May is a time of warming temperatures, cherry blossoms and Memorial Day cookouts. It's also a time when college graduates are forced into the real world, collectively letting out a worried sigh that's accompanied by the question, "What next?" This year's graduating class is entering a volatile world. On one hand, unemployment remains at 8% nationally (and is actually closer to 12.5% for jobseekers ages 20-24). Yet, there is a national labor shortage for engineers of all disciplines, especially mobile app developers. So dire is the shortage of talented developers, startups are being acquired by companies like Google and Facebook not for their products, but for their engineers. Just this week, Facebook purchased mobile app maker Glancee, who immediately pulled its app off Apple's App Store. The company had three employees and only 3,000 unique users. Typical "acqui-hire" transactions such as this value a company in the $1 million per engineer range.
The jobs landscape for graduates is further complicated by the fact that European economies are in shambles. In a stinging editorial aimed at what he describes as overly entitled college graduates, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens writes,
Your competition is global . . . In places like Ireland, France, India and Spain, your most talented and ambitious peers are graduating into economies even more depressed than America's. Unlike you, they probably speak several languages. They may also have a degree in a hard science or engineering-skills that transfer easily to the more remunerative jobs in investment banks or global consultancies.
All of this, and today's graduate is carrying more college loan debt than ever before. So what is a fresh graduate to do?
If you're an engineer or software developer, go get paid. Finding a job will not be hard for you. Since you have the luxury of choice, pick a company that will satisfy your millennial drive to have a positive impact on the world. Realize that you have skills the world wants badly, but that you know very little about the world and have a ton to learn about life. Go forth and prosper. That is all.
For the rest of you, just do something. Too often, I see recent graduates in dead-end jobs (or worse, not working at all). They tell me that they are holding out for that perfect job. Years might go by with this approach, and then you're really screwed. That perfect job is not out there. And even if it is, you wouldn't know what it looks like. My advice is pretty simple. Forget the company name, job description, title, and to extent it's possible, the salary. Find one person, or even better, a group of really smart, good people from whom you can learn. Bonus points if these people are in a business or industry that inspires you. Either way, do whatever it takes to get a job there - any job. The job won't matter anyhow, since the average professional in his or her 20s changes jobs every 18 months. What matters most is that you learn, grow and develop skills by just doing something. Get the ball rolling so that when things turn around, you've had some reps.
I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated from college. Luckily, I stumbled into a job where I was surrounded by brilliant, great people that not only taught me skills, but helped me find a career.
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Robert Hatta is Vice President of Entrepreneurial Talent and assists JumpStart client and portfolio companies in their efforts to recruit and retain entrepreneurial talent at all levels.