Recent college graduates may feel lonely and lost after tossing their commencement caps in the air. Once they leave the comfort zone of their cushy, familiar campuses, reality hits hard. Suddenly, new grads find themselves stressed from the pressures of the “real world.” Between job hunting, applying to grad school, questioning so-called friendships and brainstorming ways to bag some health insurance, the decisions can be overwhelming.
In this feature, Mark Beal, Rutgers University professor and author of 101 Lessons They Never Taught You In College, shares some helpful advice for students fresh out of college. The Toms River resident has taught hundreds of Rutgers students about leadership, communication and business. (He is also a Managing Partner at Taylor Public Relations Agency.) Here, he shares his insights to help recent graduates as they transition into the workforce.
Best of NJ Interview: Mark Beal
Best of NJ: Millennials have a reputation for being addicted to social media and for being lazy. How can they fight against this stereotype when job hunting?
Mark Beal: Millennials should use social media to their advantage. They are more fluent in social media than many of the seasoned executives they will be interviewing with. They need to leverage that fluency. For students who are still in school, I recommend that they marry their passion, whether that is fashion, music or sports, and launch dedicated social media channels where they produce and distribute content specific to their passion.
By the time they interview, they will be regarded as an influencer and authority on that topic and that can go a long way to securing a job in an industry they are passionate about.
Mark Beal: First and foremost, relevant experience. I tell students that beginning with their freshman year, they need to start to secure experience in an industry where they anticipate they want to work after graduation. If they have that relevant experience, I then look at the intangibles – confidence, strong verbal and written skills, enthusiasm, passion and a dedication to excellence and a commitment to delivering incremental value and business impact.
The Right Path
Best of NJ: Your book has many life lessons for college students. Which one is most important?
Mark Beal: “Success is a Marathon,” the first lesson in my book. There are no shortcuts. Instant rewards and recognition, while nice, are not very valuable. Students should take a long-term approach to their careers and achieving success. Too many students are only concerned about getting that first job. Instead, approach your career more holistically and seek the right position, in the right culture, with the right organization for you that is going to create a solid foundation for career growth and evolution for the next 30 years.
Best of NJ: What advice do you have for starry-eyed students who think the perfect job will land in their lap immediately after college?
Mark Beal: I tell students that anything is possible and they should pursue their dreams when it comes to seeking a job with a specific company after graduation. However, they need to create the opportunity for that dream to come true. Aside from securing relevant experience, they need to invest in relationship building. They need to spend quality time networking with a focus on a specific industry or job.
If a student’s goal is to work for the National Football League (NFL), they should invest their time and energy in not only securing experience with the NFL or adjacent entities, but they should be meeting and networking with individuals who work for the NFL or organizations associated with the NFL.
They need to conduct ongoing research on the hiring process. Then they need to speak to recent graduates who work at the NFL to understand how they secured their position. They need to do all these things–and they need to do them consistently–for the months and years leading up to graduation.
Best of NJ: What advice do you have for graduates who want to move into Manhattan, but cannot afford to?
Mark Beal: In today’s marketplace with the constantly evolving technology, you can really work from any location and be connected to your colleagues and clients. Many of my Rutgers students want to work in New York but can’t afford the rent or commuting. I strongly recommend that they seek a position closer to home.
For example, if they want to work for an advertising agency on Madison Avenue but can’t afford to relocate, I inform them that there are plenty of quality ad agencies in the surrounding tri-state area. Not only will they have a shorter commute working for an agency closer to home, but the recent graduate will most likely have an opportunity to handle more responsibilities than if they secured an entry-level position with a global agency, and they can leverage that experience when they seek the next opportunity in their career.
The Teacher Becomes the Student
Best of NJ: What have your students taught YOU?
Mark Beal: My Rutgers students not only inspired me to write 101 Lesson They Never Taught You In College with their questions regarding the transition to a career, but they teach me lessons. I gain tremendous insights on millennial trends and attitudes. I better understand how they consume content and media and what digital and social channels are most popular and why. Also, I learn what technology and innovations are emerging with students and what is gaining traction before it becomes mainstream. I gain a glimpse into pop culture and what is resonating with them when it comes to food, fashion, music, movies and other passion areas.
Finally, they help me prepare better for how to collaborate and communicate with the next generation of professionals. These students are going to be joining the workforce in the next few years; so it is extremely beneficial to understand how they operate and communicate.
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Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Antonioguillem / Adobe Stock