Hiring College Graduates: Advice for the Employer & the Grad

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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WBR May2015It’s graduation time and that means lots of new grads will be flooding the market. How can employers and grads team up to create a winning partnership? I recently shared advice for employers and graduates during my regular Small Business Spotlight segment, on ABC’s Washington Business Report. You can access the link to my segment at the conclusion of this column.

If you are an employer thinking about hiring a college grad, or if you know and love a college grad, this column is for you!

Tips for Employers

Is a recent grad a good fit for your company? That depends. From my previous column that compared entry-level workers with experienced workers, here are the advantages, disadvantages, and the best company fit for entry-level employees:


• A clean slate. No need to “unlearn” behaviors.

• An optimistic, non-cynical attitude.

• Great energy.

• Current and comfortable with emerging technologies.

• Inexpensive to hire – entry-level salary.

• Usually willing and able to work long hours.


• Clueless regarding a real job. (Sorry college grads. Unless you have had a really awesome internship experience, I’m stating the obvious).

• Lack of understanding of how a company works.

• Lack of experience working with different generations.

• Possible lack of confidence.

• Needs a lot of management.

• In the I-don’t-know-what-I-don’t know box.

• Not ready for client-facing assignments, so will likely be overhead at initial hiring.

Best For…

• Companies that can provide a very structured training environment.

• Companies that want to indoctrinate employees into a specific way of doing things.

• Companies that have the financial cushion and processes to train people and keep them in overhead positions as they get up to speed.

Tips for College Grads

College grads, do you know how to make the most of your first job?

Here are three things you need to do for a successful experience:

Establish Your Mindset.

  • Come to work with an open mind. Your office will likely be quite diverse. There will be multiple generations, a potential equal mix of men and women, and many different cultures or nationalities. Organizations consist of complex structures and relationships, and require a large array of skills to run well. For the last few years you have been with people who have the exact same interests as you. Your office provides an opportunity to engage with people that have different skill sets, hobbies, and interests. Embrace the opportunity to go outside your comfort zone.
  • Bring a mindset and attitude of humility. You are at the bottom. Sorry to be so blunt, but your company is taking a chance on you. They see your potential, but you have not demonstrated measurable value yet. Check your ego at the door, and embrace an attitude of gratitude for having a job, and for someone entrusting their brand and company to you.
  • Listen. Smart new hires spend much of their time listening and observing. Be a sponge. Take in as much as you possibly can. Watch the interactions between your colleagues. Absorb the conversations and what results from the conversations.

Embrace the Organizational Culture

  • Get involved in the company’s philanthropy efforts.
  • Get connected to the company’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Update your LinkedIn page to talk about your position at the company as well as what the company does in the market.  If the company uses internal communications tools such as Yammer (an internal Twitter), a company intranet, or a closed Facebook group, get involved and contribute.
  • Attend company events, like in-office parties, happy hours, and holiday parties.
  • Get involved in any internal committees. Involvement/Engagement = High Satisfaction.

Follow the Rules of Engagement

Finally, follow the rules. I don’t mean the rules in your employee handbook (although you have to follow those as well). I mean the implied rules.  I consulted with one of my CEO coaching clients, Bonnie Low-Kramen, who is an expert in workplace communications. Bonnie was the personal assistant to Olympia Dukakis for 25 years before launching Ultimate Assistant, LLC, a global organization that provides training for executives and their assistants to build the most productive and rewarding professional relationship possible.

Bonnie identified these three main rules of engagement that college grads must follow to get noticed, and get ahead.

Show Respect. To succeed and stand out at your new job, showing respect is not only the right thing to do, it is a very smart strategy and will help you stand out. Here’s what that looks like.

  • Be on time and if you are going to be late, call your manager
  • Power down your phone in meetings
  • Dress appropriately
  • Follow through on things that you say you will do
  • Good manners really do matter to your colleagues no matter what their age. Taking the time to say “please” and “thank you” makes an important and memorable impression.

Show Discretion & Confidentiality. Despite living in the 2015 climate of sharing everything over social media, it is critically important to value your new company’s confidentiality and proprietary information. You may be privy to sensitive information that is not to be shared with others and therefore, will be required to sign an NDA – Non-Disclosure Agreement. Adhering to these rules will mean continued employment and a stellar reputation.

Address Problems Professionally. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” conflicts are going to arise. These are tests of professionalism and maturity. The solutions lie in addressing problems as they arise and simply asking, “Can we have 10 minutes today to discuss something that has come up?” Ignoring issues do not make them go away. This is true at work and in life.

What Millennial Workers Really Want

Millennials are committed to working hard at their jobs. They simply want to do that in  a way that looks different to previous generations. This is partially due to their personal experiences of watching their parents work excessive hours, at exhaustive paces. The previous generations talk about “work-life balance.” The millennials do it.

  • Millennials will work the same number of hours – if not more – but they will organize work around their life.
  • Millennials will forego high salaries for organizations that provide meaningful work, and nurturing cultures.
  • Millennials want to make impacts from day one. They are not interested in “earning” their way “to the top” over a number of years.

For more insights on how our next-gen leaders will be building our workplaces and work spaces, check out the recent USA Today article and a recent article from Information Week on how CIOs can build a millennial enterprise. There’s a great report included in this article.

It’s exciting to see the various generations come together! We all have so much to learn from one another.

Congrats to the grads, and to those that see their potential!


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About Successful Culture
We work with business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams that want to achieve their greatest personal & organizational potential. Through coaching, strategic consulting, retreat facilitation, and workshops, we equip leaders & emerging leaders with the mindset, tools, strategies, and processes they need to excel.

Ready to move forward? Email us today at [email protected].

Connect with me on Instragram, Facebook, and Twitter. Engage with me during my morning Periscope sessions as well (@marissalevin).

Please check out my Inc. Magazine columns on my Author Page too.
– In my latest Inc, article, I share The Essential Guide to Avoiding Workplace Text, Email, & Social Media Disasters.
– Learn about the 9 Leadership Behaviors that Lose Employee Trust & Respect here.

~Marissa Levin
CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”

PS: Want more? Here is the link to my Washington Business Report segment. Enjoy!

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