College Grads
College Grads

That Gray Ring Around Your Shirt Collar has Nothing to do with Hygiene!

by Todd Rapel 2 years ago in advice / career / how to

The White and Blue Collar Professionals have been around for decades, but make room for the new kid's on the block...Gray Collar's.

That Gray Ring Around Your Shirt Collar has Nothing to do with Hygiene!

Did you fall for the same hook, line and sinker growing up that I fell for?Buckle down, get good grades in high school, go to college so you can land a good job and be set for life. At the time it seemed like great advice from people that truly cared, like your parents or a mentor you trust. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they had your best interest at heart and only wanted you to succeed in life. But here's where the problem starts, there are very few people out there who truly know how to provide career counseling in the 21st Century. If you're like the ten's of thousands of recent college grads who were great listeners and followed this advice, then why are all the coffee shops employed by recent college educated professionals still looking for that dream job?

Now that you achieved your goal and have a college degree, where did all those people go who gave you that advice and what's next? Well, it's not their fault because that's the advice they were given when they were in your shoes 30 years ago but it's not 1980 anymore and quite frankly times have changed. Enter the Gray Collar professional...Recent college grad with $75,000 to $100,000 in student loan debt living in their parents' house (probably the basement), working at the local coffee shop serving $7.00 latte's to the White Collar professionals. I know what you're thinking, "Hey buddy, how bout throwing me a bone and giving me a job?", but instead, you just thank them for the $1.00 they just stuffed in the tip jar. You don't need a college degree to realize $10.00 an hour ain't gonna make a dent in that student loan some lady named Sallie Mae keeps contacting you about.

So here's the good news, you have many options if you use that same creatively that got you out of some deep trouble during those wild college nights and use the resources that are hiding in plain sight. I'm not going to say skip all the career fairs out there but please people...really? I have sat at those tables, met thousands of job seekers and for the most part, job fairs are a way for corporations to fill their most undesirable positions and make themselves feel like they did their good deed for the waves of unemployed and underemployed. Unless you have a hobby for collecting free pens from random companies, you can do better.

Don't worry I have your back, I pick up where those people who gave you that advice back in High School left off. So where have all the good jobs gone? Well, they're out there but you need to know where to look and how to use technology to find the key decision makers. First, you need to set your career criteria for what you're looking for, don't just throw mud against the wall to see what sticks. It goes much deeper than just knowing you want to be an Engineer. The four most important criteria with a focused long-term career strategy are as follows:
  1. Industry
  2. Company
  3. Job
  4. Compensation
Now if you noticed Compensation is in the top 5 most important things to consider in a new job so it is important, however, it's not number one. I find that far too many job seekers early in their career have dollar signs in their eyes if you look really close and they make some really bad job decisions on money alone. We'll get back to that one in a minute, let's tackle these one at a time.


If you can't specifically answer this question, at least decide if you want to work for a service based industry like Telecommunication, Insurance, Financial Services or product based such as Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Products or Manufacturing. The industry you choose whether service or product based really shouldn't change throughout your career. You can go from Telecom to Financial services or Manufacturing to Consumer Products, however, you don't want to find yourself spending 5 years in Financial Services and then attempt to transition to Manufacturing. That's like a Vegetarian one day waking up and deciding to eat meat, it's possible but it's gonna be really uncomfortable (if you know what I mean) and probably not sustainable.

Company within the industry:

Do your research: The printing industry is dying! The magazine Newsweek, published 80 years revealed the cover of the last printed issue. Make sure it's a company you have a genuine interest in the service they offer or product they make. If the company makes window air conditioning units and that doesn't excite you, stay away. It doesn't have to be an F500 company, there are many great mid-size and even privately held companies that have great stories and they are easy to search for.

Job Title:

You want to make sure you will be performing a job that your skills are built for but don't get to hung up on the actual job title. If the job functions match your skillset and interest move past the title. Take the Banking industry, for example, everyone is a Vice President even the guy taking out the garbage so understand what the job entails and not just a fancy title. I find that the most productive job moves happen in a win/win scenario. You walk-in with the ability to add value to the company and in return there need to be areas the company will be able to enhance your experience and skillset. If one of those two are not balanced correctly, you will either leave the company prematurely because you're bored or you will be in over your head and the company may show you the door. Remember, if you're the superstar than who are you learning from?


Ah, my favorite topic when it comes to job searching. We all want to make millions of dollars and have all the finest things in life, I get it. When it comes to searching for your next job you certainly want to get paid market value for your skillset but keep in mind you have many years to build your wealth. If you make solid decisions with the first three criteria, the money will take care of itself and I've seen this come true over and over again.

Compare starting your career with that first or second job and building a house. Let's start with a solid foundation or the Industry and company if the foundation is strong by making long term decisions about the industry and company you will be able to build just about anything on top of it. Whether you're talking about the foundation of a house or the foundation of your career, we don't want to be messing too much if at all with the foundation. Taking it a step further, the industry and company shouldn't change every couple of years, in fact, it may never change or change very little. On the contrary, let's talk about the job title and compensation. Both these criteria should change often if you really think about it as you receive promotions and yearly salary increases. Let's go back to those recent college grads with the money signs in their eyes, what happens is they flip the importance of the criteria I just outlined and focus on the two things that will change regularly "How much does the job pay" and "What sexy title am I getting". They don't pay attention to the foundation and find themselves in an industry they can't stand at a company they have zero interest in. This usually happens after the honeymoon period ends and the excitement of the few extra dollars and fancy title wears off. If there isn't any substance left you will be asking for a divorce in the form of a resignation.

Ok, so you hammered out your career criteria so what's next? Go directly to the source to find the real jobs out there, search the companies career websites. Stay away from the Big Job Boards, they're littered with fake jobs used to attract candidates with bait and switch tactics or for third parties to build a pipeline for future jobs. Both scenarios are huge black holes and will waste your time with false hope and frustrate you more than you already are. Now you know which target companies are hiring so it's time to put all that digital expertise to work and go find the decision makers. Professional social media sites are a great place to start. It's very easy to search these sites for professionals who work in the industry and discipline you're interested in and here's the kicker, add to your search criteria your alma mater. That's right, connect and network with the people who graduated from the same College or University where you just got done throwing your cap in the air. When they find out you are also a Gamecock, Husky, Scarlet Knight or Nittany Lion, they will bend over backward to either help you directly or pass you along to someone you most likely have never met before as if you were their own son or daughter. The contact becomes even more valuable if they are in the same field you are trying to break into. This simple but very powerful tactic will open up an enormous network for you. There are dozens of social media professional networking sites so no excuses. The days of blindly submitting your resume through the company's career portal are over if you haven't connected directly with someone at that company you're only fooling yourself. Just about every company out there has a digital footprint to communicate with candidates so use the technology to your advantage and be accessible through your smartphone or tablet by downloading the company's app and set up search agents on the companies websites and you will receive an email every time a new job opens. There are many other ways to be creative with technology and job searching, the lesson here is to think out-of-the-box and turn that Gray collar into a White Collar. Happy Hunting!

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