Coping With the College to Career Transition


Picture Yesterday, I had the pleasure to connect with Joan Snyder Kuhl, the millennial matchmaker. She is a consultant and author that helps companies attract top millennial talent through her company Why Millennials Matter. I wanted to connect with her to discuss what we, millennials, can do to better adapt to the workplace, since trends have shown that many recent graduates are unhappy with their post-graduate situation. From our conversation and research, it is clear that both organizations and millennials need to do some adapting to the recent shift in workplace trends.

My first question was, "many millennials are not happy in their jobs after college, why do you think that is?” She answered that traditional companies and established companies are sometimes not inspiring for millennials and are without the culture we expect. We have grown up hearing about technology companies and start-ups with amazing company cultures. Consequently, we are often underwhelmed when we walk through the doors of our corporate office. Joan works with many companies to ensure they understand how to attract and retain millennial talent as well as assisting them put certain cultural things in place. However, all the responsibility doesn't fall on the organization hiring members of Generation Y. Millennials also have failed to do their due diligence in thoroughly researching and informing themselves of what their 1st job will be like. This lack of research results in the new hire not knowing what they are walking into and not understanding the career pathway. Therefore, they set unrealistic expectations of what the launch of their career will really be like.

I totally agreed with her point. Both employers and the new employees are to blame for not creating the best work experience possible due to ignorance or misinformation. In addition to Joan’s points, I noticed that going from being well-known in your campus community and being a student leader to just playing a supporting role at a company is a hard transition for many. Imagine the CEO of a company was suddenly stripped of his executive role and told that he would be doing entry-level work to support a team. A person who had gone from being a visionary with passionate big picture ideas and decision making capabilities to being told what to do. This might be a dramatic analogy, but many professionals in their first jobs out of college feel this way. "I could be doing so much more," they say. "I am not using my degree for anything."  Joan mentioned that millennials become frustrated quickly when everything doesn't align. “They don't love the work that they do, aren't moving up the ladder as they expected and don't feel needed or valued.” In his article Why Should Gen Y Get All The Love?Dharmesh Shah Founder/CTO at HubSpot, highlighted the difference between millennials and other generations and where this frustration can stem from:

“Millennials demand a sense of purpose, demand transparency, demand access to information, demand feedback, demand inspirational leadership and meaningful work and a reasonable work-life balance. They not only demand these things — they expect them. Other generations want those qualities in their workplace too, but they generally don’t demand them. That is to their detriment – and, as leaders, to our detriment.”

Joan suggests a solution to this problem through what she calls "good matchmaking." Companies aren't recruiting young people in the way that we want to be recruited and millennials are missing huge opportunities at companies that aren't household names. I asked Joan what suggestions she had for those that were still in school to properly prepare for entering the workforce. She recommended 3 things.

1. Look at college like a job

Structure your day between business hours so that you are more accustomed to the schedule of your full-time job. Entering the workforce, when you spent the last few years starting your day at 11AM and ending at 8PM with gaps in between, can make it difficult to become accustomed to your job’s new set schedule and company culture.

2. Get a leadership role.

Get involved with a community organization, volunteer, give back to your alma mater and participate in other activities that will appreciate your leadership and "stardom." By holding a leadership role or an office, you can hold yourself accountable with an increase in responsibilities as well as feel like you are connected to something greater while using and developing additional skills.

3. Develop relationships with the older generation

Start collecting mentors: teachers, administrators, alumni and get used to talking to people that are older than you. Do it in a way that you present yourself in the best manner possible. Demonstrate your intelligence. In the working world, you will often interact with colleagues that are older than you, so it is best to start developing your network and communications skills now.

I encourage you to research your ideal positions, conduct informational interviews, shadow employees and use internships as a way to assess what you like and don’t like. This will help you narrow down what you need from your future employer and what environment will allow you to thrive. Also, speak up! If you need flexibility, more feedback, transparency or anything else that the company or your manager isn't providing, bring it up. You don't lose anything by asking for what you need. You suffer if you don't.


What has your experience been with your first job after college? If you are still a student, what do you worry about most when it comes to your first job? Let us know!

About the Author Emmelie De La Cruz, Founder of The Branding Muse, is the go-to expert for college students and young professionals who want to take control of their personal brand. Through her personal branding class, she effectively helps millennials position themselves for success in the job market to increase their credibility in their respective industries. Get the full scoop on her LinkedIn Profile, connect on Google+ or follow her on Twitter: @Hermusings