Finding a graduate job may not be the summer breeze you thought it to be. Consumed by the hype of everything student life related, we seldom pause and wonder at the factors that shape our graduate and post-graduate decisions.

Particularly when it comes to job prospects and expectations, we should take the time to consider all these factors.Student Caring - Career Choices Each situation is fundamentally personal. As such, we should avoid the herd effect to the best of our abilities.

Don’t go with the crowd. Instead, consider your end goal and identify the opportunities which allow you to make a substantial impact in your area of expertise. Network, develop yourself professionally and don’t beat yourself up over not landing your dream job straight out of school.

We’ve compiled a list of the most common pitfalls of finding a meaningful career to guide you in the painstaking career and job search.

1.    Pitfall #1: Insufficient Research on a Meaningful Career Tailored for You

Most graduates dream of kick starting their career straight out of school. This ambition is often driven by factors such as the time and financial resources invested in their education. There is nothing wrong with wanting to land a job that returns rewards equal to the investment. However, focusing on this aspect more than on long-term fulfillment is a common pitfall cited by experts.

Instead of placing too much emphasis on finding this type of job, you should focus on finding a meaningful career and searching for the job that will open the way. Call it research or soul searching. Nonetheless, taking the time to figure out what your long-term goals and expectations are can only bring good things to the table. Think fulfillment and eventually landing your dream job rather than investment return and painstaking career shifts later on.

2.    Pitfall #2: The Lack of Plan B, Plan C or even Plan D

While you might be among the students who have a clearly carved plan when entering school, it never hurts to have more plans laid out before you. Drive and motivation are certainly admirable. Nonetheless, without a thorough understanding of short-term as well as long-term career goals, you might hit a wall. Plan A may be unsuccessful.

As such, try combining your drive and motivation with ample room for flexibility. Backup plans will show a proactive attitude, as well as motivation. In addition, designing multiple approaches to tackle your chosen career path shows a set of skills that not many possess.

3.    Pitfall #3: Insufficient Networking

Use your e-mail as an extension of the phone. Set up meetings with professionals who have years of experience under their belt and go offline. It’s time to network. During your studies (depending on the degree and specialization), organizations will recruit on campus. This is the tip of the networking iceberg and it doesn’t guarantee anyone an ‘in’ card. Gather momentum and reach out to professionals, representatives of companies and alumni if they are relevant for your career choice.

Learning paramount information on others’ paths and how they made their way through will help you tons. In addition, you can get yourself a mentor as well as advocates for your skills in the job search process.

Networking comes with another welcome benefit. Most jobs (particularly intensely hunted ones) aren’t even advertised. From this perspective, creating meaningful professional connections will get you access to these ‘shadow’ listings. This doesn’t mean they’re handed out on a silver plate, but it helps to know they exist.

4.    Pitfall #4: Being Swept Away by the ‘Herd Effect’

The mirage of well-marketed jobs and careers may convince you that it is exactly what you want and need. Without taking the time to understand which career path could bring you long-term fulfillment, the risk of being swept away by the herd effect presents itself as a real threat.

There is ample time to evaluate and reevaluate the meeting point of your values, skills and your interests during your studies and even afterward. Resist the temptation to pursue top trending careers unless you’re really attracted to them. Not only are they highly competitive, but unless they trended in your preferences too, you might find yourself pursuing a career that is simply not fulfilling five years on.

5.    Pitfall #5: Searching the ‘Dream Job’ Straight out of School

Landing your dream job straight out of school is close to impossible. In addition, this line of thought exerts significant pressure to identify that perfect opportunity and put all your resources into seizing it. Before landing the dream job, it would be ideal to set up meetings with professionals occupying positions to which you aspire as part of your long-term plans. This way, you can spare yourself a heartache by identifying the exact skill gaps you need to attend to before applying for the crown jewel of your chosen career path.

6.    Pitfall #6: Disregarding the Power of Grades, Resumes and Referees

  • Grades: At times it’s mere aspects like this one that can make the difference between one candidate and the other. Unless you have a stellar set of skills that are tailored to the precise needs of the employer you’re interviewing with, school-related accomplishments are a sort of business card. Less than good results are conventionally read as disregard for accomplishment, for self-improvement, motivation and commitment.
  • Resumes: A one-size-fits-all type of resume doesn’t get you far. Moreover, a resume that doesn’t showcase the value you can bring to your future employer won’t make it past the screening test. Tailor the resume (as well as the ubiquitous cover letter) for each job application you send. And get creative, although not as creative as to find yourself burning the corners of the resumes to show your burning desire for the job. A good tip concerning the design of a resume is to list your accomplishments in a succinct manner, making reference to valuable things you created. For instance, your well-curated blog.
  • Referees: When companies ask for references, they do so to cross-examine your resume, cover letter and the attitude you let transpire. For instance, if the resume gives the impression that you’re highly self-centered and fails to switch the hiring manager’s attention to the value you could bring to the company, referees will answer these questions instead of you. There are job seekers and particularly fresh graduates who have poor insight and lack the ability to respond to feedback in an effective manner. Build a relation with the people who will one day be your go-to-references and ask for honest advice on the steps you take. If all goes well, the interview is the only thing standing between you and the job you aspire to obtain. Here is an insightful read on how to ace potential interview questions.

Taking the right steps in the direction of a fulfilling long-term career is every graduate’s dream. However, this sense of urgency may lead to unfulfilling results on the long run. From one’s personal life to pressure exerted by others, there are plenty of opportunities to be misguided in your career search. One advice could rule them all: invest time in thorough research, self-reflection. Don’t hunt what’s shiny or sexy for the time being.

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Email:  General Information   |   Prof. David C. Pecoraro

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The Journey of Self-Discovery: Common Pitfalls of Finding a Meaningful Career