Time to Belly Up: Today’s grads aren’t entitled, they need help!

Mid-July and college graduation celebrations have come and gone. Some of these new Class of 2017 graduates worked hard and earned a 2.7, while others graduated Summa Cum Laude.  It took some new graduates the magical four years and others took a longer path.   Some have parents who paid their way, while others have taken on massive debt. We hope that all new graduates and their families took the time to celebrate this important milestone.

Statistics on Graduates and their Career Landscape

Here is what we also know about these newly minted graduates.  Over 75% of them did not have a job when they graduated. These are concerning numbers and it is even more troublesome when you think about the fact that the average student college debt was $37,000 for the class of 2016.  Their demographic has higher unemployment and underemployment rates than other generations.

It will take these new graduates between 3 and 9 months, on average, to find their first genuine, college worthy job. 46% of them will settle into very low paying jobs that do not require a degree, and/or work part-time.  For a long list of reasons, right now, moving from college into careers is flat out hard and extremely complicated for new graduates.

Colleges, are unfortunately not providing the support that students need.  Again, on average there is only 1 career services professional to every 1765 college students. It’s just not enough. Professors, while enthusiastic supporters of helping their students get into graduate school, still more often than not, stand back from the idea that they can/should play an important role in helping undergraduate students move directly into careers.

Our Experience With New Graduates

I work with these new graduates every day and I talk with their very worried parents. I read the snarky LinkedIn comments and national press articles regarding their poor interviewing skills, their lack of relevant experience for the available jobs, and their alleged sense of entitlement, and I am frankly sick of the bashing.  They are not “entitled”, they are scared.

Their parents are trying to be helpful, but they have their own anxiety about their child’s situation, and rarely is a parent the best person to mentor their child.  Those of you who have tried to support your own children through this phase and have experienced the eye rolls, tears and frustration that go with it – you know exactly what I am talking about.

Networking is Critical for The Class of 2017

For 85% of these new graduates, networking will be a critical component of them getting that first job – and therefore, you, we, can all make a difference.  Sure it would be great if they approached you first for guidance and advice, you but let’s take a different tactic this year. Instead of complaining – how about we start lending a hand?

I am going to bet that you all know a new graduate without a job.  They are your nieces or nephews.  Your son’s quite wonderful girlfriend. Your colleague’s daughter, that young man working at your favorite restaurant who desperately wishes he as able to move into a more challenging role, or the young graduate sitting next to you on the plane on her way home.

An Example of How A Graduate Was Helped By A Stranger

For Clara, a young graduate I worked with, there was a woman who shared a cab with her on the way to the airport, where they discovered that they were on the same (delayed) flight.  That woman drew Clara out, suggested some companies she should research and offered to make an introduction to the HR person in her company.  That led to a couple of more opportunities to talk with people, but most importantly, it taught Clara that sharing her aspirations and asking for help is not scary or inappropriate, and eventually helps you get to where you want to be.

So, please, let’s all belly up and REACH OUT.  Pay it forward instead of complaining. Invite them for coffee.  Ask them about their goals and aspirations.  Share your early career stories.  Walk them through how to do informational interviews and offer to introduce them to someone in your network who might be helpful for them to talk with.  Offer to look at their resume.  Give them some pointers, based on this conversation on how they might improve their interviewing skills.  Extra points if you correct a poor handshake!  Suggest that they connect with you on LinkedIn and that they stay in touch.

This is not heavy lifting but a little bit of your time, your curiosity and willingness to be engaged can make an enormous difference.