 different schools for these numbers. Another study, the NACE’s Fall 2018 Salary Survey, stated that the preliminary average starting salary for the Class of 2018 graduates stands at $50,004, which is 2% less than the preliminary salary for the Class of 2017 ($51,022). This study also included eight main college degree categories and their estimated salaries, which would be worth benchmarking against in your own search for potential salaries.

Some good news. The unemployment rate for recent college grads was 3.7% in December 2018, just ahead of the overall 3.8% unemployment rate for the US at large. The job market, generally speaking, is strong. That said, somewhat alarming is the fact that when adjusted for inflation, the median earnings for recent grads today is no higher than for recent grads in 1990. With costs of living increasingly going up, that’s a worrying statistic for any parent. No wonder so many kids end up living at home for a while after graduating.

Know thyself.

It’s one thing to know what field you want to enter, but it’s another thing entirely to find the position that best suits your strengths and talents. One way to help this process along is to know just exactly what those strengths and talents are. I recently put in the time to more fully understand myself in this way, and it has been so helpful. Below are some of the tools that I would recommend for getting to know yourself better.

The Strong Interest Inventory is a good tool to help determine your work personality. It was first developed in 1927, and now has over 80 years of research behind it. This tool will help focus your job search on the positions and careers most tailored to your specific areas of interest.

Another great tool that I’ve personally used myself is StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup. Similar to the Strong Interest Inventory, this is an assessment tool that helps to determine where your natural strengths and talents lie, as well as which areas need improvement and how to have more self awareness about both.

Job Sites

So now you understand what you want and what you might like to do. What’s next? How do you actually find a job? The good news is that there are a lot of big sites that amalgamate thousands of job postings, such as IndeedCareerBuilder, and Monster, meaning you have thousands of options at your fingertips. However, if these big sites seem overwhelming, the good news is that there are plenty of other sites that provide more targeted listings. Dice, for example, posts jobs specifically for those looking to enter the tech industry, while Cool Works specializes in outdoor job postings. One of the most highly recommended is The Muse, where they pair every job posting with insider information on what that company’s culture and employee experience is like. The Muse also has the largest database of career advice online, including career and coaching options.

Another great site is Idealist, which lists thousands of jobs for those looking to work in the non-profit sector. When I worked for Women Moving Millions, this was the site we used the most when recruiting. Finally, another great tool for recent grads is College Recruiter. This site is tailored specifically to graduates looking for their first job, and helps to identify good entry-level positions. There is even the opportunity for job seekers to have an expert critique their resume at no extra cost.

And of course, LinkedIn. It’s estimated that up to 70% of all job postings are never publicly published, meaning that your network of contacts is extremely important. Over the years, LinkedIn has become the top site for making business and career connections, so a professional, up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a crucial part of any job seeker’s inventory. LinkedIn also has a community of thousands of business professionals who publish daily content full of advice and practical knowledge. The site even has its own job board and listings, so when it comes to landing your first job, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool.

Some additional information.

According to Zippia, a company whose mission is to empower people with the information and tools needed to achieve their career aspirations, these are the “best” 10 entry-level jobs for college graduates in the United States:

  1. Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
  2. Computer Systems Analysts
  3. Management Analysts
  4. Web Developers
  5. Film and Video Editors
  6. Sales Engineers
  7. Technical Writers
  8. Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
  9. Multimedia Artists and Animators
  10. Credit Counsellors

Finally, I am a member of an awesome network called The Li.st, and I reached out and asked the members for some advice. Here are some highlights:

Nisha Chittal, Engagement Editor, Vox.com – As someone who’s done a lot of hiring of recent grads, my biggest tip is that cover letters are really important. We do read them. And in cover letters, candidates should demonstrate two things:

  1. Why you care about working at *this* specific company.  I see a lot of cover letters that aren’t tailored to the company and look like they could have been copy-pasted and sent to 100 different companies. This is not a good strategy. Most hiring teams want to know that you know something about their company, you understand what they do and what their mission is, and why you want to be a part of that mission. While copy-pasting the same cover letter 100 times might seem more efficient, you’d do better to take 10 minutes customizing your cover letter for each position and company you apply for — that will make you stand out far more.
  2. What value you would bring to the company. I also see a lot of cover letters, particularly from recent grads, that talk about how “this job would be the ideal opportunity for me to take the next step in my career.” While this is nice, what hiring managers really want to know is what value and skills you will bring to their company and how your skills will help them achieve their goals. So frame it the other way. Instead of talking about how this opportunity would be great for you, explain why you would be great for the position, and talk about what value you will bring and what you can help them do.

