When graduation is right around the corner, everyone wants to accept a job offer as fast as they can. It’s an enormous weight off their shoulders for students to know they have a job and source of income to depend on right after college.
But maybe they’re thinking about it all wrong. According to a study recently featured by the National Bureau of Economic Research, about 52% of men and 60% of women accept a job before graduating college. And those that do earn less money in their first year of employment compared to their counterparts who wait longer.
As a career counselor, it is your responsibility to support next year’s graduates in entering the workforce. But, according to the data, that may mean warning them against grabbing the first opportunity that comes their way.
To protect the paycheck they deserve, teach your students to do the following before they enthusiastically accept a job offer:
Know their value
Although people of all genders doubt their abilities from time to time, the above study indicates that young women are especially vulnerable to taking a job when they deserve better. This behavior shows up in research time and time again.
A 2021 survey from Fishbowl demonstrates that the gender wage gap is not only caused by discriminatory systems. 36.2% of nearly 17,000 professionals said “changes related to the pandemic” stopped them from asking for a raise. Of those respondents, just 31.8% were men, while 42.4% were women.
So when young women aren’t able to ask for a raise or negotiate for a higher salary, they lose opportunities for better pay and career development. Your actions now can help inspire students to go after what they deserve.
Once a student knows which industry they want to enter, show them the average entry-level earnings. Then, discuss what expectations are reasonable given their experience and skill set. Remind students that relevant experience is not everything. Demonstrate that their soft skills or even pandemic experience will highlight that they are an ideal employee. Walk students through making a five-year plan. How long should they wait before asking for a raise? For a promotion? At what point should they pursue a new job?
Pin down what they’re looking for
Another issue is when job seekers aren’t sure which qualities they want in an ideal employer. If they don’t have any expectations or priorities, they could accept a job offer for no other reason than that it’s a full-time job.
For the upcoming school year, plan to host events that get students engaged with the elements of job satisfaction. Explain that some environments, like those with a verbally abusive boss, are harmful to everyone. But many, like those that offer flexible work hours, can be positive or negative depending on individual preferences.
Trial and error is one method for someone to learn which company cultures and leadership styles work best. But contemplating preferences before the job search ever begins saves time and stress.
If you don’t already, you should also present resources that help students learn what income they’ll need to fit a budget post-graduation. Using them, students will be ready to provide employers with the minimum annual salary they’ll consider.
Say no to unpleasant situations
There’s a critical lesson to learn from a fable about a frog and a pot of boiling water. The premise is, if a frog suddenly finds itself in boiling water, it’ll jump out. But if the water is room temperature and the heat gradually increases, the frog will get boiled alive.
All that to say, there are certain situations you want your job seekers to jump out of right away. It’s easy to negotiate. So what if the water’s getting warmer? It could be a lot worse! But that mentality in the job search will only lead to an unhealthy work situation.
It’s not enough to help students detect evidence of toxicity in job posts and interviews. That lesson is critical, but it’s ineffective if students are willing to act on it. They must understand that it will likely damage their mental health if they accept a job offer with even minor red flags.
The best way to teach is through examples as close to the real world as you can get. For example, develop worksheets with three job listings on them for students to practice identifying concerning details. You can also create a fake interview script or conduct mock interviews for the same purpose. Then, once they’ve picked out the positive and negative attributes, have them decide if the job is still worth pursuing.
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Wait for the right opportunity
Job seekers who are determined to hold out for their dream job are likely to be disappointed. At the entry-level, there will usually be some aspect to the position that reduces job satisfaction. But that doesn’t mean job seekers should settle. As we’ve discussed, some jobs simply aren’t the right fit or aren’t a healthy choice.
In newsletters to seniors this year, include questions they should ask themselves to decide if it’s the right time to accept a job offer.
Some of these questions may include:
Will the salary and benefits cover my needs?Does the compensation they’re offering make sense for my experience and skill level?Is there evidence of company culture, and does it appeal to me?Is the employer’s vibe off-putting for any reason?Do I feel respected by the representatives of this company?
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