New Grads: Haven’t Found Your First Job? Check Your Expectations

Last week I spoke with a startup business owner busily hiring his first round of entry-level talent. While he was excited to welcome newly-graduated Millennial talent for the versatility and depth of knowledge they bring in the world of social media, he also felt frustrated by the expectations he had encountered so far.

From his point of view, it seems like every candidate expected Ping-Pong tables, long lunch breaks and free gourmet coffee 24/7, and he isn’t offering those perks any time soon. However, the opportunity he is offering feels like a golden one to him: the ability to learn from the best in the business, a competitive starting salary and a business casual office environment.

We all know that interns run around the office fetching coffee and don’t get paid well, if at all. But what about your first real job out of college? Yes, you have a degree and possibly some real world experience. But in today’s workplace, does that mean you no longer have to “Earn your stripes” or “Pay your dues”? And how does this fit in with the overall attitude that Millennials “refuse to settle”? The answer lies in a realistic look at the job market.

What Benefits Does the Job Market Support?

According to Accenture’s 2015 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study, high percentages of recent graduates reported underemployment, low salaries and a lack of learning opportunities in the jobs they were offered.  

It’s not a matter of grads not preparing themselves for better opportunities. Eighty-two percent looked at the job market before choosing a major, and 72 percent participated in an internship during college. However, these opportunities simply aren’t as available as grads have hoped. Only 52 percent of the most recent respondents are employed full-time, and 49 percent of graduates consider themselves underemployed.

Salaries aren’t exactly exciting, either. Even though 85 percent of grads expected to earn more than $25,000 a year, only 59 percent actually do.

These numbers indicate that leaving college with high expectations might leave you less than pleased when the job offers come in. To keep your spirits high and stay appreciative of the offer you do get, you’re better off adjusting your expectations.

You should still look for and negotiate for the best job offer you can, but you should do so with an understanding that your first job may just be an opportunity to establish yourself and figure out where you want to take your career.

Your first job isn’t likely to be the high-salaried, flexible, Ping-Pong competition you might expect from reading about high-profile companies in the news, but that’s OK. The opportunity is what you’re after.

2015 College Grads Should Focus On Opportunity

The future looks bright for full-time job opportunities, and that’s what college graduates need to get their foot in the door. Full-time job listings for new grads on Simply Hired have risen 20 percent between 2014 and 2015, resulting in nearly 240,000 job opportunities in the U.S.

These opportunities may not come with huge salaries and outrageous perks, but they do offer the potential for much-needed resume experience and grooming for bigger, better opportunities. Jobs don’t need to be at big companies, either. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed want to work for smaller companies, presumably where there are more opportunities for responsibility and promotion.

If you’re a college grad still seeking your first job, keep an eye out as listings peak in July and October. But don’t work off of a “must-have” list that includes superficial perks like quirky office environment and mid-level salaries. It’s up to college grads to keep expectations in check and carefully evaluate each job listing for its potential as a stepping stone in a long, successful career. And the beginning of that process is staying realistic about entry-level jobs right out of college.

Did you get the job? Here’s how to nail the first 30 days!