As a retired business guy, I get a lot of enjoyment of working with and advising young people on their careers. Friends or work associates of my own age group I avoid advising. They should be retired or about to be because it is almost impossible to get a new paying  job after a certain age. But the younger “kids”, as I call them are fun to work with. The most challenging group are those just leaving college and about to enter the workforce.

Getting that first real job is always hard. This is not just because of the economy today, which is slowing improving from a few years ago. It is also that companies are not hiring like they did a decade or so ago. Companies use new technology to get their increasing workload done, not new staff.  On campus recruiting is way down and has given way to online employment boards at many firms. I tell young people that it is a full-time job to get a full-time job. And some of the young people are easier to help than others.

The easiest ones to advise are those with a specific degree that has some technical aspect to it. With business degrees this would include accounting, finance or some computer degrees. In nonbusiness fields this would include engineers. These majors are easy because the world still keeps hiring these folks since they come with some skill that can be used right away. My old field of accounting, even more than finance, is a great example of this. Small firms, startups, large public companies and even not for profits all need people who can do basic accounting work. If you combine one of these degree areas with a MBA that is great too, especially if you have worked for even a couple years before getting your MBA. One of our friends’ son had worked as an engineer for a few years before receiving his MBA and got a great starting job with a subsidiary of GE Capital by applying online!

This brings me to the hardest young business degree people to help. You may have guessed, its marketing which is only slightly better than communications. These areas sound good when you are in school but when you are looking for a job, not so good. I tell young people with these degrees their best hope is to get a job with a well known firm doing cold calls to try to sell something. It might be a financial service firm where you are doing screening calls to be passed onto someone with only slightly more experience. Or, as one of my young clients did, advertising cold calls for a radio station in Chicago. Cold calling is brutal, humiliating and prone to early burn out. But if you are either with a well known firm or selling some well known product or service, your time of suffering can lead to a much better job elsewhere. Because now you have something on your resume! Our radio ad calling young person is now, a couple moves later, the Director of Alumni Events for a major university.

So, as I am allowed to preach as a blogger, hear this young people! Choose your major in college wisely and with an eye to one that could actually help you get a good job afterwords. This will make both your life and the work of any advisor you meet go much easier. Thanks.