As a junior at a university in Washington, D.C., I know I’ll be facing stiff competition when it’s time to enter the workforce. Many of my peers are concerned about finding jobs after they graduate. Despite having had internship opportunities and part-time/short-term jobs, we’re aware that we’ll be competing with people who have more experience.
But I’ve learned a few things from some of the titles on the Department of Labor’s list of “Books That Shaped Work in America” that have helped me prepare for what’s to come. I’d recommend two books in particular to all of my peers who are stressing about their inability to properly market themselves, transition into a full-time career, or those who just need some motivational words.
“Always define WHAT you want to do with your life and WHAT you have to offer to the world, in terms of your favorite talents/gifts/skills − not in terms of a job-title.”
“What Color is Your Parachute?” was required reading for my internship classes, and I am so glad that it was. It has self-assessments designed to help you understand your own skills and interests, as well as practical advice ranging from acting professionally in the workplace to how to network effectively.
One great tip was focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t. So while people my age might not have a long resume, we should be prepared to tell employers all about the skills we do have. Another good tip is that, of all the ways to search for a job, relying on the Internet is probably the least effective. That’s where networking and making the most of contacts really comes into play.
Originally published in 1970, it’s been updated many times over the years to remain relevant for an ever-changing workforce. It’s a great resource for those just starting out in the workforce, or people looking to switch careers. I attribute much of my own personal success (so far!) in the jobs and internships I’ve held to the lessons I have learned in this book.
“We ought to start doing the things we believe in,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us, and we better start now.”
The legacy of the 1955 novel, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” − and film starring Gregory Peck − has lived on in popular culture for decades, with the most recent echoes found in “Mad Men.”
The novel is about a WWII veteran with a wife and three kids in the suburbs who lands a job in PR at a large corporation. The work pays well enough, but isn’t satisfying. While it’s an iconic story in the business world, the messages apply to workers in any field, at any level. “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” is about being true to yourself in your job, whatever that may be, and it shows how a little innovation and entrepreneurship can lead to a more satisfying career. It also is a great example of learning from your mistakes. Sometimes you have to take a risk at work − which might mean being honest even when it isn’t easy − but those risks are what will help open up new opportunities.
One of my biggest takeaways from these two books is that sometimes the path to the right job isn’t obvious or clearly defined. A career is a process of self-discovery … that’s why I’m not too worried about my own. I’d encourage other college students to read both of these books, if just for an extra boost of confidence before heading out into the world of work.
Mandy Kraft is in an intern in the department’s Office of Public Affairs.