I’m sure you’ve heard the news: Millennials are the worst generation in history. We’re “deluded narcissists,” not to mention unprofessional, entitled, and unemployed.
Or are we? I’m here to tell you that—just like the critique of past generations—this isn’t true for the majority of us. In fact, many of us value hard work, getting ahead, commitment, and even philanthropy. This criticism is a myth—and sadly, only one of many we are told as we enter the working world.
As I embarked on my graduation (almost a year ago now—yikes!), I heard a lot of well-intentioned advice and comments that, in all reality, haven’t been true of my experience. Here are a few of the other myths we’re often told as recent or soon-to-be college graduates—and why you should take them with a grain of salt.
Myth #1: You’ll Only Get a Job Through Your Connections
I heard this particular myth during every single one of my internship searches in college and the eventual full-time job hunt. Everyone from my relatives to my professors assured me that the only way I would find a job in my field of choice would be to go through companies with which I had existing connections. After all, it’s not what you know, but who.
Well, guess what? I moved halfway across the country to start my career, got multiple offers, and secured my current position—all without knowing anyone in my current city. Yes, networking can be a great way of knocking on doors and finding opportunities, but the truth is, your skills and personality are what will land you the job.
I’ve found that you can create opportunities for yourself by building your resume, being driven to succeed, and finding creative ways to reach your goals. Try connecting with a potential employer on an individual level or sharing some industry-specific knowledge you have that would apply to the job description, and think about ways you can stand out during an interview. It won’t matter if another candidate had her resume slipped in by a higher-up—if you’re the best of the bunch, no hiring manager would pass up the opportunity to add you to her team.
Myth #2: A College Degree Guarantees You a Job
You’ll often hear this myth from parents—probably because it used to be semi-true—and I think many Millenials believe it to a fault. When I was in my last year of college, I was pretty surprised by the number of my fellow almost-grads who hadn’t applied for jobs because they thought they would eventually get one with a degree alone, or who blamed the economy when they didn’t land a job or interview, or who wouldn’t apply for positions that considered candidates with “a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience.”
I get it: It’s disheartening to know that the economy isn’t in the best shape ever and that four expensive years of hard work doesn’t always pay off right away—but that doesn’t change the fact that a job won’t just end up in your lap. You’ll have to actively pursue job opportunities by searching through seemingly infinite postings, selling yourself through a well-crafted cover letter, perfecting your interview abilities, and spending time building your resume with internships, volunteer opportunities, and part-time jobs.
Here’s some good news, though: The job outlook for recent grads isn’t as bleak as we’ve been told. The stat “half of all grads are unemployed” is widely thrown around, but according to a recent Pew survey, only 10% of our demographic was actually considered unemployed between 2003 and 2011.
Myth #3: An Advanced Degree Will Always Put You Ahead of Your Peers
“Don’t have a job? Just go to grad school.” I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and I think it’s brought on by the similar myth that going to college guarantees you a job—if one degree is good, two must be better.
Not exactly. While graduate school is necessary for many professions and industries (think law or medicine), it isn’t the best course of action for everyone. Sometimes, entering the working world right after undergrad and getting started on your career is a better idea, especially if you’re in a field that doesn’t require an advanced degree, such as marketing, entertainment, nonprofit management, or even some tech startups.
For example, I have one friend who got an advanced degree in integrated marketing communications immediately after college, then applied for jobs. She is only just now in an entry-level position—one she would have been qualified for two years ago. Her peers, on the other hand, who entered the working world upon graduation, have a leg up: They have more actual work experience, they have higher salaries thanks to their periodic raises, and—many times—their employers have helped them pay for graduate school.
Bottom line? You can always go back to get an advanced degree if you so choose, but don’t think you have to do it right now. It may not be worth your time or money in the short-term, and definitely doesn’t guarantee you a better job.
Myth #4: You Have to Have it Together Right Away
Many of us females are brought up to believe in the typical, feminist-approved plot arc: Go to college, earn a degree, start your fabulous career, and create a family—all by the time you’re 30. And especially as college graduation nears, you’re probably feeling the pressure to have everything figured out.
But rather than panicking about getting started on a fast-track career path, sometimes it’s best to take time to figure out what, exactly, you’re looking for and which path will be the best fit for you.
This doesn’t necessarily mean take a year off to “find yourself” by blowing through your savings account, but it does mean taking stock of what you want and giving yourself some freedom to figure that out. For me, it took moving to a new city (something I had dreamed about my whole life), leaving a bad job situation, serving in a restaurant while interning, and finally getting offered my current position to find the right job for me—definitely not the straight and narrow path.
At the time, I felt like I had failed in my transition from college student to working woman, but I realized I didn’t have to secure everything immediately once I graduated, and that taking the time to figure things out was absolutely worth it. Long story short, don’t freak out if you’re not on the absolute right track right away or if your first job isn’t your dream job. You have plenty of time to figure everything out.