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Advice for 2014 graduates journeying into adult life

May 22, 2014 |

By G. Michael Dobbs

It’s that time of year again when freshly minted college graduates as their first rite of passage must endure a battery of repeating questions about their plans from relatives, friends and almost anyone else they encounter.

Just when they hoped to catch their breath for a moment, they are expected to have an answer and to jump aboard the merry-go-round known as “adult” life.

Another hurdle to overcome is practicing a facial expression of intense interest and thanks when some well-meaning older person offers them advice.

As a well-meaning older person myself who occasionally is in the position of hiring a college graduate, I will offer the following observations. The advantage here is that you, the reader – if a recent graduate – has no need to assume the necessary face. The disadvantage is that you can’t enjoy the beer I would buy you to accompany this talk.

I hope you’ve taken advantage of every internship possibility that you came across. Having experience in a workplace does several things: it allows you to decide of that field of endeavor is actually of interest to you and it allows you to get your hands dirty. It also is one of the best ways to get a job after graduation.

If you haven’t undertaken at least one internship you may find your road to employment a bit more difficult. I look at internships to see what you have learned and what you can bring to a position.

By the way, I could care less about what clubs you were in.

I hope you’ve had excellent instructors who have had enough recent experience in their subject matter to give you up-to-date information. If not, do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in trade journals and websites. Make sure you understand the current market conditions.

Never under estimate the positive impression a firm handshake makes – not a crusher, but certainly not a limp fish either.

Walk into an interview with knowledge about your potential place of employment. Be prepared to ask questions, but make sure they are not so general as to tip your hand that you don’t know anything about the company. This is the reason the Internet was invented.

Prior to your interview, take a shower and wear clean clothes. Remember not to swear during the interview. There will be plenty of time for that after you’re hired.

Yes, you’re young and newly educated, however, that doesn’t mean the grey-haired person sitting opposite you is an obsolete moron. You may make that judgment once you get the job and work with the person.

Please understand that many of us grey-haired people actually try to keep up with the new means of communication such as social media and attempt to understand the latest fads in popular culture, so dial back you preconceived notions or at least keep them to yourself. Few things irritate me more than when someone assumes because of my age that I’m living in a world of 30 years ago.

Bring your lunch. It will save you money. Try, however, not to eat at your desk. That’s a habit that is not conducive to good digestion. I know through experience.

Your first job outside of college may be just a position in which to wet your feet. That’s fine, but don’t let you boss know you think that.

Listen to office gossip but don’t contribute and don’t spread it.

Drinking with your supervisor is a sensitive subject. Some bosses see it as a way to bond with a staff member. Others just want to mess with you. Since my graduation in 1976, I’ve had one instance of going out with a boss – at his command – and drinking. I became drunk enough to call my immediate supervisor an idiot and I was lucky that he was drunk enough to consider that hilarious. I’ve never done that again nor would I in the future.

Finally, understand that today’s workplace is potentially laced with landmines of political correctness. Realize that a funny joke you heard last night on that hit television show may be offensive when you repeat it at work. It will be even less funny when you’re forced to repeat it in the office of Human Resources. Always err on the side of caution. It’s better to be known as some sort of prude than to be on the streets looking for a new job.

OK, that’s it. Welcome to the next phase of your life.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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