Graduating from college, online or traditional, is a wondrous time full of hope and optimism. And just a few years ago, much of that optimism would have been justified. Jobs for new grads were plentiful. Many salaries were generous. New grads spent little or no time searching the classifieds.

Well, needless to say, times have changed. The last five years have completely turned the tables on new college graduates. Those who used to have first consideration for the great jobs are now pushed to the back of the line in favor of more experienced workers who have been forced to take pay cuts and positions beneath their experience.

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To survive in this new environment, new college grads will need to adopt a whole new mindset. Many of the preconceived notions they grew up hearing could only give them discouragement if they don’t learn to change them:

1. “The major I choose will determine the course of my career.”

When all is said and done, college majors give you a specific skill set that you’re supposed to be able to take out into the world and make a decent living with, right?

Actually, that would be in the old world. In this new world, your major was great and, hopefully, you get to work in your field of study. But the truth is, nearly half (47%) of 2011-2012 graduates work in a field other than their field of study, according to a recent survey by Accenture.

So all that time you put into polishing up your understanding of phonemes might not be of much use right off the bat when you take that marketing associate job. That’s not to say that it won’t come in handy; it just means your actual job won’t be in the field of linguistics.

But there is a silver lining to gloomy cloud. Students don’t have to, and they shouldn’t, feel married to the major they chose. Often students end up hating their majors but have come too far to bail on it. Still, others might enjoy their major in a learning environment but find that they hate working in it. Just the fact that half of grads don’t end up in their field of study should be liberating. You can make your career whatever you want it to be, no matter what major you chose three years ago.

2. “Moving back in with parents is for losers.”

In the old world, nobody wanted to be that guy living in his parents’ basement. Somehow, it had become a sign of failure, a sign that you couldn’t use your college degree, which you paid thousands for, to then provide for yourself like an adult. Moving back in with your parents meant that you had failed the entrance exam for adulthood and were being downgraded to quasi-adolescent status.

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Well, that was then. And moving back in with parents has become an economic necessity for huge numbers of recent college grads. The Accenture study found that while only 32 percent of 2013 grads planned on moving back in with parents, 44 percent of their 2012 peers ended up doing it. Recent polls have estimated the numbers of grads moving in with parents to be as high as 85 percent.

It’s not hard to understand where this phenomenon is coming from. College costs have never been so high or left grads saddled with so much debt. New college grads have never had such a hard time landing their first jobs, especially jobs with decent pay. You put these two factors together and you get a bunch of new college grads who don’t make enough money to pay their bills. They are, therefore, forced to cut expenses somewhere. One of the plainest ways to cut your rent is to go back to living with parents.

You might sacrifice your self-pride, but at least you won’t be underwater.

3. “I’ve got my bachelor’s degree. My dream job is as good as mine.”

Not too long ago, a college degree guaranteed a graduate a life of stability and comfort. It meant you had entered an elite class where you could expect little unemployment, higher salaries, and unlimited career mobility. With that diploma in your hand, the sky was the limit. Unfortunately, the college diploma doesn’t get the mileage it used to.

As bachelor’s degrees have become more common, workers are forced to do more to stand out and move up. Work performance is the surest way to do this, but many have also turned to higher degrees to get a competitive edge.

In the Accenture study, 42 percent of 2012 graduates said they would need to earn a graduate degree to move ahead in their careers. Three out of five say they’ll have to go back to get a graduate degree with the next five years, just to keep their careers moving forward.

4. “I had a great internship. Let the job offers begin!”

You gotta love college career centers. They strongly preach the idea that if students just get internships during their college experience, those internships will lead to their first jobs out of college. This idea, too, is beginning to be challenged.

According to the same survey, only 42 percent of students who participate in internships said those internships actually led to jobs.

This isn’t to say that internships aren’t still a great way to get real-world experience and test-drive jobs. But internships are just that, and they’re subject to the same issues as jobseekers are seeing everywhere. Companies might like you when they can pay you little or nothing as an intern. But they get squeamish when they think about making room for you permanently on their team and paying you a real salary.

Bottom line: get internships for the experience but don’t put all your eggs in that basket.

5. “I’ve got my bachelor’s degree. Here come the big bucks.”

As mentioned above, bachelor’s degrees aren’t nearly as rare and valuable as they used to be. They certainly aren’t worth as much as you think they’re going to be.

In Accenture’s survey, they asked 2013 graduates what they thought their starting salaries would be. Then they asked 2012 graduates what their starting salaries actually were. The results were a chilling reminder of how expectations can be far from reality:

One out of four 2013 grads thought they’d be making more than $50,000 per year.

Half thought they’d make between $25,000 and $50,000.

But the reality reflected by the 2012 grads was significantly more jaded: only 16 percent made more than $50,000 and 59 percent made between $25K and $50K. A frightening 32 percent of 2012 grads made less than $25,000 per year.

The point here is not to put people off of bachelor’s degrees, but to understand where they stand in today’s job market. New graduates need to keep their expectations grounded with real-world numbers and then work to improve it.

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Source: http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-2013-College-Graduate-Employment-Survey.pdf

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