Memo To New College Grads


It’s that time of year when college seniors are looking forward to receiving their diplomas after four or more years of time consuming and costly schooling. Parents, college professors and the media have told them that a college degree is the way to a job that will bring satisfaction, fulfillment and a fat paycheck. Get the diploma, send out a few “dynamite” resumes, and a job will follow. Believe that and you might as well look under your pillow for a check to pay off your student loan, compliments of the tooth fairy. Job hunting in the adult world of work is more than sending resumes to job boards. It is a multi-step process, one step of which is writing a resume.

To understand this thing called “work” I believe one needs to take a step back and ask what life itself is all about. Short circuit the philosophy and PC talk and it comes down to this. You are born. You die. And, in between you work in order to survive. Job satisfaction, fulfillment and life/work balance are secondary. We work. We get a paycheck. We buy the big three …food, shelter, clothing…in order to make it to the next day. We spend “left-over money” on technology gadgets, killer apps, insurance, transportation and recreation.  Our money-for-work model has served humankind well for several thousand years…or at least better than the previous model which had people spearing antelope and rabbits for food and clothing, and living in caves to avoid freezing to death.  So how does a newly minted college grad find work, socially meaningful work, that will pay money in order to survive and also bring some sort of job satisfaction and fulfillment?  Let’s explore some of the challenges, and solutions, that new college grads will encounter making their first giant step into the world of work.


  1. The “What’s Next” Challenge. Many college grads have no idea what they will do after receiving their diplomas. There are three choices: proceed to graduate school; join the military, or find a job with a company. Most will elect option three, finding a job in the corporate or government world, which is divided into various industries, companies within those industries and jobs in those companies.  For example, there is the Food industry with Kroger being a company within; in fact Kroger is the largest company in the Food Industry. It sells guns and ammo, too, in a subsidiary division. There are thousands of jobs at Kroger one of which is a corporate level sales representative. A new college grad could pursue that sales job and make good money. The same applies for sales jobs with beer producer, Miller Brewing Company. There will always be plenty of sales jobs with Miller. Also, there are sales jobs with Walmart in its gun and ammo department. And remember companies in the fast growing recreational marijuana business, one of which is The Farm located in Boulder Colorado.

However, will any job in any industry do it?  There are plenty of job with guns, pot and alcohol companies but is that the way you want to spend your working days?

The Solution. Alternatively, how about industries producing products that have social value, like educational publishing companies such as McGraw-Hill, or food distributors like Whole Foods, or home builders like Ryan Homes, or technology companies like which has been ranked recently as one of the best places to work? With choices like this, why work in toss away industries like firearms, alcohol or pot? A better choice is working for a socially conscious company like, the cloud computing company serving a useful function in business and education.

  1. The What Do I Want to Do” Challenge.” So many budding college grads ask what they can do to bring in a paycheck and some sort of job satisfaction. You do not need six weeks with a counselor to figure it out.

The Solution. Record three things for which you have an aptitude. Beside them record three things you like to do. Then match them with industries, and jobs in those industries, that meet your aptitude and interests. For a listing of hundreds of industries and thousands of jobs in them, consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s available in print or eBook from Amazon or other resellers.

  1. The “Right Company” Challenge. Knowing what kind of job you would like is one thing. Finding the right employer is quite another.

The Solution. Assuming you have found a job that you would like, the next step is to find companies that offer such jobs in socially conscious industries. Go online and google companies in those industries. For example, enter “Food Producers” and you will come up with many hits, all potential employers. Begin exploring job opportunities on their digital career pages.

Another fool proof way to find a job is to attend job fairs and trade shows that take place each day at major convention centers throughout the country. Some of them are: the Mascone Center in San Francisco; McCormick Place in Chicago; The Washington DC Convention Center in Washington; the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philly; and the Javits Center in New York City. Each large and medium size city has a convention center. Google the one closest to you to find a listing of trade shows and job fairs and attend those you find interesting. Visit the exhibit booths armed with your resume and ask to see the hiring manager for your area of interest, sales, marketing, finance, technology, human resources, etc. Develop a personal relationship with that person and a job interview will follow.

Government jobs are often overlooked. Jobs in the “government industry” are comparable to jobs in the private sector.  They pay well and are socially conscious jobs. Federal government jobs are located in all fifty states, not just Washington DC. For a listing of interesting jobs and how to apply for them go to the leading government job website:

  1. The “Writing a Resume” Challenge. In most colleges where students pay upwards of $25,000 for tuition per year, training for job hunting consists of a few weeks instruction about writing a “dynamite” resume. The instruction is primarily academic as most professors have never had a job outside of academia. And, there is more to job hunting than writing and submitting a resume.

The Solution. Craft a resume that highlights your education, your part time jobs and internships throughout your college years. Include a major heading, “Technology Skills” and bullet point your areas of expertise. Also include a major heading titled, “Community Outreach” and bullet point your community initiatives dating back to high school.

