The misery never ends

September 25 - newspaper

I just visited the College of Charleston Thursday and Friday, attending board meetings, delivering lectures and participating in panels. I love the C of C. It's a beautiful campus with bright, alert students. 

As might be expected, most of the students said finding a good job was their number one pain point.

I shared my job search/interviewing strategies, but also heard some smart tips from fellow advisory board members I thought worth sharing, including:

  • Think global. Relocate to the hot markets that have jobs, such as China. Spend a few years there gaining experience and leverage it to come back home to your ideal job.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of how business works. (Note: this doesn't seem to be an age-specific problem since the Council of PR Firms routinely reports the 'lack' of such knowledge is the number one criticism of agencies by their clients).
  • Learn a second language. With American's rapidly-changing demographics, fluency in an Asian or Spanish language or dialect can be a huge plus.
  • Master writing and, in particular, writing on deadline. PR demands multitasking and PR pros must be able to write quickly, clearly and consistently.
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes. If assigned grunt work, be the best possible grunt.

That last point prompted one young lady to raise her hand. She'd just finished an internship and, frankly, didn't care for the grunt work. "When will the misery end?” she asked. “Never,” I responded. “The misery changes as one moves up the food chain, but it never goes away. It just becomes more intense.” I don't think she cared for my answer.

Another student disagreed with my advice on job interview preparation. “Do you have any idea how busy we are? We don't have the time to do all the research on a company that you suggest we do. Besides,” she said, “That's what the internships are for. You learn about the company when you get the job.” I wished her well and suggested she had a real Catch-22 situation on her hands since a company won't hire a person who hasn't demonstrated the time or energy to learn about them in advance.

The students were fully engaged in the lectures, grateful for the advice and will, I'm sure, do very well once they hit the real world. I just hope they come prepared and accept the fact that the misery never ends.

11 thoughts on “The misery never ends

  1. Interesting comments. Maybe it varies depending upon industry, but when I was job-hunting right out of college (back in the day) I don’t remember anyone asking me my GPA… Companies basically just wanted to know what school I graduated from, what degree I had earned, and what I majored in. Those turned out to be the same questions I would ask when interviewing job applicants.

  2. Thanks Stan. My own kids suffer from the same malaise. My daughter’s solution to becoming successful is marrying a rich man. I wish her luck with that one.

  3. Great stories and observations as usual Steve.
    Amen on getting in there, doing the grunt work and paying your dues.
    Here is one of my favorite quotes I share with people interested in working in sports, “Everyone wants to go to heaven . . . but nobody wants to pay the price”.
    You need to learn to hustle and grind. No substitutes period.

  4. Excellent points, Brian. I should have added a caveat to my earlier post. In my experience, a 3.0 GPA is table stakes for most employers. We won’t consider someone with lower marks. After that, though, it’s up to the prospective employee to prove his/her mettle in the interview.

  5. That’s great advice, Julie. Most employers assume a college graduate is intelligent. What they need to see demonstrated in the job interview is a passion to go above and beyond. One way to do so is by learning as much as possible about the prospective employer and sharing that knowledge in the interview.

  6. Morgan gets a gold star for commenting on your blog, Steve. Like Morgan, I thank you for a very stimulating class discussion.
    To address Julie Farin’s point, I frequently counsel students never to lose a job because another finalist was more knowledgeable about the position and the company. Yes, prospective students must very thoroughly research any company in which they are interested. With respect, however, I’ve spoken with many employers who clearly were not going to consider a 23-year-old with a 2.5 GPA. Grades are one useful indicator among many where the abilities of a prospective employee are concerned, especially in a new college graduate. Five and ten years after college, of course, grades aren’t very helpful, and we all know many people who were subpar students and brilliant employees or entrepreneurs.
    The bottom line is that the can’t-miss prospects among new college graduates are smart and ambitious, have excellent writing and speaking skills, and usually have two or more good internships to their credit. Not surprisingly, these prospects typically have very good grades.
    For those worried about grade inflation in higher education, the College of Charleston has very selective admission standards and a mean GPA of 2.88 (on a 4.00 scale) for all communication majors. Grades still mean something at good institutions and in good programs.

  7. Steve, thanks for your many contributions to our students and faculty last week. You and your fellow Council members reached more than 700 of our students and two dozen Communication Department faculty members through your participation in mentor-protege meetings, student career roundtables, classroom visits and a student forum on the meaning behind recent political scandals. The latter was covered on C-Span as well as the local NBC and CBS affiliates here in Charleston. It featured Gina Smith, the reporter and CofC alum who broke the Sanford story, along with Mike McCurry, Tucker Eskew and Phil Noble. The insights you gave our students will make a real difference in their lives and careers. I also appreciate the role you have played in helping our students serve as volunteers for the last two years at the Counselors Academy annual meetings. That too has made a difference. We look forward to your role starting next year as our Advisory Council chairman. Thanks for your commitment to the College of Charleston. Tom Martin, Executive-in-Residence, Department of Communication.

  8. Unfortunately, most college students don’t have the wisdom that comes with experience to realize that scoring an “A” in whatever subject they are majoring in is actually LESS important than researching a company they would like to work for. Note to class: No one cares what your GPA is; getting work experience is more important…So put down the books and start studying for the test of LIFE.