Nadja Blagojevic, Director of Content Strategy, Axiom – When I was a hiring manager, there were a bunch of traits that I would have LOVED to have seen in an entry level candidate. These were really basic qualities like being punctual, detail oriented, reliable, having a good attitude while learning the ropes, being organized, etc. I remember thinking that if I could find someone with those basic attributes, I would hire them in a heartbeat. For hiring at a junior level, I sort of assumed candidates were not going to actually know anything, and I would focus on hiring smart people who I could teach, and who would have a great orientation towards work and a learning mindset. 

Some other great books, articles, and resources from The Li.st members and others:

How to Win Friends & Influence People & How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

The 31 Most Common Interview Questions (and how to answer them) The Muse

The Best Cover Letter Examples for Every Type of Job Seeker The Muse

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Perfect Resume (With Examples!) The Muse

16 Tips Every College Graduate Needs to Hear in 2018 Forbes

8 Ways Generation Z and Millennials Will Differ in the Workplace Forbes

I hope you found this useful, and remember, please feel free to add your tips in the comment section below. If you are looking for your first full-time position, good luck!

What do the new Gillette commercial and This is Us have in common?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on January 16th, 2019.

Yesterday I woke up to flurry of texts and emails that read, “Did you see it?!” These messages were followed by a link to an ad for, you guessed it, Gillette. I clicked. I watched, and I immediately teared up. I really did. Weird, I know. I mean, it’s only a corporate commercial, right? But for the record, whenever I watch an episode of This is Us, which I happened to do yesterday as well, I require a whole box of tissues. The reason I cry watching This is Us is often for the same reason that I teared up watching the Gillette ad. They are both displaying a fresh take on masculinity, and I love it.

Before we continue, take a moment to go and watch the Gillette ad. It’s less than two minutes long. I’ll wait. Now, take a moment to think how you feel about it. Honor that feeling. Now, ask yourself why you feel what you do. If you’re like me, and you loved it, perhaps it was because it was inspiring to hear male voices challenging the behaviors associated with toxic masculinity. Better yet, it put forth examples of what healthy masculinity looks like.

However, maybe you didn’t like the ad, and if you fall into this camp you are certainly not alone. A simple scroll through google news this morning include lots of headlines that read “anti-men”,”backlash”, and “boycott.” In addition, some public figures have denounced the brand, including professional troll Piers Morgan, who publicly declared that this ad is part of a war on masculinity. As of this writing the ad has over twice as many dislikes on YouTube in comparison to likes, so clearly it has touched a nerve. If it provoked a negative reaction, I invite you to share the reasons why below because I’m somewhat baffled as to why an ad urging men to abandon toxic behaviors and replace them with more positive ones is controversial. I did read through many of the negative comments on Youtube but struggled to find any that were either thoughtful, or helpful, in terms of articulating the objections. 

In a fortuitous twist of timing, this ad comes on the heels of the American Psychology Association’s release of their first ever report on the harmful effects of toxic masculinity. Titled the APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Men and Boys, this report was 13 years in the making and drew on over 40 years of research. The conclusion? Toxic masculinity is killing men. Literally. The report outlines how traditional masculinity, which is marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression, is psychologically harming men to detrimental degrees. In the US, men commit 90% of homicides and represent 77% of the victims of homicide, including 85% of the victims of gun violence. Men are the group most likely to become the victims of violent crimes in general, and suicide rates among men are three times higher than that of women. Overall, men have a lower life expectancy than women, and this is true in every country in the world.

The data clearly shows that toxic masculinity is exactly that: toxic. However, once again, judging from the reactions online, it’s clear that a lot of people have missed that point. The goal here is not to take away men’s masculinity. The goal is to challenge men to recognize the toxic aspects and arrive at a better expression of masculinity. You know, one that isn’t literally killing them. That being said, we all know that change doesn’t happen overnight, so I can only hope that enough men are inspired by this ad, and indeed by all the conversations taking place in this new #MeToo era.

