Without a doubt, the most difficult decision a business student has to make is what kind of career they want to pursue after graduation. Oh sure, there are those who graduate high school knowing they’ll be an Accountant or take over a family member’s business. But business school isn’t like engineering school. If you graduate in Electrical Engineering, there a pretty good chance you’ll look for work as an Electrical Engineer. But degrees in Management, Finance, Economics, or Marketing pretty much leave life’s screen door wide open.

So now you’re getting close to graduation. What’s next? Can’t go back to school…don’t want to join the Peace Corps…couldn’t do a sit up even with the drill sergeant screaming at you…yep, you’re stuck like Chuck. Gonna have to go to work! Having trouble deciding what to do? In my first post I said that a contributing factor to Orlando’s Identity Crisis was recent college graduates’ lack of knowledge about the entry-level job market. Some of the feedback I’ve received supports this idea so here’s my two cents…

Figuring out what you want to be can be accomplished by combining the “Three A’s”:

Ability – I worked with a guy who said he never worked a day in his life because he got paid to do what he loved. Everyone knows someone like that. My friend loved working on old cars, was a talented body man, and made his living running a chain of body shops. Sounds simple enough? Not so fast, I like to cook, but I certainly don’t do it well enough to make a living. Focus on those things where you have true talent. What do you do well? If you don’t know what you do well, then look to “A1.2” – Assessment. There are a lot of skills and personality assessments out there that can help you identify your core competencies and suggest careers that utilize those competencies. In our office we use CareerLeader, a product used by many graduate business career offices that was developed by the Harvard Business School. Once you’ve done all that and figured out your talents, remember an extra piece of advice my friend gave. Learn to live within the means that your talent provides. If you have talents that point to a career in Human Resources, but want to live the life of a Wall Street Investment Banker, then you probably won’t be successful or happy. Note to students…do this BEFORE you get too far along in school. Don’t get a degree in Accounting just because your dad told you that’s what you should do.

Available – I hear it all the time, “I’d like to get a job in a corporate headquarters and work my way up in the organization.” Cool…where are you moving? Orlando is not exactly a hub for corporate headquarters. We all know the big names; Darden, Tupperware, um…can I buy a vowel? This “A” is all about research, knowing the jobs in the local economy, learning how to live off the land and surviving on what’s available. Ever watch Survivorman? If he’s been ditched way up in the Alaskan tundra, he’s not living off spit roasted Cottonmouth. Why? No sticks to use a spit! Oh…and no Cottonmouths, either. He’s living on what he can find where he is. Job seekers must also learn to live on the jobs that are available. Want to live in Orlando, then get to know what kinds of companies and jobs that are available in Orlando. The Orlando Business Journal publishes its “Book of Lists” each year with dozens of lists and hundreds of companies. Want to know what community banks are in Central Florida? There’s a list of them in…The Book of Lists! Then look through a localized and targeted online job board like OrlandoJobs.com to see what’s being advertised in this area. This is basic supply and demand economics. Successful job seekers are supplying something that’s in demand.

Ask Around – One of the best things a soon to graduate student can do is stop just talking to other students and start talking to people who are working. Formally this is called conducting an “Informational Interview.” Informally it’s called chatting folks up. Be curious. Ask people what they do for a living. Ask them how they like it. Ask how they got to that position. Ask if they needed additional training or specific experience to get there. Ask them what kinds of tasks they work on each day. What do they like doing? What do they not like doing. Why do they like doing the things they like. Ask what other people in their office do. When you can’t ask any more questions, ask if they could recommend other people you can talk to. Who do you talk to? Everyone. Go to networking meetings. Be active in your alumni association. If you’ve targeted a job, look for professional associations.

A colleague of mine told students there was a “rule of three” in her class. If you had a question, you needed to try to find the answer in three different places before coming to ask. The “Three A’s” are your career “Rule of Three.” Good luck!!