Career Advice for Class of 2016


It’s that time of year when I am asked to offer career advice to recent college graduates. I always laugh when I think about the statement my dad (the options trader) gave me, before starting my first post-collegiate job as a commodities trader: “Do your job and don’t screw up!” Let me couch dad’s words in a kinder way: You, young graduate, think that you have much to offer your benevolent employer. In fact, you offer very little except potential. That said, Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach and co-founder of SixFigureStart® says that recent grads would be wise to start their jobs before they physically arrive in the office. “Try to learn as much as you can about the company and the industry before day one and when you do start, your first goal should be to make a good first impression and the best way to do so is to do what is asked of you -- and more.”

I know that you may be of the generation that seeks a great work-life balance, but as a former boss of a certain generation, I can tell you that in the beginning (at least 90 days and probably up to a year), you would be well-served if the balance were to tip more towards work. You also need to ask questions, but don’t make the mistake of seeking constant feedback, which can quickly translate into your boss thinking that you are needy. Instead, make sure that you check in on a regular basis--weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on what you and your boss agree upon.

Your overall goal is to gain the reputation as being energetic, diligent and collaborative. How can you become known as a team member? MIT professor Alex Pentland notes, “The best team players connect their teammates with one another and spread ideas around.” Ideal team players are “not necessarily extroverts, although they feel comfortable approaching other people. They listen as much as or more than they talk and are usually very engaged with whomever they’re listening to. We call it ‘energized but focused listening.’” Considering that the vast majority of people you encounter like talking more than listening, just being present, focused and listening will help distinguish you from your co-workers.

Listening is also important when it comes to the dreaded networking process. Ceniza-Levine’s partner, Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, says that the networking rule of thumb is “to give twice as much as you receive,” because too many professionals use networking as a way to ask for something, rather than seeing it as a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship of give and take – with emphasis on the give!

She warns that you don’t want to be seen as an “ask-hole,” always asking people for something, but tone deaf to how annoying that can seem. Although in the digital age, connection can seem as easy as a click, I can’t emphasize enough the value of physical interactions to help foster these relationships. According to Pentland, “the most valuable form of communication is face-to-face. The next most valuable is by phone or videoconference, but with a caveat: Those technologies become less effective as more people participate in the call or conference. The least valuable forms of communication are e-mail and texting.”

And if you are unhappy in the beginning, Ceniza-Levine says don’t be too quick to jump ship. It may be growing pains and by sticking to it, you may find that you actually like it. If the job itself isn’t a good fit, you may find another position within the company. And if it isn’t, there’s probably just as much to learn from a good job as a bad one.

MARKETS: Happy Belated Anniversary! On May 21, 2015, the S&P 500 closed at an all-time high of 2130.82. Since then, the index is down 3.5 percent.

  • DJIA: 17,500 down 0.2% on week, up 0.4% YTD
  • S&P 500: 2052 up 0.3% on week, up 0.4% YTD
  • NASDAQ: 4769 up 1.1% on week, down 4.7% YTD
  • Russell 2000: 1109, up 0.7% on week, down 2.2% YTD
  • 10-Year Treasury yield: 1.85% (from 1.7% a week ago)
  • June Crude: $47.75, up 3.3% on week
  • June Gold: $$1,252.90, down 1.6% on week
  • AAA Nat'l avg. for gallon of reg. gas: $2.28 (from $2.22 wk ago, $2.73 a year ago)

THE WEEK AHEAD: Just five more trading days until the long Memorial Day weekend.

Mon 5/23:

Tues 5/24:

Best Buy, Intuit Hewlett Packard Enterprise

10:00 New Home Sales

11:00 NYFRB Household Debt and Credit Q1 2016

Weds 5/25:

Tiffany, Express, HP

8:00 International Trade

9:00 FHFA House Price Index

Thursday 5/26:

Abercrombie & Fitch, Burlington Stores, Dollar Tree, Chico’s FAS, Costco, GameStop

8:30 Durable Goods Orders

Friday 5/27:

8:30 Q1 GDP-2nd Estimate (1st estimate=+0.5%)

8:30 Corporate Profits

10:00 Consumer Sentiment

10:00 Pending Home Sales

10:30 Janet Yellen speaks at Harvard