March 26, 2018

What to Expect when you Enter the Job Market as a College Graduate


I have this crystal-clear memory of my university graduation ceremony. It was a defining moment in my life, I had a few tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat at the thought of leaving the familiar cocoon of university to head out into the big, wide world. I didn’t know what lay ahead, but I was confident based on my performance that I was going to go out there, win accolades, open doors and take the working world by storm.

The Expectation vs Reality

The reality of it all, was not quite as picturesque as I first imagined.

There was not going to be a quick path to success. I wasn’t going to be recognised based on my talent and diligence alone. The reality of life is there is a lot more at play than just the piece of paper that I held in my hand and the passion that burned strongly in my heart. Instead, I entered into the working world, an engine which by all means seemed to be driven by its own rhythm. More so than just entering into the working world, this involved a whole lot more that I had yet to learn.

Job and employment opportunities after you graduate

Welcome to the real world… A world filled with door to door applications, rejection slips, jobs where you may just find yourself on the coffee run instead of running for a promotion.

For most people there is a cavernous gap that stretches between the Utopian womb of college life and that of the real world. But does it really have to be that way? The difference between college life and ‘adulting’ as the millennials now call it, can be intimidating to say the least. But what are some of the graduate expectations and employment concerns and how does it differ from reality?

Expectation 1: I will land a job immediately after my studies in the field that I studied for.  

Reality: You may have to find another job opportunity or freelance until you find the relevant opening that you need.

The Way Forward: Even if it feels irrelevant at the time, take on odd jobs after your studies. Be selective and go with opportunities that are most relevant to your field. Even if you feel that the job isn’t at all relevant, you will at least acquire soft skills that will assist you in the workplace.

Expectation 2: I will gain experience in my field while I’m on the job.

Reality: Many employers expect you to already have some experience to your name.

The Way Forward:  This is the famous lamentation of many young people who enter into the working world. How am I expected to have any industry experience, when nobody gives me a chance? Well, as a student, it definitely helps to be hungry and driven. Work after hours, enrol in a part-time course or internship or even become an apprentice if you can manage it. All of this amounts to an effort made and it will count as part of your work experience and portfolio.


Expectation 3: I will showcase my knowledge and the training that I received at college.

Reality: The Company that you work at will expect you to fall in line with the way they do things.

The Way Forward: For somebody who is young and eager to put themselves forward, it can feel a little frustrating to be invisible at a new company. Be patient, find out more about how people do things there, earn the trust of the people you work with, then find strategic moments to discuss your ideas and show your mettle.

More often than not there is a bigger picture that belies post graduate expectations. One that is not always communicated to students at tertiary institution level, but ought to be, before they become graduates.

Graduates must also be aware of certain aspects such as:

Literacy: A firm grasp of language is vital when it comes to being in a working environment.

Basic Deportment Skills: Your appearance, the manner in which you conduct yourself, your energy and etiquette in the workplace are just some of the ways in you will be seen in the working world.

Grooming and Basic Hygiene: Being well dressed and neat also extends itself to having neat nails, a good smile and no particles in your teeth after meals. The workplace can be a socially interactive space and you will need to adjust accordingly.

Workplace Communication and Interpersonal Skills: The ways in which we communicate with our buddies on campus is a far cry from how we would interact in a workplace. In a work environment we always have to be professional, courteous, polite and helpful to new colleagues. Workplace communication should be clear and pleasant.

Mismatched Skills- In the event that you do take on a job that is out of your scope, you may find that your skills do not match your job. In a situation like this, you will need to upskill to bridge the gap or introspect long and hard about other options that you need to explore in the career space.

Evolving Sectors- Jobs change, roles change and even an entire sector can evolve. This depends entirely on the sector that you are going into, of course. You will need to pay attention to the needs of the sector that you’re in and adapt accordingly to remain relevant.                                                                                                           

When you are looking at the bigger picture of your life, your career and future, you will sometimes have to take a giant step back in order to assess where you stand. It can feel intimidating to think of the real-life challenges and hurdles that you will need to navigate in order to get where you would like to be. Truly speaking, there is definitely an adjustment period needed between being a student and entering into the working world. Here’s wishing you the presence of mind to find growth through the challenges and opportunities from your obstacles. 

About the Author
Laeeka Khan- Media professional, senior writer and blogger at Educor Holdings.

I blog about matters that relate to education and personal development. I am an out-of-the-box thinker, fascinated with perceptions of the mind’s eye, the power of imagination and creative learning. I am passionate about the human experience, and an avid believer in dialogue, breaking stereotypes, sharing information and the power of the arts. I also appreciate fine coffee and dark chocolate. Join me on this journey of knowledge and exploration.

Share this page:

Go Top