Top 10 Jobs College Grads Should Avoid

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Carefully check out the company and the job before you accept a position.. Copyright John Lamb / Digital Vision / Getty Images

If you are a prospective or recent college graduate, you have a plethora of options to consider for jobs after graduation. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid along the path to choosing a satisfying first job.  Here are the top ten jobs or employment situations to avoid:

Top 10 Jobs Most New College Graduates Should Avoid

1. Think twice before signing on with a family run organization. This type of small employer may be dominated by a few family members who allocate the best jobs to people in their immediate family or social circle.

You are likely to find that, despite excellent performance, there are few opportunities for advancement to more responsible and lucrative roles.  

2. Beware of jobs labeled as marketing that actually are commission sales positions.  Companies know that many new graduates are attracted to marketing as a career but are much less comfortable with sales. Make sure that you have a clear picture of the actual job duties involved with your target job before devoting your time, energy and money to interviewing for vaguely worded "marketing" positions. Contact the employer and ask for clarification about the position and if they won't furnish any details, steer clear.

Generally, the more money and time an employer will be investing in you as a new hire, the more legitimate the job. With pure commission jobs there is often a revolving door, you will need to produce right away or be let go, and the employer suffers few consequences.

3. Watch out for companies with network marketing schemes that promise to bring you quick riches.   For example, you might be asked to buy a set of cutlery to demonstrate to people you know with sales pitches and be encouraged to recruit other sales people to work under you for a cut of their action.

Known as a “pyramid” sales model, these types of positions are lucrative for few people.  Only a very small percentage of graduates will be comfortable reaching out to all their contacts with a sales pitch, and the likelihood of recruiting and managing a realistically successful sales force is at least an extremely long shot, if not an impossibility.

4. One way to learn how an employer treats their new hires is to investigate how well they retain staff over time.  Be extremely careful about joining an organization with high turnover, particularly in the role you are targeting.  High turnover is usually an indication that employees are not treated well and/or it is difficult for them to achieve success in their jobs as constructed.

Ask recruiters how many graduates were hired two years ago and how many are still with the firm. Before accepting an offer, speak with other young employees and inquire about working conditions, opportunities for advancement and their estimation of retention rates.

5. Unless you are a uniquely gifted and lucky individual, avoid online trading positions.  These "jobs" are alluring to candidates intrigued by the excitement of the stock market. However, you will be asked to put up some of your own capital and to pay for a securities license.  Most graduates should learn the basics by working in more traditional roles with a reputable investment firm before risking their own money.

6. Every job comes with a boss. Spend as much time appraising the suitability of your first supervisor as you do with the appeal of the job itself. A first boss who is autocratic, distant, uncommunicative or overly critical can be difficult for a new graduate. Pose open-ended questions to other individuals who report to your prospective supervisor. Ask them to describe the supervisor's management style and strengths as a leader. Listen carefully to what they say and notice how they respond non-verbally.

7. It can be a big mistake for a graduate to choose a company which offers products or services which don’t inspire them.  In order to be successful in most jobs you will need to master a broad spectrum of information about the products or services which are featured by your employer. Choosing a biotechnology company if science makes your eyes glaze over is a recipe for failure.

Target companies or non-profit organizations whose focus is in line with your curiosity and passions. Also avoid organizations whose values clash with yours.  For example, if you are seriously committed to green causes, it might not be comfortable for you to work for a major polluter.

8. Watch out for employers who are in decline.  Make sure your target employer is not losing market share, experiencing declining revenue/funding and/or emphasizing outmoded products or services. Organizations with shaky financials will usually end up cutting staff, and you might be caught up in the "last hired first fired" syndrome. Here’s how to check out a company.

9. Be careful about taking on a job which is in an undesirable location for you.  Geographic flexibility certainly is an asset for new graduates since you can consider opportunities in a wide range of locations.  This approach will work well for you unless you have strong reasons for being in a certain area or type of location.

So if the cultural attractions of a large city in the Northeastern section of the country are vitally important to you, think twice before accepting a job in rural Iowa.  Likewise, if you have a long standing romantic relationship which is central to your life, carefully consider whether a work location would make even weekend visits difficult.

10. It can be a mistake for a new graduate to accept a position which has a steep learning curve if solid mechanisms for training are not in place.  Always inquire how an employer expects you to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the job and make sure the learning process is suitable given your style.  Ask employees hired in the past three years how they were supported as they learned their job. Some employers will have structured, formal training programs while others will emphasize learning on the job.  On the job training can work if new employees have access to veteran performers and mentors for assistance as they have questions and learn their role.

Read More: How to Decide if a Company is a Good Match  | How to Succeed in Your First Job after College | Entry Level Job Options for College Graduates

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