New College Grads Face Working World

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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: As an English major graduating from a large, research-oriented university, I haven't been given any help on how to even look for a job in my field. I have experience in journalism, and I have been told I'm a talented writer, but I feel like there just aren't any entry-level jobs for people like me. I spent a semester in London instead of an internship and now I find myself unable to make any professional connections. I am not a marketable candidate for the type of jobs open to recent college graduates. What am I to do with a B.A. in English?

Tory Johnson: Instead of focusing on what you don't have (internship experience), focus on what you do bring to a potential employer (cultural savvy). English majors can do just about anything they set their sights on -- sales, marketing, writing, editing, teaching, human resources, event planning, research, project management and so much more.

Networking doesn't just come through internships. You can make valuable professional connections through family and friends, by joining professional associations and by connecting with other alumni. Ask your university to put you in touch with a few people who earned the same degree as you from the last five graduating classes. See what they're doing and what advice they might have for you. You'll no doubt be very surprised by the wide range of careers those people are now pursuing. Start looking at the glass half full, not so empty! Question: I am graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., in June with a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design with a minor in painting. My question is, how long is the average amount of time between graduation and finding a job?

Currently, I am dealing with moving back to Indiana, trying to find a job and deciding where I should begin the next chapter of my life. My parents are concerned that I find a job in the near future, while I am more worried about making a rushed decision that ends up not being what I want.

During the first weeks back at home, do I find a local graphic design job in my hometown? Or do I work at a restaurant while looking for another, full-time job? The other side of this is, I don't know how different a career in the arts is compared to one in another field. Should I be more picky in finding a job? Should it take me longer to find a place that needs my creative outlook?

Tory Johnson: The process of discovering if a particular opportunity is the right one for you requires getting in there and testing the waters. You'll never know if the position or employer are perfect for you until you're in the trenches. This is especially true in the early stages of your career when you have minimal perspective on working in your field.

Instead of focusing on finding the ideal job, the aim should be to jump in with an opportunity in your industry. Once you've gotten some experience under your belt, you'll be able to define what the "perfect" job might look like -- and then set a course in motion to find it.

Question: I am about to graduate with a masters degree, which is a huge accomplishment that I'm proud of, considering I'm deaf. Now that I'm applying for jobs, it's a challenge for me to tell the employers I don't talk on the telephone. If I reveal my disability, I feel they are turned off and think that it impacts my ability to do my job. If I don't reveal my disability, then they attempt to contact me via telephone, when I would rather they e-mail me instead. How do I approach this situation?

Tory Johnson: At some point fairly early on in the interview process, you'll have to meet with people face to face. No employer will offer you a position based on e-mail exchanges. Your goal must be to address their hidden concerns head-on. I use the word "hidden," because many people are naturally uncomfortable when they aren't sure what to say or how to react when faced with a new challenge. Interviewing a deaf person might be just such a challenge.

Once you've gotten a sense that an employer is interested in you based on initial feedback from your resume, instead of just announcing that you're deaf -- or hiding from it -- be clear about your situation. For example, you might respond via e-mail by writing "I appreciate your interest in me, and I'm eager to interview with you for this position. Since I am deaf, I'd like to bring an interpreter to the interview. I am confident that I have the skills and abilities to succeed in this position, and I'd welcome the chance to address how we can handle any communications challenges as well."

Many cities and states offer taxpayer-funded interpreting services for job seekers going on interviews and to career fairs. You should look into such programs in your area to see if they'd benefit you. Question: My daughter graduated from the University of Dayton in December 2005. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications/public relations and a minor in marketing. She would dearly love to get into sports media relations (she says her ultimate goal is to be the commissioner of the NHL someday). She has had numerous interviews and sent many, many resumes. Still nothing. For now she has moved back home and works in a local convenience store so she can start paying for student loans coming up. The problem is, everyone she has interviewed with or sent resumes to says she doesn't have the experience. How is a college grad supposed to get experience? Help please.

Tory Johnson: Every company employs entry-level people, so don't give up. Your daughter should ask her college's career service office for a list of employers that are hiring new grads from the school.

She should also ask for feedback from the people she's interviewed with. She can thank them for their time and ask for candid feedback. "I appreciate your interest in me, even though I wasn't selected for the position. I'd welcome your candid feedback on why I didn't get the offer so that I can learn and grow as I launch my career."

That feedback might shed light on something she's doing wrong or provide insight on issues for her to consider. She can also ask if they'd be willing to hire her on a part-time or freelance basis, which would enable her to gain valuable experience and allow the employers to see her in action before making a formal, long-term commitment.

To connect directly with Tory Johnson, visit womenforhire.com.

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