What's not gonna happen...when you first graduate

+ keep it real tips for recent (PR) graduates

by Kia Jarmon

So every month we receive something like three to five – doubled when close to graduation - resumes and cover letters from young, green, naïvely prepared graduates. Honestly, when those emails come in I have a bit of nostalgia as I reflect back on being that age; the world was my oyster and I was excited to take over my part of it. But that bright, shiny feeling wore off within a couple of weeks, which is about how long it took for me to shake off the wanderlust and started my own PR agency.

kia jarmon graduate


I quickly realized that the world was going to chew me up, spit me out and pick parts of me out of its teeth with no regard for that four-year degree, or put another way, that piece of paper that sits so delicately on my parent’s hutch.

As I receive those resumes, get those nervous calls, or meet young people in person, I am reminded of so many things that I wish they knew while seeking a new position. As such, over the last ten years I’ve made it my business to keep it real, provide feedback and be a very candid mentor so that the shock isn’t as harsh as Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. And today is no different.

So, for you dear graduate, this is my letter to you and a list of “what may not happen.”

Dear bright eyed graduate,

As you journey into “adulting" and learn that life is more than a hashtag, I want you to remember these few and true things.

You may not make $50,000 a year. At least not initially. People work thousands – many times 10,000 expert hours to be exact – to make a healthy salary. I ask of you, what are you willing to sacrifice to work at your dream job? What are you willing to learn at some of your own expense? What is the cost you pay now to secure your future?

You may not have your own office. Two things are happening: more offices are opting for an open space, collaborative environment and more offices are being careful of their overhead (i.e., hard costs to run a business). So where does that leave you? Probably somewhere in a corner without your own walls. Get over it. You will have to learn small talk, to bring headphones to work, and be mindful of your Beyonce watching vs. working.

You may not be leading business meetings. Equally, you are probably not first on the list to take charge of a campaign or account from beginning to end. You will live. You should take time to learn. You have a lifetime to make decisions. Consider your time filing papers, taking notes, and ordering lunch as an investment into your future.

Along the same lines, you may not be directing strategy. It takes years and experience to understand how to move from tactician to strategist. It’s not just a topic or fancy meeting title but the development of the next big move in a business. One decision, too far left, right, or centered could be damaging or the perfect fit. Take your time getting to this point. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

You may not be spending your time traipsing the city. You will spend a significant amount of time at your desk. For months, the most excitement you see could be the conference room or bathroom. Get used to it. We’ve all had to answer the phones, ask “can I get you water or coffee,” and even (gasp) had to run errands.

You may not get the position you want. Who cares? Take a job with a company you enjoy even if it’s in a different department. Do you know how much simpler it is to transfer departments rather than apply for a brand new job job you probably aren’t even qualified for? Consider a cultural fit. A place where you can flex all of the skills you believe you learned in school.

You may not get a raise or promotion for a while. It takes time to earn your space (or your stripes). You’ve had a four-year babysitter and now you have to prove that you can go at it alone. Work hard, extremely hard. If it goes unnoticed, you make a decision, stay or go. But don’t expect it to be immediate.

You will need more than a college degree. What else do you know? What else do you bring to the table? A degree is a wonderful tool to get you in the door, but now that you are here, what’s next? What skills can complement your industry? What additional soft skills could be useful? Point is, you are among hundreds, even thousands, who also have their eye on the prize. How will you outwork them?

Your textbooks may not have prepared you. Read more. One of our first interview questions is “what is the last book or blog read, or podcast listened to?” If experience is not on your side, maybe someone else’s can be? Think about how you can apply knowledge to current trends or case studies.

 You may not have a 9 – 5. You will have a get started to get done. Don’t drag in after the whole team and don’t go running out when 4:55pm hits. There may be nights and weekends, checking email/phone during vacations, and even late night check-ins. You will survive. Later in your career you can set boundaries but for today you work and get it done.

You may not be praised for doing work. Motivate yourself. Doing good work is expected. You will produce some of the best work of your short lived life but guess what, it was cool, do more, be better, continue working hard. You won’t get a cookie.

So, my dear graduate. I want you to know that I – along with many others – are rooting for you. You deserve to want the best for yourself. BUT put all of that effort into context for what you want long-term.

Tenured professionals, what say you? What advice do you have?

Kia Jarmon is creator of brand depth + facilitator of ideas + curator of conversation + sculptor of stories at boutique PR and brand strategy firm MEPR Agency. She also loves connecting businesses & people to their heartbeat and coaches them through a Brand Mapping program, where they navigate their brand compass. Kia is a 27 year life-time member of Girl Scouts and daily she lives by the promise "on my honor I will try…to help people at all times". You can find more atwww.MEPRagency.com or www.KiaJarmon.com.