Employment & Career Advice for Graduates
When you first start working after finishing formal education, things can sometimes be difficult and not how you would expect or like them to be.
To start with, western countries have been slowly shifting towards a service based economy, which means that many ex-graduates are being forced into taking low paying jobs in order to get some amount of money coming in.
In addition to this, there is also the state of the global economy, which itself is on the decline. As a result, unemployment rates are rapidly starting to rise, and this makes finding a job even more difficult.
To make matters worse, the economy is also causing many large companies to downsize and lay off workers. So even if you do manage to get a job, you then have to worry about how long you will be able to keep it for.
Those who are lucky enough to find employment are likely to start on a fairly low wage, such as around $27,000, which, as you might expect, then makes living by yourself quite a challenging experience especially once you factor in the rising cost of living.
So in this article, we are going to try to give you a helping hand by looking at some ways in which you can get paid more and improve your overall career prospects.
It won’t be easy, but the more knowledge that you can arm yourself with the better your chances of making it will be.
The Stay-at-Home Grad
One of the biggest transitions that a person can make in life is finishing formal education, getting a full-time job and surviving independently in the world.
For many people, this is a very exciting period. But it can also be a very daunting and challenging one, especially when it comes to financial matters.
To complicate things further, not all students who finish formal education get a job that is directly relevant to the qualifications they obtained.
This can then result in a delay before they are able to find an appropriate job, which means that for a period of time, they may not be earning very much money.
Without money, trying to survive independently by yourself becomes even more difficult, and for some people, impossible.
The graduate without a job
As a result of the difficulty in finding employment, an increasingly large number of young people are moving back home to live with their parents after graduating from college or university.
Some will continue to stay with their parents for many years, enjoying the security and comfort that it provides.
Of course, this ultimately results in a prolonged dependency on their parents, something which many had hoped their hard-earned qualifications would help them to escape.
But for those who do choose to stay with their parents after graduating, most will find themselves in an extremely advantageous financial position as they won’t have to pay any rent.
Or, if they do, it will be a minimal amount in comparison to the rent they would pay privately elsewhere.
As a result of this extra money, many of these stay-at-home grads will spend their cash on the latest electronic equipment, clothes and cars.
Whilst others may attempt to pay back loans they took out to fund their education, or save their money for a down payment to buy a house with.
If this situation applies to you, where you have just finished some sort of formal education and are now living either rent free or virtually rent free with your parents, and you have a part or full-time job, it is extremely important to recognize the advantageous financial position you are in.
This is a position that you may never be in again, so it’s in your best interest to ensure that you make the most of this opportunity. For your sake, and the sake of your future.
So be careful how you choose to use money, and avoid needlessly wasting it so that you can start working towards building yourself a financially secure future, rather than one of poverty and debt.
Defining Your Future Career
One of the most challenging aspects of planning your career is defining exactly what you want to achieve. As even if you think you know, you will invariably start to have doubts as to whether or not you are following the right career path.
Being clear on these issues is important, because if you are unsure and make the wrong choice, you could then end up in a job you hate and spend the rest of your life regretting it.
Unfortunately, this scenario is much more common than you might imagine, as studies show that a large majority of people are unhappy with their current career.
As a result, they spend most of the working day trying to distract themselves from their job, or wishing that they were somewhere else instead.
The only way to avoid ending up in a job you hate is by knowing exactly what sort of job you would like to have. In order to do this, however, you need to do some career planning.
But before we go into that, let’s quickly define what we mean by a “job”, a “career” and “career planning”. Then later, we will look at how to determine whether or not you have chosen the right career path.
What is a job?
A job is defined as a paid occupation. A job is therefore something that you do regularly for pay.
e.g., Working at McDonald’s.
What is a career?
A career is a long-term or lifetime job. It is a profession that you choose to spend the rest, or most, of your life in.
e.g., Being a teacher, lawyer or doctor.
What is career planning?
Career planning means to plan what job you would like to do for most, or the rest, of your life.
The main difference between a job and a career, is that with a job, you can normally leave it and find another one quickly and easily.
But with a career, it’s much more difficult to do this because careers usually require some form of specialist training, skills or knowledge to enter.
A career also tends to be focused on one particular area, whereas a job can be in many different things.
Are You Ready For a Career Change?
Even the most successful people have times when they feel unsure of their chosen career path.
These thoughts usually come as a result of some difficulty or challenge they face, which then makes them question whether or not they have made the right decision.
If you have had such feelings about your job, you can quickly find out if you are in the right career by asking yourself the following question:
“Do my doubts fade away after challenges or obstacles are overcome?“
If the answer is yes, then you are probably in the right career and should stay there. This is because regardless of the job you are in, there will always be times when you question whether you are doing the right thing or not.
