5 ways “the real world” surprised me after graduation
Via LinkedIn : Three years after graduating from college I can safely say that “the real world” is not what I’d pictured amid the frenzy of job searching during senior year. My handful of internships and interviews had left me focused on one thing: get a job, almost any job (in your field), and then you’ll be happy.
College prepared me as well as it could for the technical aspects of my job, but I somehow missed any discussion of these topics that would ultimately make the biggest difference in my satisfaction with my job.
In no particular order, here are some of the aspects of “the real world” I found the most surprising after college:
Hiring is the biggest headache of successful companies. As freaked out as I was about finding a job, my future bosses were even more concerned about how to fill an empty desk with someone who would come up to speed quickly, and contribute to the team and help move the company forward. They were stressed out about where to post the job application to actually get legitimate applicants, how to fit in the time to read resumes and set up interviews, and how to interpret overly-enthusiastic responses from a candidate’s references. And when they knew they had found the right candidate, they were still worried their benefits wouldn’t stack up to the competitor’s, and they’d lose the fight for talent.
Being a good interviewer is more challenging than being a good interviewee. How hard can it be just to ask questions? I found out the answer to this when I tagged along with my mentor on an ACBJ recruiting trip back to my old journalism classes at UNC. As a job seeker, when I was preparing for interviews, I was focused on being able to provide ‘great’ answers to the tricky questions that would make me sound smart and not make a fool of myself. Once I sat on the other side of the table, I realized that no interviewer wants to make a candidate look dumb, and neither do they want to just ask questions that produce canned responses. Instead, they’re trying their best to ask questions that will truly reveal if you have the right skills and if your personality is a good fit — if your passions line up with theirs, if your perspective fills a niche and if you’ve got enough pluck. But the same question doesn’t always work on multiple candidates. One candidate might not understand a question that sparked a telling answer from another candidate, but that could still have nothing to do with whether they’re qualified for the position.
Coworkers actually like to be involved in your life. I had a sense that any amount of sharing of personal details at work was oversharing. I kept my conversations with my coworkers to the mundane “how was your weekend?” types, rather than asking specific details about coworkers’ family members or personal goals. As I began to observe others around me sharing meaningful interactions, I noticed the difference, and began to ease up. Before I knew it, my bosses were teasing me about how to incorporate a “canoe full of PBR” into each of my weekend’s plans.
You’ll get 80 percent of your work done in 20 percent of your workday. If you’re lucky, you’ll reap the reward of this with more time to pursue your passions, or volunteer, or take on new responsibilities. But if not, you may find yourself warming a chair with little to show for it for almost 80 percent of your day.
Being happy at a job is about so much more than the external perks or the salary. “I’m gainfully employed in my field of study, and I make more than enough to pay the bills. What right do I have to not be happy with my situation?” I know a lot of recent graduates, who’ve asked themselves this question, particularly if they have friends who still haven’t landed a full-time job. In some cases, it extends out to the great physical perks of the job. “My hours are great, I play cards with my coworkers at lunch, I have great insurance and my boss is always rewarding me with extra time off. How could I possibly want more?” But the fact is, until you’re mentally stimulated and challenged at a level you can rise to in a field that matches your passion, you’ll keep hitting this wall no matter what the perks are.
I’ve learned a lot in three years. But I haven’t mastered getting the most out of my day, defining my own passion, or investing in my coworkers’ lives. Here’s to many more years of learning!
About the author: Olivia Barrow covers manufacturing, travel and tourism for the Milwaukee Business Journal, and blogs about life as a young journalist in a rapidly changing media landscape.
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