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Do You Have Unrealistic Job Search Expectations?

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One thing all the recent college grads I interview have in common: they are pretty clueless about how the market actually works. They come into my office with crazy pipe dreams of high paying jobs, thinking they’re qualified just because they have a certain degree.

To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, a conversation like the one below is all too common:

Me:  What is your ideal job description?
College Grad: Oh well my degree is in marketing so I want a job like Mad Men. Barcardi is cool too. I’d like to do sales for Bacardi.
Me: Ok, well, that’s a great goal to have, but it’s not going to happen for you right now. You need a lot of experience to land in sales for Bacardi and you may want to consider moving to another city if you want to pursue advertising like in Mad Men.
College Grad: What are you talking about?
Me: You’re just out of college and have very little experience. You also live in the wrong city to pursue advertising.
College Grad: Oh, well, that’s not what they told me in school.

College grads may not realize this, but conversations like this are off-putting for interviewers and recruiters. It shows that you aren’t being realistic, which can create challenges for people who are trying to help you get a job or might want to hire you.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have professional goals like the ones stated above, you just have to be aware of what kind of market you’re dealing with when you graduate. So here are some tips to help you remain realistic during your job hunt while still pursuing your goals:

Forget what they told you in school

Forget that they told you that your Finance degree would get you a high paying job right out of college. Forget that they told you that you’d be making 40k upon graduation just because you have a B.A. Forget that they told you that your law degree would make you a shoe in. Nothing is guaranteed these days and there is no way to gauge how long your job search will take.

Research the industries in your area

Different industries thrive in different areas. For instance, if you’re looking for a serious career in finances consider going north, somewhere like New York. Or if you’re really into nonprofits, head to Washington, D.C. or maybe Seattle. The type of jobs you’ll be able to find often times depend on where you live. Do your research and see if maybe you need to start making some moves. You can find a complete list of U.S. industries and statistics on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Educate yourself about salary ranges

This is a big one. Far too often, people — who were making tons of money up north — walk in to my office only to find out that the same type of job in Florida pays way less. This often comes as a huge shock and it makes it a lot tougher to have successful salary negotiations. Salaries are contingent on where you live! Do your research so you’ll know what you’re facing when applying for jobs. This page on the U.S. Department of Labor website can help you get started with that.

If you’re not at least somewhat realistic in your job search, you’re going to experience a very rude awakening. While it’s great to have grand professional goals, you’ll do yourself a favor by learning more and developing realistic expectations. It also makes you appear more mature and experienced to recruiters and employers.

What other things can you do to get your visions of the job search in line with reality?

Amanda Abella is a personnel administrator for a Miami-based employment agency and a freelance writer. She also runs Grad Meets World, a popular Gen Y blog where she discusses health, career, personal finance, entrepreneurship, and more.

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