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Davis, California

Monday, March 4, 2024

How difficult is it to get a job after college?

Recent graduates and Executive Director at UC Davis’ Internship and Career Center, Marcie Kirk Holland, share their experiences 


By SABRINA FIGUEROA — features@theaggie.org


Graduation is one of the biggest events that will happen to a student in higher education. Being both relaxing and stressful, graduation is a double-bound finish line in which students feel the weight of coursework come off their shoulders, only for the weight of the “real world” to take its place.

Among students in the United States, about 87% agree that obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher helps with acquiring a well-paying and stable career. However, an influx of recent Gen-Z graduates has taken to social media platforms, such as TikTok and X, to say that the act of acquiring said “stable career” is hard in 2023.

“I think it’s human nature to say something you don’t know how to do is hard. Students don’t know how to look for jobs, most of them have never done it,” Marcie Kirk Holland, executive director at UC Davis’ Internship and Career Center, said. “The way they have gotten their jobs in high school, or even their on-campus jobs, often is a little bit different than what they have to do going through looking for career positions. It’s brought with rejection. So yeah, that’s really hard.”

Rejection is difficult to go through, especially when you’ve just finished college and you don’t know that it’s normal. Fear of lack of experience adds to that frustration of rejection and the difficulty of finding a job. A LinkedIn analysis found that 35% of entry-level positions posted on their website required at least three years of experience.

Ibeth Ramos, a 2022 Sacramento State University alumnus with a degree in business and fashion merchandising, recalled her thoughts on the post-grad hiring process.

“I felt like maybe I would get rejected for some [positions] since I don’t have much experience in managing or anything besides retail,” Ramos said. “Anything that listed a lot of experience was frustrating because I always thought they would reject me.”

Future college graduates get anxious that they will have the same rate of rejection during that process due to inexperience.

“Having to get internships and experience for an actual job makes me a little more terrified than getting the actual job,” Karla Torres, a second-year health science major at Sacramento State, said. “I’m always like, ‘What if no [employer] wants me?’”

Students are heard when it comes to their fears of job rejection and inexperience, but they shouldn’t count themselves out yet. Holland explained that there are “transferable experience and skills” from regular customer service jobs, clubs and even coursework that can be put on resumes for employers to see.

“A job posting is a wishlist,” she stated. So if job-postings are posted on websites such as Handshake, the employers know that the target audience is going to be recent college graduates.

“The posting may say four years of experience is required,” Holland said, “but odds are high, most people applying will not have that.”

Ramos gave her advice on applying for positions that students may feel inexperienced for.

“Apply to as many jobs as you can even if you think you are not qualified,” Ramos said. “They might still give you a call back for an interview.”

It is also heavily encouraged to apply to jobs fairly early. Many think that you have to have the actual degree before you can apply to a job within your field of interest, but that isn’t true. In fact, it is encouraged that fourth-years in college start looking for a job before they graduate. Holland noted that this is because it can take several months for students to get a job offer.

“If you wait until after graduation, it might be that your lease is up in August, and you might have to move back in with people that you lived with in high school,” she said.

She noted that the new independence that college graduates may seek disappears if they have to go back to depending on their legal guardians.

At UC Davis, the Internship and Career Center urges students to leave their college experience with stable career positions by graduation. UC Davis human development alum Amena Mushtaq said she started looking for jobs right before graduation.

“The job I was looking for did not require a degree in my major, but it was highly preferred,” Mushtaq said.

On average, the amount of time it takes for students to get a job offer after they begin their search is about three to six months. At UC Davis, the average time frame is around six months, but varies quite a bit depending on the kind of networking and preparation the student does, such as attending career fairs at their schools.

Mushtaq shared her experience and said that she stayed confident in herself during the search process.

“I had experience in many areas related to the jobs,” Mushtaq said, “and knew it was all a learning process moving forward.” It only took her about one week to get her first job offer.

Ramos stated that it took her only a couple of weeks after her last semester at Sacramento State University began to get a job offer.

Karen Aguayo, a San Francisco State University alumnus with a degree in nursing further discussed this topic.

“I received a job offer three weeks after I passed my NCLEX licensing exam,” Aguayo said, “but it wasn’t until three months after that I received a job offer at my dream hospital and unit.”

The first job offers, though, don’t have to be accepted if the graduate doesn’t see the offer as sufficient. This can happen for a myriad of reasons, the main one being that recent graduates tend to reject job offers that have low salaries. A CNBC report showed that most students won’t take less than $72,000 and overestimate their expected salaries by $30,000. This overestimation can contribute to the difficulty level students perceive when acquiring and looking for a good career position.

“I’ll be honest, some people are unrealistic about what they’re going to make at an entry-level, but sometimes companies do try to undercut and don’t pay well,” Holland said. She explained that thinking through the offers — and even going to career advisors or family members for help — is an important step in the process.

Aguayo rejected her first offer due to the duration of the contract and the terms behind it, plus the incentive. She later elaborated that she received help from a family friend during the offer process, since she is a first-generation college graduate.

“I was frustrated because I felt like I had no one to fall back on at times,” Aguayo said.
“[…] Navigating everything on my own was new.”

Beginning career searches for positions is an overwhelming and difficult process, but that’s no secret. Although students can find themselves in pools of frustration and tears during this time, it’s not their fault and the feeling is mutual amongst many.

There are a plethora of resources for graduates to use much like the Internship and Career Centers at their selected schools, career fairs, family members and the use of networking through speakers, recruiters or internships.

Whether there is a long wait for the first job offer or students have to take a job that isn’t necessarily updated to the cost of living, the experiences of Ramos, Aguayo and Mushtaq show that there is still hope for students.


Written by: Sabrina Figueroa — features@theaggie.org



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