College Grads Get Ready for Work

As college graduation approaches, we asked "Good Morning America" viewers to submit their career-related questions to us. In all the entries we received, there was a general theme of worry: worry about how to find fulfillment at work, how to land a job and how to make ends meet. ABC News workplace contributor Tory Johnson provides some expert advice on tackling those fears and launching great careers.

Question: I graduated in May 2004 and have been working for a year and half now. I should be happy that I have a well-paying job and great benefits, but after graduating with a B.A. in economics, I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life. I'm not happy with my current position, and I feel that the next step would be to go to graduate school. What is the next step?

Tory Johnson: While it's perfectly acceptable to want to pursue additional education, it's unclear why you believe going to graduate school would make you happier with your career options. How would an additional degree provide you with more satisfaction?

If you're not content with your current position, there are other options to consider. For starters, you can switch jobs! Try talking to your alumni relations office to find out what types of employers are hiring economics majors from your college. Ask them to connect you with former students who graduated your year and previous years with the same degree. Find out what they're doing professionally and see if it sparks new ideas about potential paths for you to pursue. That type of networking and exploration is wise before deciding to hit the books again.

Question: I graduated last May from graduate school, and since that time I have struggled to find a job suitable for me. I currently live in Chicago, but I am looking for an administrative/clerical position in Atlanta or Columbus, Ga.

I'm between a rock and a hard place -- some employers see my MBA on the resume and assume I should be looking for management jobs, which I've tried to do. However, when employers get down to my primarily administrative/customer service background, they realize that management jobs may not be the best option for me (as I don't have hands-on working experience in that area). I have the training from my MBA, but it doesn't seem to replace work experience.

As a result, I'm trying to pursue jobs for which I do have hands-on work experience -- administrative/clerical jobs. Before I graduated with my MBA, I thought I wouldn't have too much trouble finding a suitable job. In fact, I thought graduates like myself would be in demand. So, it's been a tough postgrad life for me.

Tory Johnson:After earning an MBA, chances are you won't be happy working in a clerical position and it will be difficult convincing an employer to hire you for such.

Since you are trying to relocate, think about national employers, unless you're able to make several visits to your desired city to build contacts and schedule interviews.

I suggest looking at management training programs where your education and experience would be put to great use. For example, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has an exceptional program -- one of the best in the country -- that would provide you with exposure to all aspects of the business and offer you opportunities for advancement based on your interests and expertise. Major retailers have great training programs as well, so consider looking at them too.

Question: In May I'm graduating with a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley, and I'm thoroughly unsure about what I'm going to do, want to do, and what I'm expected to do with my postgraduate life.

I'm not sure what avenues I would like to pursue (career-wise), although I would love to move out of the Bay Area to either Southern California, New York or somewhere overseas. Is there a job out there that incorporates my interests -- my love for learning about different people and cultures, traveling, art, the beach, Spanish, world politics, design and urban planning. A job that I would qualify for, keeping in mind I really don't have much experience? And if there is, could I actually get paid in a career I love? My goal is to be able to pay rent, bills and loans, while still being able to save some money for graduate school. I feel like I will have to win the lottery to make enough money to meet my financial requirements … and we all know the chances of that.

Ideally, my perfect job would come and find me. Is this possible, and if not, how would I find it?

Tory Johnson: It's OK to be worried and excited about how you'll find your passion and pay your bills.

The good news is that your school has incredible resources to offer students who feel the exact same way as you do. It's up to you to take advantage of those programs and services.

Make an appointment with a campus career services adviser to evaluate your options. A career services adviser can do a range of things such as administering personality tests that provide insight into your true passions and strengths, which will lead to identifying natural career paths. They can also provide a list of positions that recruiters from a wide range of industries and businesses look to fill on college campuses. Such a list often provokes excitement because you may come across a job description that has your name written all over it. That could be the "aha!" moment you're looking for. Also, ask for salary stats on what new grads are being offered in various industries. That might drive your thinking.

You should also connect with alumni with the same degree you're about to receive. Find out what they're doing professionally, since you might become inspired.

Question: I am quickly approaching my 52nd birthday, and I will soon be graduating from the University of Phoenix with a B.S. in business management. I am getting excited as the graduation day approaches. I am considering auditioning as a speaker at my commencement ceremony.

But I am getting concerned that I am getting too old to use my degree effectively in the job force. I am also very concerned about repaying my student loans. I work at Macy's and would really like to move up the corporate ladder. It's a great place to work, they just don't pay much money. I have a lot to think about in the next year.

Tory JohnsonHave a candid conversation with the HR manager at Macy's. Be clear that you love your position as a sales associate, but mention that you're eager to develop a career path that would use your other skills and enable you to grow with the company. Ask if the company sees such opportunities available to you in the next three to six months, and if so, what steps do you need to take to move in the right direction.

You can also apply for management training programs at other retailers in your area. Most retailers recognize the value of hiring mature workers: You're patient with customers, you're not likely to leave after a short period of time, and you're reliable and punctual. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone, but it's a general view of your generation in that line of work, which I hope gives you some confidence about your prospects.

Finally, meet with the University of Phoenix job placement specialists. They have a very aggressive program to convince people to enroll in their programs with promises of better career opportunities upon graduation. You must hold them to that promise so it's more than a marketing gimmick. Ask them what support they can provide -- from resume development and interview skills to developing leads and landing an offer.

To connect directly with Tory Johnson or for other information on career advancement, visit