April 18, 2011

Shy College Kids – Just Get Over It

Second semester is nearly finished and college students who hadn’t been panicked before about summer employment are feeling the pressure now. Parents are asking, counselors are asking, friends are asking…everyone seems to be focused on one thing when greeting the college students in their circle: Have you got your summer job yet?

The thing is, a lot of students have done a lot of thinking about jobs, and many have done some applying, but not too many have gone overboard. How do I know this? Because I know college kids and how shy they can be. Not that I understand it, because I don’t. I have seen college sophomores dance wildly on spring break with barely any clothes on, then claim to be too shy to talk to the recruiters at a job fair. Likewise, we have a teen in our house who will sing off-key in a karaoke bar in front of 30 strangers, but will he call just one stranger on the phone?

There’s more psychology involved here than I could hope to master, so I don’t try. Mostly I lean toward the “just do it” model when it comes to budging shy students out of their comfort zones. When that doesn’t work, I escalate to “just do it or else” – as in, if you don’t do it, you won’t like the consequences.

When it comes to job search, the “it” that college students need to “just do” includes: talking to recruiters at campus job fairs, signing up for recruiter interviews on campus, meeting with the campus career office for advice, calling employers directly to ask about job opportunities, dropping off resumes in person, and meeting with networking contacts. The “or else” part? Do this, or else you will be unemployed all summer and possibly the rest of your life. How do you like them apples?

You can say this is an overstatement of the dire effects of never talking to anyone about jobs, but I would say it’s actually a conservative assessment. When it comes down to it, college students don’t have to master the art of small talk, although that would be helpful. They just have to start talking to people about jobs. Think of it like a research paper or lab, or any other school task you may not enjoy – you still do it, right? Then just do this too. Or else.

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