College Graduates and Pink Unicorns

We are rapidly approaching that time of year when it is time to think about college graduations and all the new and eager graduates entering the workforce. It is actually fresh on my mind because my niece, who graduated at mid-term, just sent me her resume, and she is actively looking for employment. I find people are quixotic with respect to low unemployment. They typically think that if you have a low unemployment rate, finding a job will be easy. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. 

Young people, all at once, are faced with graduation, looking for employment, and trying to “adult” for possibly the first time. It’s actually quite a challenging time in someone’s life. It is a months’-long process, and it is difficult. A large pool of talented people are coming out of colleges and universities with degrees in hand and with great capabilities, yet businesses are not taking a chance. Instead, they are saying, yes, we need people, but we are looking for the pink unicorn. Unless someone happens to be that pink unicorn, employers are slow to move.

On the other hand, this is also a challenge to the workplace, so what do we do? To put it into perspective, I will use my own example. For the last several years IPC has been hiring—with double-digit percentiles! We have not backed off our hiring plans. We hired in 2023, and I have a list of another 8 to 10 percent of our workforce of potential people we would love to have working for us. I am not going to start that hiring process right away at the front of 2024 because I have concerns, in that I do not know where the global economy is going right now. We plan to wait and see, at least for a little while.

That being said, my board asked me recently what I would do if a pink unicorn showed up. My response was: hire that person, and I will figure it out. We have people on our team that we have hired that we did not have positions available for, but they were just too perfect, too great of an asset for us to ignore. But, unless you are that clear pink unicorn, it may be a little bit of a hike, and there will be challenges ahead of you. 

Most graduates have limited professional experience; this will be a hurdle in certain job applications.  There will also be competition; young grads need to remember there are many graduates, just like them, vying for the same position.  Graduates will find it necessary to find the right fit.  Not every office they walk into will be for them, and it very well may be that they decide a company is not the right fit for them, not vice versa. This in and of itself is a challenge. Graduates should not just take an offer because it is an offer. Make sure it is the right one. Couple this with fears of rejection, amongst other things, can certainly make the entire process disheartening to say the least.

But…if graduates manage their expectations and navigate carefully the challenges before them, they can expect positive results.  It might take time, (it most likely will), but perseverance, flexibility, and networking skills can significantly improve job search success. Another tip is to network and follow that up with a professional online presence.  Consider internships and/or part-time work. These are both great ways to gain experience while getting a foot in the door. When you finally get “the” interview, make sure you are prepared.  Research the company, practice common interview questions, and above all be confident in your abilities.