Advice for College Grads from the WSJ and Its Readers

Sue Shellenbarger, the Work & Family Columnist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote an article recently that offered some advice for this year’s college graduates. The following words of wisdom were offered:

  • Get workplace experience before graduating.
  • Start building a network early.
  • Acquire technical, analytical and interpersonal skills not taught in college classes.
  • Avoid relying heavily on online job boards.
  • Build a robust LinkedIn profile.
  • Seek out other experienced adult mentors for advice.

Readers were then invited to offer their own words of advice, and here is what they had to say:

  • “Passion is very overrated for picking a college major,”
  • “The very first thing on the list should be determining the jobs you can get with the degree you are working towards: What is the pay, and how does your school rank in graduates getting hired. College is a large investment and requires cost-benefit analysis.”
  • “The best advice parents can give is a reality check on planned majors. Sadly, too many parents ‘don’t want to crush Johnny’s dreams’ even if Johnny has never demonstrated sufficiently high talent for the dream and will incur crushing debt in the attempt.”
  • Readers counseled choosing in-demand majors such as engineering, information technology, medicine, and computer science, but acknowledged that is no silver bullet. “I graduated with a 3.8 GPA in aerospace engineering and couldn’t find anything, I even did extracurricular activities and my own research. My inbox runneth over with rejection letters, and many apps fell on deaf ears.” Despite earning a master’s degree he had to take a job outside his field. “Aero is a tight, niche industry and connections are king, even for internships,”
  • One reader noted that he didn’t go with the highest offer and instead took a position that pays less but is “closer to my family and friends. The job is in an industry I’ve always cared about, and I have a boss I get along well with and who cares about me. My dad always says that your first boss can make or break you.”
  • Readers advised learning Excel and PowerPoint and taking coding classes in Python and SQL.
  • “They need to realize they have a network with their fellow graduates,” one reader wrote. “Stay in touch with the students who did get jobs. Often the company where they work will have a referral program for new hires.”
  • Another reader advised young people to apply for jobs as golf caddies. “The work may not be relevant to your long-term career, but if you hustle and work hard you will make a decent buck and a good impression on a lot of successful folks.”
  • “Work ethic and discipline are just as important as intellect (and oftentimes more important). This was the most important thing I took away from college. I noticed several fellow students who were smarter than me struggling just to pass, due to lack of established work ethic (a.k.a. study habits).”
  • “LinkedIn, job boards, resumes, and personal networks are just tools. Be willing to expand your horizons beyond these and the whole world might open up for you.”

As I read these pieces of advice, I couldn’t help but think about our students are at Villanova School of Business and how successful they have been with their post-graduation plans.  Here are some stats from last year’s (2018) graduating class:

  • 95% Internship and CoOp participation rate
  • 97.4% successful job and placement rate
  • $63, 497 average starting salary

It’s a tribute to their hard work, both inside and outside the classroom as well as the amazing work of our career counselors. I am sure the stats for the class of 2019 will be just as strong if not stronger.

Kudos to the class of 2019!

*image from the bustle

2 thoughts on “Advice for College Grads from the WSJ and Its Readers

  1. My advice is to choose training and (possibly) client exposure over salary. For example, The Big Four and the IRS may not pay as well as some competitors for the very top students, but their training programs are usually excellent combined with possible exposure to clients who often make job offers that are better than students could get straight out of college.

    Related advice is to get a somewhat unique skill. For example, my students who excelled in knowledge of FAS 133 (Accounting for Derivatives and Hedging Activities) and started out in derivatives contract auditing generally were promoted faster and got more opportunities later on relative to my other top graduates who were not quite as enthusiastic about FAS 133.

    These days the hot new skill is breakchain and cryptocurrency systems and auditing skills.


    1. I don’t know much about the IRS training programs, but the Big 4 are usually rated as the best places to begin a career. And thanks for mentioning breakchain – I had never heard of it!


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