That’s just a natural part of any career, and is more of a test of your perseverance than anything else. When those difficulties pass, you then become motivated to keep going by remembering why you initially chose your career and what you enjoy about it.
If you answered no, then you may need to seriously consider the possibility that you are in the wrong career and so would benefit from taking the time to think seriously about its future direction.
The best way to do this, as discussed in the video above, is to experiment with different types of jobs until you find something that feels like the right career for you.
Planning Your Career
To begin the process of planning your career, ask yourself the following questions to determine exactly what you want and why you want it:
• Are you happy with the amount of money that you are making in your chosen career?
• Would you like to make more money?
• Is the amount of money that you make important to you?
• Are you doing what you would like to do?
• Are you passionate about what you are doing?
• What are you passionate about?
• What could you do to make yourself happier than you now are?
• Would getting promoted or changing career make you happy?
• Why are you still working in your current job?
• Is there anything stopping you from leaving your job or getting promoted?
Now use the following steps to help you narrow down the career you would like to have:
1) Determine Your Career Goals
Write down your career goals. These should be all the things that you would like achieve, have or do.
When this list has been completed, organize your goals in order of importance. Which goal, if completed, would have the most beneficial impact on your life?
You can use the following questions to help you decide which of your goals are the most important:
How will you achieve your goal?
What do you have to do to achieve your goal? What steps do you have to take?
Why do you want to achieve your goal?
When do you want to achieve your goal by?
Where will you work to achieve your goal? Do you have to travel? Or can it all be done from home?
You are most likely to achieve goals that you strongly desire. So all of your goals should also have clearly defined benefits, as this will decide what motivates you towards a particular career.
2) Create a Plan of Action
Write down all the steps you will need to take in order to achieve your goals. This can be done by first thinking about the big things that need to be done, such as over a year or over a few months, and then breaking those down into smaller sub-goals for your daily and weekly tasks.
You should also write down all the things you will need to achieve your goals. For example, what information will you have to learn? What skills will you need to develop? What help will you need from others?
Once you have created your plan of action, be sure to review it on a regular basis. This will allow you to see how much progress you are making towards your goals, and whether you would benefit from changing or modifying your existing plan.
Working in Growth Industries
Some industries have more jobs available than others. These are known as “growth industries” because they are predicted to grow in the future due to increasing consumer demand.
As a job-hunter, this means that you are most likely to secure a stable form of employment in one of these industries.
The reverse of a growth industry is one that is in decline. An industry in which employment is predicted to gradually dry up. Getting a job in a declining industry is much harder than getting one in a growth industry, and also provides the least amount of job security.
As a result, it makes sense to look for future employment in a growth industry. Below are listed some examples that you may wish to consider:
As the western population begins to age, there will be an increasing demand for workers in the health care sector. Since this sector is so large, you can get a foothold in it relatively easily and then work your way up.
A major benefit of working in the health care sector is that your skills may enable you to seek employment in other countries should you decide to move abroad. This can be advantageous, for example, if you suddenly find it difficult to get a job in your home country.
Although it may seem like science fiction today, the speed at which technology is progressing means that the area of robotics is predicted to be a big growth industry.
So whether you are designing, building or repairing robots, getting into this field now might very well turn out to be a very good bet for the future.
The more we rely on computers for our everyday life, the more people that will be needed to maintain this technology.
So whether you are a web site designer, a telecommunications engineer, or a computer programmer, if you have the skills, you should be able to find a job quite easily.
Genetic engineering is likely to be a growth industry in the future as companies look for ways to increase food production to feed the increasing global population.
In addition to this, disease research will also continue to increase, as will the hunt for cures to these diseases such as through vaccines.
Entertainment is big business, and if you can make it as a movie or music star, you will be set for life. But most people who work in the entertainment industry do so behind the scenes, such as on make up or special effects. So you don’t have to be a star to make a living in this industry.
A relatively new branch of the entertainment industry is the video game industry, which has now become even bigger than the film industry in terms of annual sales.
If you are able to get a job creating games for a large games studio, then you are likely to find yourself in a very well-paying job. The same also applies to the adult entertainment industry.
Computer Graphic Work
The area of computer graphics is already a very big industry, and one that is likely to continue growing. The main growth will be in the entertainment industry, such as in movies and in video games.
Most industrialized countries are now moving towards increased energy efficiency and cleaner ways of producing energy.
This is predicted to be a very big industry in the future, and because it’s still a relatively young industry, the chances of getting employment within this field are excellent providing that you have the right qualifications and skills.
