Why Newest Grads' Confidence May Be Illusory

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Like many recent graduates who are set to enter the real world, Morgan O'Mara was apprehensive about what lay ahead after she graduated from college in May.

“My last semester of college I was a little nervous about finding a job, but I never doubted that I may not have the skills to get a job,” said the 22-year-old Michigan State graduate. “I think I was very optimistic about my career search, because my professors in college were very realistic.”

O’Mara, who did land a digital marketing content coordinator job in Denver, shares an optimism most recent college graduates possess. A new poll by consulting firm Accenture shows most 2015 college graduates are confident they will be able to find work in the real world, with 80% saying their education prepared them well for the workforce.

O'Mara said she prepared hard to break into the working world, getting three internships while in college and using a variety of job search tools now at people’s disposal — such as LinkedIn and the her school’s career portal.

“I think the realities of the job market has changed the way people expect to find a job and how they prepare for it,” O'Mara said. “I think the right preparation for finding a job has led new college graduates to be more optimistic about their job search.”

Many say they believe the class of 2015's optimism is well-founded. Lynda Spiegel, founder of career coaching and resume writing service Rising Star Resumes, said not only has the economy has done a 180 since the worst days of the Great Recession — which hit Millennials badly — but also there's been a shift in that employers are now vigorously recruiting recent graduates because they possess skills for jobs that barely existed even five years ago.

“They have the skill set to hit the ground running for jobs in robotics, UI/UX design, app design and so on,” Spiegel said. “In fact, a significant percentage of these young people fully intend to by-pass employment in favor of entrepreneurship.”

However, the optimism of the Class of 2015 does not translate to recent 2013 and 2014 graduates. Nearly half of those graduates consider themselves underemployed or working in a job that does not require a college degree. Those numbers are an increase from 46% of graduates surveyed in 2014 and 41% of those surveyed in 2013.

Julie Drew, a professor of English at the University of Akron, said the seeming disconnect between 2013 and 2014 graduates and their more recent counterparts is not really surprising. She said students generally feel a sense of confidence and preparedness when they graduate from college, but unfortunately, there is no causal relationship between the job market and that confidence.

“It can and often is simultaneously true that students are prepared for their careers, and that job opportunities in their careers are few and far between,” said Drew, adding most believe jobs are a lagging indicator in an improving economy. So while students feel confident, the jobs sector has not caught up in terms of demand.

Todd Rhoad, managing director of BT Consulting, an Atlanta-based career consulting firm, said college graduates always are confident their career outcomes will improve with education, and it's not until two to three years after graduation young eager professionals begin to understand the challenges in growing their career.

“Are they ready for the real world?" he said. "In my view, no. But, who is? Even seasoned professionals are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.”

Rhoad said while graduates continue to be optimistic in their abilities, companies also have transitioned from training and developing employees to a desire for employees who make a huge impact from day one.

“Both expectations, students and companies, are unrealistic," Rhoad said.

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