       Make sure that grammar and spelling are correct. One mistake will disqualify you. No second chances. Do not trust your spelling and grammar checker.  Proofread your resume aloud and have a trusted friend do the same. This advice might sound rudimentary for a college grad but trust me when I tell you that I have witnessed Vice President candidates disqualified because of one spelling error. AND, do not refer to your resume as a curriculum vitae (CV). That is academic talk. Outside of academia it is called a resume.

  1. The “Interview” Challenge. Interviewing is one of the most intimidating challenges in the job hunting process.

The Solution.  Prepare for the interview with a friend by playing question-answer. Practice until you can answer all questions using business vocabulary. Avoid words like “awesome” and “cool.” When a hiring manage asks” Why do want to work for us?” respond, “Because your company produces products and provides services that are socially worthwhile and because your company is profitable.”

Remember to dress appropriately because first impressions are lasting impressions. Do not dress ultra-casually as you see workers dressed in TV advertisements for Google or Microsoft. Dress on the job is one thing; dress for an interview is entirely different. Wear upscale business attire which you will find on websites for national clothing stores.


Google “Socially Responsible Employers.” I did just that and found numerous leads to companies of this kind. One site listed the five most socially responsible employers as: Microsoft (technology), Merck (Pharmaceuticals), The World Bank Group (finance and economic development), The Acumen Fund (global impact investing), and Yingli Green Energy (a solar energy producer).

For additional help finding socially conscious employers, explore companies held in the portfolio of mutual funds listed as “socially aware.” One such is the Vanguard Social Index Fund, whose symbol is VFTSX. Companies held in this fund by Vanguard are screened using social, human rights and environmental criteria. Some of these companies are: Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, United Healthcare, Facebook, Apple and J.P Morgan Chase.

Using social media for job hunting has its limitations. Use these media for networking and information but do not believe they alone will lead you to the promised land of employment. The one exception is LinkedIn, a site designed exclusively for job hunting. Jobs offers will come only after you develop a personal relationship with the hiring manager or human resources director.   You will find them at trade shows and conferences at convention centers, and by making cold calls, that is, knocking on the doors of employers and asking to see the human resources director.


Frequently, new college grads have no role model to follow while embarking on a career straight out of college. However, they are out there. In fact, we’re surrounded by them. Let’s break them down into specific categories and take a look.  You may not recognize some of the names; others are well known throughout the world of work

Public Sector Workers. These are workers who chose careers in government. They serve in both elected and appointed positions.

  1. Joni Ernst,S. Senator for Iowa who served in the Military for 20 years before becoming the first female Senator from Iowa. Concurrently she serves as head of the Iowa National Guard.
  2. Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations and former Governor of South Carolina. She is a Business major from Clemson University. She served as Treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
  3. Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Representative from Hawaii and Army veteran who went on several deployments to the Mideast.
  4. Patricia, “Pat” Schroeder, a lawyer and former U.S. Representative from Colorado who authored the Family Leave Program. She was the first woman to run for President of the United States. Many of the work benefits we enjoy resulted from her personal work in Congress.
  5. Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. She now serves on the faculty of Stanford University. She is a talented classical pianist and one of the world’s foremost Russian History experts.
  6. The 2,500,000 (read, two million, five hundred thousand) female K-12 school teachers. Guiding the academic, social and moral development of K-12 students is one the most powerful jobs in America. Teachers make a reasonable wage and their careers bring job satisfaction every day.

 Private Sector Workers. These are workers in companies both large and small.

  1. Becky Quick, anchor for Squawk Box, the popular CNBC TV morning finance program. Follow her each morning at 8 AM. Learn about the world of finance from Becky.
  2. Erin Burnett, host of OutFront, a popular CNN evening program. Follow Erin each night at 7 PM. Erin broke into TV as a financial analyst on a CNN evening program.
  3. Marillyn Hewson, CEO and President of defense contractor, Lockheed Martin. Over the past five years Marillyn has created thousands of new jobs, brought wealth to shareholders, and incredible technology innovation to a company dedicated to preserving our national security.
  4. Irene Rosenfeld, Chairwoman and CEO of the second largest publically traded food producer, Kraft Foods.
  5. Angela Braly, Chairwoman, CEO and President of WellPoint, a leader in the healthcare industry. The company is commonly known as Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance. She is the mother of three children and works hard to balance work and family.
  6. Kate Richard, Founder and CEO, Warwick Energy Group, an oil and gas producer located in Oklahoma City.


All of our STARS began their path to success in entry level jobs after graduating from college.   By applying their intelligence, energy and passion, they rose through the ranks to attain leadership positions in the socially responsible world of work. If they did it…so can you!

For more information about how to find your way after graduation, read my book titled, WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD. A Complete Guide to Job Hunting for the Recent College Grad. It is available in paperback and eBook from Skyhorse Publishing, Amazon and B&N.

Send comments to [email protected]

John Henry Weiss


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