Good news for the college class of 2015: The odds that you will land a job after graduation are looking pretty solid. Not only is the job market itself looking up — 295,000 new jobs were added in February alone — but unemployment is at a six-year low of 5.5%. In less than a decade from now, millennials will make up nearly three-quarters of the American workforce.
But before you set your heart on a corner office and six-figure starting salary, you might want to take a step back and plan your transition into the workforce more carefully, says Alexandra Levit, workplace consultant and career coach. In 2010, Levit helped launch JobSTART 101, a free online course that better prepares college students and graduates for the challenges of the workplace.
We asked her to offer some no-nonsense tips for new graduates. Check out our full interview above or scroll on for some of the highlights:
Why ‘passion’ is overrated:
“I think what’s dangerous is when we as career advisors tell people they won’t be happy until they find their passion. It puts pressure on people to go out and find this elusive career of passion and... they can’t be happy with the job they have. Just because you have a passion doesn’t necessarily mean you can or should make a living at it. Find a job you like well enough. You’re not going to love every minute of every day, but you want to genuinely get some satisfaction out of it. And then leave time for other things in life that are important, like your personal life, hobby, friends and family.”
The one thing she wished she knew before graduating:
“I wished that I had known that perception is everything. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how much work you put out. What matters is what people think of you and if they consider your work to be meaningful and powerful. So what college graduates need to think about is, what does my organization need? How can I use my unique skills and talents to provide it?”
The best thing millennials have going for them: their nerve.
“What I think sets millennials apart is the fact that they will ask for what they need at a younger age. They want flexible work. They want to do work that’s personally meaningful to them. These are things other generations want as well but where other generations would take a backseat, wait until they were in charge, or keep their mouth shut, the millennials are going to step up and ask for it now.”
The biggest mistake young workers make early in their careers:
“They try to see their first job as the end-all, be-all of their career satisfaction. They get paralyzed because they think they should know what they want to do with the rest of their lives when they are only 21 or 22 years old. They need to realize that’s not realistic. Take the intelligent first step — get a job, even if it means settling, where you are able to get transferable skills. Those are skills that no matter where you choose to go in the future, you know those skills will be relevant.
Check out more from Mandi: