My foot hovers just inches above the grass.
Behind me, Matt is shaking hands with the university’s president. Soon he will be right next to me and I’ll be blocking the way, disrupting the flow of graduating seniors.
But I can’t make myself leave the stage. I’m not ready. In my heart I recognize the meaning behind that small step. Once I leave this stage, I’ll be an adult. When my foot hits that grass, the support and guidance I’ve always relied on will fall away.
Matt’s right on my heels. I stare desperately into the audience of college seniors and their families. The sight of my own parents should bring some sort of relief, but instead I can feel my throat tense up. How could they do this to me? How can they expect me to jump head first into this new world that I know nothing about? All I’ve ever known is school and studying.
I’m not ready to be an adult, but I have to step down.
Leaving behind the life you’ve known over the past 17 years can be terrifying, especially because it can feel like you have to do it all on your own.
Once the graduation party hangover wears off, you’re expected to get a job and start acting like a real-life adult.
The problem is, for a lot of us, we have no idea how to go about doing this. What job positions should a creative writing major be searching for? What is a résumé supposed to look like? Should you bother to include a cover letter? If so, how do you write that cover letter?
Those are the immediate questions recent graduates are faced with when they start the job search. And to make everything even more complicated, there are steps for finding a job that you don’t even know you have to think about.
Steps like reaching out to hiring managers directly, finding the right people to network with, understanding applicant tracking systems, or building up your résumé with personal projects (to name just a few).
Now, there are resources that you can use to find out more about these steps (ahem, the AfterCollege Blog for example) but perhaps the most important job search resource is one that we’re often hesitant to use: our friends and family.
In a conversation I recently had with a friend’s father, Michael Markrich, we discussed what it means to have an advocate for you in the job search, and why we (millennials) need to overcome our fear of asking for help.
Having a son and daughter who both recently graduated from college and became job-seekers, Michael witnessed firsthand the struggles that came along with that transition and also how they could be fixed.
One of the biggest problems he noticed (and that I’ve noticed as well) is that our generation of job-seekers wants to do it all on our own. We don’t want to have to ask for help.
We feel like we should be able to figure out this next phase of life without asking “mommy and daddy” to give us a hand.
The problem with that approach is that we’re missing out on a lot of really good connections and support.
Searching for a job for the first time can be terrifying, especially as those rejection emails roll in (or that painful silence that employers often use instead). It can be extremely difficult not to take it personally.
We have some great advice about how to deal with rejection in the job search, but it can still start to take a toll.
Your cheerleader and advocate
Having someone who is there for you, who wants to see you succeed and be your advocate, can make it a lot easier. They can put it into perspective, talk you through what may have happened, and then work with you to make some changes.
This support system will not only encourage you to keep applying, but will also help you to continue to send out your best résumés and cover letters.
Your key to personal connections and introductions
Also, keep in mind that your parents and their friends have been around a lot longer than you have been. They know people. And they know people who know people. If they know that you are interested in a certain career path, more likely than not, they’ll be able to put you in touch with someone for an informational interview. Maybe they can even set you up with a small project to do within that field. You never know.
People want to help you more than you think. Making it known that you’re searching for a job and are genuinely interested in a certain field can do wonders for your job search. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help.
Your side of the bargain
But that doesn’t mean you can just slack off and expect someone in your immediate network to find you a job. Asking for help requires hard work, determination, and gratitude. Michael explains that the job-seekers he has assisted have all come to him with a plan.
They know what they want to do. They’re looking for ways to build on their experience. They’ve done their research, put time and effort into understanding their industries. And if they get that informational interview or a hiring manager’s contact information, they’re ready to make the most of it.
So, when you ask for help, you have to be ready to follow through.
As Michael says, you should reach out for help in your job search, but once you get hired it’s up to you to prove to both those who have helped you as well as your employer that you’re worth the position.
Homework time! Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your job search! Reach out to family, family friends, anyone who is in your network. Accept the support they give you but be sure to follow through with everything. If you’re given a contact for an informational interview, do your research, come up with the right questions, send a thank you note to both the subject of the interview as well as the person who put you in contact with them.