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WATCH: Career advice for new (or old) grads: How to become that super innovative, employable, well-balanced worker bee

College may have provided us a fine set of books but it doesn't school us in the nuances of the modern workplace


Chris Murphey
May 20, 2017 7:00PM (UTC)

If college is about to be in your rearview mirror but a new job hasn't yet landed on the horizon line perhaps it's a good time to digest all the advice you’ve absorbed and consider some new inputs to help you decide where to steer your new post-undergrad life. Your parents are urging you to find a job, while your friends tempt you with an epic road trip and you may not know where to turn next.

Consider some of the sage advice from the workplace experts who have recently appeared on "Salon Talks" to gain a sense of what life will be as you join the workforce. Campus life may have been comfortable over the past few years but now it's time to learn to navigate the marketplace.

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According to one recent study, starting salaries for current graduates have climbed considerably over the years. The Hay Group analyzed 145,000 entry-level jobs from more than 700 companies and found that the average annual salary a college grad can expect to make is $49,875 — 14 percent more than what graduates earned a decade ago. And for students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, add 14 percent to 30 percent to the figure. But if you majored in liberal arts and find that somewhat depressing, don’t fret.

Here are three key questions to guide job seekers along the path to career success.

1. Did I pick the wrong major to succeed in the work world?

Scott Hartley, the author of “The Fuzzy and the Techie,” recently told Salon that entrepreneurs or innovator types with liberal arts backgrounds can be every bit as successful as graduates with science backgrounds. Hartley’s very unscientific study is based on his interactions with venture capitalists and startups in Silicon Valley. “To be sure, there were plenty of MIT engineers and Stanford computer science majors," Hartley told Salon.

"What I would say to [those of you who] understand a particular domain that you may or may not think [has] relevance in the modern economy is that you understand a problem set that nobody else may understand,” said Hartley, a former Presidential Innovation Fellow in the Obama administration. “The real comparative advantage in this world, where technology is becoming more and more democratized and more accessible, is the understanding of a particular problem where there is actually what I call ‘a heart attack rather than a headache.’"

Added Hartley: "Where there is really a willingness to pay, there’s really something that needs to be fixed.”

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Learn more about Hartley’s vision of how a liberal arts education pays off in Silicon Valley by watching his “Salon Talks” interview below.

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2. What will my life in the office be like?

To be honest, you might not even work in an office — at least of the sort that your father or mother did.

Kathryn Minshew and Alex Cavoulacos, co-authors of “The New Rules of Work,told Salon that the old-fashioned workplace is nearing obsoletion in this era of flexible workspaces. Instead you may work from home as a freelancer or contractor, and nimbly move from gig to gig.

The 9-to-5 drill that your parents followed is being replaced by a more open-ended workday. Minshew and Cavoulacos, who run the career coaching site The Muse, encourage workers both young and old to set boundaries between work life and leisure time. As Minshew pointed out for someone to be constantly available to respond to an employer is “not a recipe for a successful, creative, productive person over the long term.”

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Learn to strike the right balance by watching Minshew and Cavoulacos' “Salon Talks” interview.

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3. How do I know what salary to ask for?

Perhaps the most daunting part of lining up a new job is negotiating a salary when an offer is on the table. “Fifty-seven percent of men negotiate their salaries," financial news reporter Nicole Lapin told Salon in a recent interview. "Seven percent of women do.” Lapin's new book, “Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career,” offers a provocative take on how women can find success and be in control of their careers. She advises women to remain ambitious and fight for what they desire

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“I’m taking back the word and owning it as a badge of honor," Lapin said in explanation of her use of the pejorative five-letter word in her book's title. "When I started off my career, I was called a bitch in a derogatory sense, and what that meant was that I was strong, powerful, aggressive."

Said Lapin: "And if that meant I was a bitch, then hello! I’m a bitch and I’m owning it.”

Both men and women can learn how to best approach salary negotiations and sustain an attitude that's ripe for seizing opportunity by watching Lapin's “Salon Talks” interview.

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Chris Murphey

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