The suggestions given above are just some of the industries which are predicted to grow in the long-term future, but there are also lots of other areas that will need workers too. Some of these include:
• Chefs & kitchen workers
• Carers for the elderly
• Computer scientists
• Truck drivers
• Educational workers
• Sales people
• General assistants
* Technology may make cashiers obsolete in the future.
** Some experts believe agriculture will be a big business in the future.
Of course, not all of these jobs are high paying jobs, but it’s still worth knowing what’s available and what you are most likely to find stable employment in.
Starting Your Own Business
If none of the above mentioned jobs interests you, then you could always set up your own business. This is something which a lot of young people are doing nowadays, especially on the internet.
If you are able to provide people with a well priced quality product or service that they desire or need, you can avoid the worries which come with regular employment as you will be entirely responsible for the level of success that you achieve.
This, however, takes a lot of time, effort and hard work. It also brings with it many problems of its own, such as irregular pay.
Setting up your own business is therefore not something that will make you rich overnight, and you will most likely have to work on your business alongside a regular full or part-time job until your business starts making enough money for you to live on.
Asking For a Pay Rise
An easy way to determine whether you qualify for a rise, is to look at what similar jobs are paying.
If, for example, you find that you are taking on lots of extra responsibilities, which, strictly speaking, are not in your job description, then you would be perfectly justified in asking for a rise in line with the market value of that position.
Often, employers will give their workers lots of extra duties which were not in the original job description. As employers also know that people want to hold onto their job and not kick up a fuss, they are able to dish out these extra duties without having to pay more.
If you are truly a valuable member within your company, however, someone who they would struggle to replace, simply asking for a pay rise will probably get you one because your company will want to hold on to your services.
So the bottom line is, if you want a pay rise, you need to do something valuable enough for the company to want to keep you. Because if they don’t want to keep you, the chances of you getting a rise will be slim to non-existent.
How to Ask For a Pay Rise
When asking for a pay rise, you need to appear confident and be able to defend yourself when questioned as to why you deserve to be paid more.
If you go into the manager’s office looking at the floor and feeling uncertain of yourself, you are likely to get shot down very quickly and your request for a rise will be rejected.
For this reason, it’s vitally important that you pay attention to the body language you bring into the office, as it could make the difference between getting a rise or not. To find out more about displaying confident body language, please see this page.
Some managers may quickly agree to give you a pay rise and won’t question you much as to why you deserve one. This is an ideal scenario, and usually occurs when a manager has been expecting you to ask for a rise or is afraid of losing you. But, this is a fairly rare occurrence, so don’t expect all managers to give in so easily!
What is more likely to occur is that your boss may initially decline your request, but only to see how much you really want a rise. To see how much you are willing to fight for one.
If you can then present a convincing argument as to why you deserve a rise, for example, your good performance or increased responsibilities, they will be more likely to agree to your request and put up less resistance to what you propose.
Negotiating With Your Salary
If your salary is less than what other people make in similar jobs, then make sure you use that to argue your case. But, don’t make the mistake of comparing your salary to another co-worker within the same company.
This is because most managers don’t like their workers to discuss salaries, because if everyone talks about how much they earn, then some workers may begin to resent those on higher salaries or ask for a rise themselves.
Always make sure that you are polite and respectful towards your boss, even if they say no to your request. Remember, asking for a pay rise doesn’t guarantee that you will get one, even if you think you should get one. So try not to be too disappointed if you get turned down.
On the bright side, if you do perform well at your job, then your boss may instead be able to offer you some sort of bonus like a company car or offer to raise your salary when the economy improves.
So even though you may not benefit from your actions immediately, you may very well do so later on.
As a last resort, if your boss declines your request for a pay rise and you are unhappy working under your present condition and wage, then you can tell your boss that you will quit and find another job elsewhere.
However, be careful because this is a very dangerous tactic to use. It could get you a large rise, or your boss might call your bluff and say that they expect your resignation tomorrow.
You can strengthen your case if you have other job offers elsewhere, but if you don’t, you may want to avoid using this tactic because it could leave you in a very difficult financial position.
Again, when you talk with your boss, always make sure that you are polite and respectful to them, and don’t become angry or threatening. If you do leave the company you will need a reference from your boss, so try to keep yourself in their good books!
Why There is More to a Job Than Money
Whether or not you realize it, there is much more to a job than simply money, as it can also offer many opportunities if you know what to look out for.
Those who are aware of these opportunities can take advantage of them when they appear, and so will consequently progress much more rapidly within their career than those who remain unaware.
