What Companies Expect from Recent Graduates; What College Does NOT Prepare You For

When people are ready to take the next step in their lives, college is frequently seen as the most valuable path to take. It is the river of knowledge that individuals seek to receive training to enter the workforce. But does college really train students for what companies expect from them?

Throughout my college experience, I have learned valuable lessons for my entrance into the corporate world:

  • Experience is crucial to help you stand out.Completing internships provides the hands-on knowledge of what working in the real world is like. Internships offer a good overview of a specific industry to help students decide on what career they want. It shows companies just how passionate someone is about their chosen career field.
  • First impressions can make or break you.Dress-to-impress those you are interested in working for. It’s simple: would you hire someone who dressed like they’re casually going to the mall?
  • Resume, resume, and resume: Colleges do not stress enough that the career services department is always available. The resume is considered the first ‘first impression’ before the interview even takes place.

A few months ago, a graduate student teacher of mine discussed important information about how companies function and what they expect from employees. He/she randomly asked a few friends who work in corporate settings about newly hired college graduates. What was shared with the class startled me, but came as no surprise: College does not teach the simple basics about the work environment such as taking notes or where you should sit in a meeting; the things you generally do not think about. Now, with me being the Curious George that I am, I wanted to see if this can happen anywhere.

I sat down with KNB Senior Account Executive Kate Ottavio Kent to see what her opinions are concerning this matter from her own personal experience.

When Kate was just starting to get her career off the ground, there was a time where she was still in the learning process at a company, and did not know what the nuances of working in the “real world” were. It was not until she had a helping hand from a colleague advising what was expected from her, that she began to understand corporate life.
“There were very few instances when a teacher would explain a work life lesson, and I wish there were more,” Kate explains.

In the PR industry, client relationships play a key role in maintaining an agency’s success. How someone interacts is extremely important when it comes to working with others. But just having a great personality is just the beginning; there must be a passion for the field with a hunger for knowledge.

What is meant by passion is the amount of participation that someone can bring to a company. For example, note taking is considered one of the most important tactics, whether it is during a meeting or when planning out things for the week. It gives off the impression that you:
A) Care about what is going on
B) Want to learn
C) Are organized

Passion can also include how someone presents themselves at the office. However, if there is a constant vibe of ‘boredom’ being given off, they can quickly be perceived as negative by others. It is important to be focused and a participant during work hours; whether by asking questions, including a personal opinion in a meeting, or even casually talking with other co-workers.

“Even a crazy idea can turn in a brilliant idea…” Kate states. She believes participation is never frowned upon. Asking questions and learning is what internships are all about. It shows a passion for the work that is being done.

So the question still remains: Does college really train students for what companies expect from them? In my opinion from hearing two separate stories about the issue, I am siding with “no”. It is unfortunate that most of our college knowledge will come from textbooks, and not from word of mouth. My personal advice for those who are about to graduate into the real world is to not be afraid to ask questions. Ask your teacher, boss, older family member, etc. and, try and gain as much knowledge as possible. Knowledge is key to success and success is key to a bright future.


4 thoughts on “What Companies Expect from Recent Graduates; What College Does NOT Prepare You For

  1. As a final year student who is currently trying to break into the world of PR, this article resonates with me. And it would appear that even before the stage of work placements, university students are pretty unprepared. For example, I had an interview for a public relations internship recently, and was told that I was at a disadvantage because I have no prior experience in PR, even though I do have a work history in other relevant areas and a keen desire to learn.

    I’m currently facing the stark reality that I’m going to need work experience before I can get further work experience and as a soon to be graduate, this catch 22 is something I was totally unprepared for.

    I do wish that this kind of thing had been drilled into me from first year, in the form of either compulsory student development meetings or regular e-mails from the career service – which only began appearing in my inbox at the start of this year, by which point finals were more important.

    That said, this article raises some great points and is valuable advice that should be taken on board by anyone at the beginning of their career. Hopefully soon I’ll be one of them!


    • Shannon,
      Thank you so much for your response. I will agree that it is hard to find a job, especially when there is little to no prior experience in the PR field.
      As a current college graduate and having a good amount of experience, it is still very difficult for me to find a job as well.
      Where are you currently located?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Alyssa,

        I live in the East Midlands, in England.
        I’ve definitely had to take a step back and think of a new route forward. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some shadowing/short term work experience before graduating, and then look for a longer internship after that.

        I do think that a lot of graduates get a harsh reality check just before they leave university, when they realise that in a lot of cases, a degree and part-time work really isn’t enough for internships or entry level jobs in specific sectors, that expect you to have experience prior to graduating. However everything in life is a learning curve, and I am determined to get through this one and develop a career for myself in public relations.

        Thanks for taking the time to reply 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s