Monty Cerf

Guidelines for Graduates Entering the Job Market

Monty Cerf

The transition from college to the workplace is daunting for many reasons. Graduates aren’t typically aware of normal workplace culture, and they’re anxiously attempting to make a good impression in their place of work in their chosen industry. However, there are things they can do to quickly adapt to a new work environment to enhance one’s chances of success. 

Monty Cerf, a wealth management advisor who also frequently mentors students at Montclair State University School of Business and elsewhere, offers some suggestions for soon-to-be-working students. 

Heading into the Job Market for The First Time

A Plan Is Key to Success

First:  have a plan.

Too often graduates worry about hastily finding any relevant job without considering whether the position will really propel them toward their long-term goals.  Especially in the current strong labor market, it’s best to give some deep thought about what direction you want to go.  For that, consult with your friends, University resources, professors, and network contacts.  Your first job direction isn’t your last decision, by any means, but it is an important one.

Consider geography, work-life balance, learning opportunity, growth opportunity, and where in this large world you’d like to fit. 

Ironically, perhaps, money is a less important criteria.  Any job that assures you a great learning opportunity is a good one.  In the modern world where people don’t tend to stay at the same company forever anymore, learning likely means adding to your employability long term.  Additionally, learning is run and any job without a ton of it will likely bore you quickly.

While plans are important, know that plans can and do change more often than not.  While you are looking for a good first job, stay flexible.  If you are like most of us, plans change, the opportunity set of the marketplace will change, and the world will change. And that’s OK and to be expected.  Having a clear plan and staying nimble are not incompatible approaches.

Realistic Expectations for Early Career Satisfaction

You won’t start at the top, even if that’s where you want to get as quickly as possible.  Control your salary expectations to start.  Remember, prospective employers, are taking a chance on you, investing their resources to train you and get you up to speed so you can add value to them long term. Aim high, but don’t sweat starting low. The road is long.  As you grow professionally, it’s ok to be a little bit impatient.  That’s normal ambition.  But know that it takes time.  It also takes good listening skills to understand your work environment and the many complex need and motivations of those working around you.

Monty Cerf

The University Has Unbeatable Resources

After graduation, former students can and should continue to access their universities’ resources to help them network and transition into the ever-demanding workforce. 

Many colleges have a career advancement or advice department that helps graduates with their first job-related steps. Such resources help them formulate a proper resume, prepare for interviews, and discuss potential outcomes with professionals in their chosen fields. 

These resources are free and there for the taking.  Use them to the fullest extent possible both before and after graduation.  In addition to plugging you into networking opportunities with graduates and employers who have hired from the school, university career resources can help graduates address general or specific questions, receive feedback on resumes, interview and search tactics, and prepare themselves in a low-stakes setting. 

Researching Before Interviews Is Imperative

Finally, do research on the organization and those they will be working with before heading into an interview. You are not expected to know everything or really much at all.  But knowledge, before an interview of the company, the industry, and the person you are interviewing shows interest and seriousness.

The corollary, of course, is that in an interview, no matter how well-prepared you are.  Never, repeat never, pretend to know something that you don’t know.  It will be way more transparent than you think.