Because it is January, the Sundance Film Festival is just around the corner, and while I was watching the Gillette ad, I was reminded of being at the premier of The Mask You Live in 2015. This landmark film by the accomplished film-maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, “follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Pressured by the media, their peer group, and even the adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it. The Mask You Live In ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.” I cannot recommend this film more, so find out how to see it here.

While it is easy to get discouraged by the outrage the Gillette ad provoked, I find solace in the fact that popular culture seems to be making a positive shift. Last week, the New York Times profiled numerous musicians who are racking up hit albums and critical acclaim, all while specifically targeting toxic masculinity in their music. Earlier this month, the most lucrative franchise in Hollywood released a trailer for a superhero movie that featured zero action shots. Instead, it focused on the depression and grief of its overwhelmingly male cast, including a poignant shot of Captain America crying. And week after week, hit television shows, like This is Us, feature male characters who shy away from the stifling bonds of traditional masculinity. As Barbara Annis from Gender Intelligence Group notes in response to the ad, “We are entering a powerful paradigm shift, and I invite men and women to truly embrace these messages. I understand the inclination to react negatively when it lands as generalizing men or stereotyping male masculinity, but there are some beautiful messages in this ad that can inspire people to action. Think of this: women and girls all over the world have been hungering for men to engage and take action, and any boy who has been bullied will feel a sense of relief that there are men in the world ready to notice and take action. The critical approach is for us to move away from blame to a new kind of understanding.”

At the end of the day, Gillette knew this ad would provoke controversy, but so far they are not backing down. They released a statement saying that going forward they will be reviewing all public facing content to ensure that they “fully reflect the ideals of Respect, Accountability and Role Modeling.” Their website states that “It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.” They’re also putting their money where their mouth is by donating $3 million over the next year to nonprofits “designed to help men of all ages achieve their personal ‘best'”, with the first recipient being the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Personally, I applaud this initiative, and I hope it paves the way for more corporations to examine the content and ideals their advertising is putting out into the world. I hope there is more media on the horizon, from every medium, that portrays men as awesome, complex, loving, kind, and emotionally vulnerable human beings. I think we all want to live in a world where treating each other with love, kindness, and respect is the new norm. 

Below please find some resources focused on healthy masculinity. 

Non-profit organizations

A Call to Men – is a violence prevention organization and respected leader on issues of manhood, male socialization and its intersection with violence, and preventing violence against all women and girls.

MenEngage Alliance – made up of dozens of countries, alliance members work collectively and individually toward advancing gender justice, human rights and social justice to achieve a world in which all can enjoy healthy, fulfilling and equitable relationships and their full potential.

Next Gen Men –  a nonprofit organization focused on building better men through youth and peer engagement, education, and empowerment.

Promundo – Center for Masculinity and Gender Equality – is a global leader in promoting gender justice and preventing violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls.

The Center for Men and Masculinities – The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, established at Stony Brook University (SUNY) in 2013, is dedicated to engaged interdisciplinary research on boys, men, masculinities, and gender. Our mission is to bring together researchers, practitioners, and activists in conversation and collaboration to develop and enhance projects focusing on boys and men. This collaboration will generate and disseminate research that redefines gender relations to foster greater social justice.

Books

The Future of Men by Jack Myers

Guyland: The Perlious World Where Boys Become Men and Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era by Michael Kimmel

The Man They Wanted Me To Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of our Own Making by Jared Yates Sexton (April 2019)

TED Talks

A Call to Men – Tony Porter

Why Gender Equality is Good for Everyone – Men Included – Michael Kimmel

Why I’m Done Trying to be ‘Man Enough’ – Justin Baldoni

To Be Of Use

I spent the last 2 weeks in Australia on tour with the Women Donors Network, which meant I was not here, in the United States, during the actual election.  As a feminist, and a humanist, I am upset by the results, and will continue to all I can to support women’s rights, and the dignity of all people.  This poem was posted somewhere and seemed a perfect one to post at this time.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

by Marge Piercy