Magazine article HRMagazine

Real Life 101

Magazine article HRMagazine

Real Life 101

Article excerpt

For millions of eager young college students, May means graduation; for Rachel Klemme Larson, Ph.D., it's time to get to work. Larson is assistant director of career services at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business Administration. She has been helping college students find jobs and adjust to the workforce for the past nine years. When several alumni told her that the workplace was not what they expected, she probed further to see why some graduates transition well and others do not. Her research- which is discussed in "Newcomer Adjustment Among Recent College Graduates: An Integrative Literature Review," an article co-written by Larson and published in the September 2013 Human Resource Development Review-revealed that successful new grads have a higher level of something called "psychological capital."

What is psychological capital?

It is a positive psychological state with four components: self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resiliency. Self-efficacy means having confidence in oneself to complete goals. Optimism is more than just being positive; it is purposely and positively reframing external negative experiences. Hope is about persevering toward goals, redirecting yourself when faced with a setback. And resiliency refers to one's ability to bounce back from adversity. Together they are greater than the sum of their parts.

What prevents some new graduates from successfully adjusting to the workplace?

Their own expectations. They go into the workforce ready to save the world and then get an entry-level position. They expect to be welcomed with open arms like they were when they went to college, and they aren't getting that.

Many new grads have done internships and had access to upper-level executives. When they begin working, it's hard for them to understand that they are at the bottom of the totem pole.

They also lack an ability to adapt to the work environment. At the same time, they are experiencing multiple life transitions- moving away from family and friends and becoming financially independent-and [the stresses of] these transitions seep into the workplace.

Is this adjustment unique to the Millennial generation?

No. Newcomer adjustment and socialization has been researched since the 1960s, so it has been documented as a problem for a long time, although there are nuances among different generations. Previous generations used to stick with a job long term; that commitment has slid over the years. People jobhop a lot more now. Millennials may be more likely to separate from an employer, so they go through the newcomer adjustment process more often than their predecessors did. …

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