Below we examine some of the ways that you can get the most out of your job:
Regardless of the type of job you have, you will always be working with people. This means that there is always the opportunity for you to make contacts, contacts which could help to advance your career or find you a new job elsewhere.
The key is to take advantage of these opportunities as they appear. For example, if you come into contact with a senior manager, then why not start-up a conversation with them and tell them what you do? Perhaps they are looking for someone just like you?
So always make an effort to speak with as many people as possible, and try to get on a friendly basis with them. They might not be looking for someone right now, but they could be in the future. If they know you, they may then call you. But if they don’t know you, there will be no chance of them calling you.
One of the most frustrating things about getting a job is the requirement for prior experience within that field.
So even if you are in a low paying job right now, the fact that you are gaining experience should be seen as a big advantage as it will allow you to get a better paying job later on.
You should therefore make the most of such opportunities when they appear by gaining as much work experience as you can, even if that work is voluntary.
When you apply for your next job, you can then include that experience on your résumé so that any prospective employer can see that you are well qualified for the position which you have applied for.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that all you need are good qualifications, as nowadays most employers look at the qualifications you have in addition to your previous work experience.
Indirect Financial Benefits
Depending on what sort of job you have and what country you live in, you may receive various benefits such as a company car, a pension or health insurance. So even though you may think your salary is low, these benefits can help to make up for that.
This is especially true if your country does not have a national health service (NHS). In this case, getting health insurance can save you a lot of money compared to if you had to pay for health care yourself.
The same applies to company cars. The fact that you don’t have to buy a car is in itself a major saving. Some people don’t even have to pay for gas and save even more money.
So when looking at your salary, it’s important to realize that you are probably earning more than just what it says on your pay check. It’s just that you are getting paid in a way that doesn’t involve giving you money directly.
If you receive no benefits from your job, then perhaps there are certain indirect benefits that you receive? For example, flexible hours to suit your busy schedule, work that you enjoy and find rewarding, company discounts, or being close to where you live which saves you accumulating transportation costs.
Earning Qualifications While You Work
There will come a point in your career when you have advanced as far as you can go with your current qualifications and skill set.
In order to advance further, you will need to undergo further training, and for some people, this will mean going back into formal education and studying for a degree or a specific type of qualification.
If this is the case for you, or may be the case shortly in the future, then it’s a good idea to start your study as early as possible so that you can increase your chances of advancing sooner and earning more money before you retire.
Finding the Time to Study
When you decide to pursue extra qualifications, you need to take into account your current and future schedule.
For example, if you are single and have lots of free time, then now’s an excellent time to take up those extra studies. But once you get married and have children, you will have a lot less time, which will then make it more difficult to earn the qualifications you require.
If you are already married and have children, then going to university to study full-time for a degree may not be an option.
This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t study for a degree, as many universities cater for people who have busy schedules by offering part-time courses, such as those which are scheduled at night or on weekends.
These allow you to work your 9-5 job, and then study for your degree in your spare time. In addition to this, there are also part-time courses that allow you to study whenever you have the time, but still give you a full degree when you finish.
Online Distance Learning
Another way to earn extra qualifications while you work is to study online, something that is commonly referred to as “distance learning”.
Courses can be taken over the internet, by email, by regular mail, or even by video conferencing, thereby allowing you to stay at home and study at the same time.
This is something which has become increasingly popular with stay-at-home moms who have young kids to look after, but who would also like to earn a qualification so that they can get a job when their children leave home.
Studying online also has the advantage of being cheaper than going to study at university full-time, as you won’t have to worry about extra costs such as those associated with accommodation and travel.
If you are looking to earn some extra qualifications just to bump up your CV, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are many qualifications which you can obtain entirely without cost or at nominal cost.
For example, some universities offer courses on life coaching, first aid, basic literacy and numeracy all completely for free. These are certainly worth doing if you have the time, but don’t necessarily have the money to shell out on a full-fledged degree.
Choose a Worthwhile Degree
Whatever qualification you decide to go for, it should be related to your career or future career in some way. Although there may be lots of interesting degrees that you would like to take, if they are not going to be of direct benefit to you, then there’s little point in devoting your time to them.
In addition to this, if you are studying with the intention of pursuing a career which is different to the one that you are currently in, it’s also very important that you gain some relevant work experience.
Most employers look for qualifications and experience, so don’t think that you can get by just with a degree alone.
When studying for an extra qualification, it’s always worth checking to see if there is any financial aid which could be made available to you.
Some universities or learning programs, for example, offer bursaries to select students which can significantly reduce the amount that a qualification costs to obtain.
So if you are not in the best place financially, be sure to inquire about such things if money is currently acting as a barrier and preventing you progressing from within your career.