I recently worked with a candidate who, on paper, had a promising start to his career.
Right out of college, he took a job with a Fortune 100 company. The pay was incredible for an entry-level role, and he had the prestige of working for a respected brand immediately after graduation.
And yet, he absolutely hated the job. But because he didn’t want to get the “job hopper” label, he stuck with it.
He eventually quit after a few years. But he was feeling so burned out that when he took his next job, he couldn’t give 100 percent. He was let go. So, at 28, he asked my team to help him find a job he really enjoyed. We did find him that role, and he finally has a job he’s thriving in.
Of course, he’d much rather have found it six years earlier. And he’s not alone in his frustration. One in three college grads are underemployed, and over 70% of employees nationwide are looking for something new.
That brings us to the reason so many of your friends will wind up in jobs they hate after graduation: college grads get really bad advice about choosing a job.
When recent grads come to me for help, I tell them to ignore the common advice they’ve been getting about the job hunt. If you don’t want to wind up in a job you can’t stand, on a career path you have no interest in, then you may want to do the same and be cautious of the following advice:
“Join a big, brand-name company.”
After graduation, almost everyone will tell you to join a brand-name company—a tech giant or a “big four” firm—because people believe you’ll be set for the rest of your career by starting there.
They argue those companies already have built-in business models that work. They have structured processes in place to help you grow and develop your skills.
The reality is, focusing the job search on a few brand-name companies is a poor strategy for most graduates.
If you only consider companies with a certain level of name recognition, that means you’re also excluding a huge number of amazing companies that might be the perfect start to your career. And even worse, you’re mistakenly considering companies that may be a terrible fit.
Your goal should be to find the right company for you—one that offers a supportive work environment and plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. By narrowing your perspective to a few name-brand options, you risk ending up at a prestigious company with a job you can’t stand.
“Prioritize the paycheck.”
The reason you hear this advice is pretty simple: a lot of recent grads have loans to pay back.
You’ve got rent to pay. You want to travel, hang out with your friends, and enjoy your 20s. When you consider all of that, it’s little wonder why you’d jump at the chance for a high-paying job.
But let’s think about this in the context of your entire career. Say you find a job that pays $50,000. It really interests you, and the company seems like it has a great culture. But you also have an offer on the table for a job that pays $70,000. It’s more money, but you’re not sure if the role is what you really want to be doing, and the culture seems off.
For most recent grads, the decision is a no brainer. Take the money and run.
The thing is, if you don’t enjoy your job, you’re not going to do it well. And if you’re not putting in the effort, you risk stunting your growth or even being fired.
I’m not saying you need to love your job. But it needs to be a good fit. It needs to have a management style and a team environment where you feel supported—where you can learn and grow. Because if you’re doing great work and constantly learning, even at a lower initial salary, you’re setting yourself up for advancement, a successful career, and a higher paycheck down the line.
To block bad advice, figure out what matters to you and research companies that fit your criteria.
By ignoring prestige and a paycheck, you’re focusing on companies that can offer you a great culture, a competitive salary, and just as much opportunity for growth—if not more.
The only challenge is that because these companies don’t have the same name recognition, you’ll have to do a little work on your own to find them.
- Figure out what’s important to you. Do you have a specific level of compensation or a certain industry in mind? What type of culture are you looking for—isolated or collaborative? Write it all down so that you have a frame of reference when you begin researching companies.
- Research on Glassdoor and other review sites. Start looking at companies in your area with great reviews. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve heard of them or not. Remember, you’re not just looking for an impressive name, you’re looking for a great place to work. Our team at Edvo follows this advice closely by interviewing every company we partner with to validate it’s a good place to work for our candidates.
- Make a list of promising companies, then learn more about them. If you find a company you can get behind and a product you want to work with, look at their career page. You can learn a lot there. Do they talk up their culture, their team, or the benefits package they offer?
- Get on LinkedIn, find people who work at the company, and message them. Say something along the lines of, “Hey, I’m about to graduate. I’m doing research on great companies with missions I can get behind. Your company was one of them, and I wanted to see if you were open to a 15-minute phone call. It’d be great to hear about your experience there.”
It isn’t impossible to find a job you enjoy right out of college. But the first challenge you need to overcome is to stop listening to bad advice. There’s nothing wrong with a big paycheck at a brand-name company, it just shouldn’t come at the expense of your career development and long-term happiness.
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