Advice for recent graduates

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By Ed McAteer

Well, it is summertime and graduation has come and gone. For those who do not rush off to college, I am guessing mom and dad are probably encouraging you to get out and find a job.
And with that being said, I have some advice for you related to the job interview process. No, I am not going to bore you with the mechanics of how to build a resume, merely tell you what employers are looking for in today’s work environment and prospective candidate.
When starting a job search in today’s tough times, many people still stick to refinement of their resume and honing their people skills. That’s good, but someone right out of high school probably doesn’t have lots of experience. Strong interpersonal skills are great. Integrity matters. However, the thing that makes all the difference today is simply presenting you as someone who is a problem solver.
How do I do this? The best way to train yourself as a problem solver is to research the industry – type of job you desire – and your prospective employer – company you want to work for – and take all the time you need to study about both. Study the employees and customers, suppliers and business partners.
Then, use all that background information that you found to inform yourself so that during the interview, you can be humble in knowing how the company functions and what made them successful.
Talk your own passions and talents to the employer’s challenges; tell them how you can fit right in from day one and help them make money, improve customer service, and help solve problems. Do this and you have an opening for a real opportunity to be successful in empowering you for the position.
This is important so listen. There is a downside to this strategy. The research required involves so much time and so much effort that only one out of every 10 people will even take the time to do it. Are you the one or the other nine? I have never known anyone who has ever taken this advice, prepared themselves by doing the hard work up front and not been hired into the position they were seeking.
I often tell those I helped write resumes the No. 1 thing you need to do is to set up a routine whereby every day make the resume writing and job search your job.
Spend two to four hours a day writing and researching to make the difference. Grow yourself powerful and smarter than the person you will be competing against.
Something else that is very hard for a young graduate is to take feedback or criticism from someone. You think you know it all when you are young. You don’t. When someone is giving you feedback, make him or her feel that it is OK to do so. Let them know that you accept feedback readily and can listen to them with your full intent.
If you act defensively, get angry, or pushed back, your advisor will make a note to self: “I won’t be doing this again.” When you make it hard for others to give you feedback, your colleagues, and friends will avoid you. It will help if you think of feedback as simply “data” and keep it in perspective. You want to combine it with hundreds of other pieces of information but do not amplify any one piece of it.
Adults, want to give feedback to others? The No. 1 rule of constructive criticism is to make the other person feel safe. You have to let that person know that you care about his or her success while you address their concerns.
Also, let me tell the young graduate, there is nothing more important than the incredible impact of compound interest when it comes to saving for retirement. Would you like to have $1 million by the time you reach retirement, usually age 65? You can, but it takes discipline. If only someone would have told me about these things when I was 18.
About age 18-22, you only need to save three to five dollars each day. It isn’t a lot of money. Skip the soda, cigarettes or Starbucks coffee and stash the cash. You have to be thoughtful and save every day. So graduate, when you get that job that you have prepared for, remember to take $3 to $5 for your future, and when you are older and wiser, you will awaken one morning and say, “Hey, where did all this money come from?” It really works. Again, only one of you in nine people will even think about this ever again, do the action that is required.
You have to figure out the difference between your wants and your needs. I want many things, but I need very little. My pastor, a few years back told his congregation, we did not need 90 percent of what we have. He started giving away, downsized, and became happier than ever. I did a quick look at my material possessions, and he was right. Most things are luxury and not needed.
I learned a lesson, and I do not buy things to impress other people; it is about the things that I need. So when you go into a store, always take that extra second to picture in your mind how disappointed you will be if you do not make that purchase. On the other hand, sleep on it. Most of the time when using that train of thought, you will simply not buy the item.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you to try to do good things for others. Whether giving of your free time or finances, you cannot out give God. He richly blesses those who give without restraint and with a cheerful heart. Pray about it and then test him and see for yourself.
Graduates today are going to need to save at a greater rate than the generations that have gone before you. Make certain when you are hired in that great job, sign up for the 401(k) plan, especially if it matches all or part of what you contribute and stay in it for as long as you can. It’s called getting “free money” from your company.
In addition, the tax advantages make this your best investment. Remember, $3-5 a day is all you need to become a millionaire by the time you are 65.
Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer that we wish we did not. Pray to God, listen to his answer, and ask for advice from those you trust and listen to what they say.
One day, you will be giving this advice to your next-generation of young graduates.

Former Lancaster resident Ed McAteer now lives in Port St. Joe, Fla.