5 Reasons Graduates Do Not Get Jobs!

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I have a Google alert set to deliver articles about unemployed graduates to my inbox .

It’s a bit depressing but, everyday, Google delivers articles about graduates who have a ton of debt, live with mom and dad, are working minimum wage jobs, and are feeling like their college investment was a waste of time and money.

It got me thinking about why this is happening.  Why are grads NOT getting jobs?

From my perspective there are five reasons:

  1. Graduates picked the wrong major
  2. Graduates have unrealistic expectations
  3. Colleges and universities are failing to use their alumni networks and faculties to help
  4. Graduates have no clue about how to search for jobs
  5. No one (biz, college, government) is doing anything to help!

Of the 28 articles I received today that were published in newspapers, blogs and magazines around the world, the one that caught my eye was an  article in the Buckinghamshire Advertiser about Sophie Hewit, a recent graduate from the University of West of England who graduated in June with a degree in Drama.  Sophie is one of millions of graduates from universities in China, the United States, Great Britain, Scotland and other countries that 5 months after graduation, still cannot find jobs.

Graduates picked the wrong major

Sophie is an example of the first reason. When Sophie entered college, she had 200 different majors she could choose from, but, because she has had a life long interest in drama, it was natural for her to choose it.   While I agree that everyone deserves an opportunity to follow their passions and interests, they also deserve to know the percent of previous graduates that:

  • Got a job that used the skills and knowledge picked up in the curriculum that qualified them for their degrees,
  • What percent received any kind of job,
  • How far from graduation day they got those jobs, and
  • What the average graduate is getting paid

Consumers like Sophie are making the biggest investment in their lives when they go to college, (in many cases bigger than the cost of home ownership) and few to zero colleges actively share such information with prospective students (or for that matter existing students and a their parents).  Colleges and universities should counsel and advise graduates PRIOR to them making decisions on majors of what the likelihood will to get jobs… to the point of requiring them to sign a document acknowledging they received the information.  It’s the only way they are going to pass the responsibility back to the graduate and not have the graduate come back to them and sue the organization for handing them a diploma that doesn’t “work”!

Graduates have unrealistic expectations

Talk to any parent, educator or business professional and you’ll hear the same thing. Grads have unrealistic expectations when they graduate.  Why is that, and who is responsible for setting their expectations? Their networks are pretty tight…

  • Aren’t they aware that 80 percent their classmates since 2008 have been unemployed by graduation day?
  • Isn’t their grapevine, amplified by the viral nature of Facebook, keeping them up to date on the reality of their peers’ efforts in getting jobs?

Or, are they getting mixed signals by reading articles like this one published in the Wall Street Journal in October, 2011:

The average salary offer for the most recent crop of graduates was up 6% compared to salaries offered to 2010 graduates, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers released Tuesday. For those earning bachelor’s degrees, salary offers rose to $51,171 from $48,288 in 2010.

My son just graduated from Miami University’s,Farmer School of Business with a high grade point, multiple leadership positions, and the distinction of his Capstone group project winning first place out of 20 other groups in his class.  So when his only offer was an internship at 12 dollars an hour, he just about hit the floor.  With no other offers coming in and his plane about to leave for LA, he took the position.  Fortunately for him, the two month internship became a full time position.  However, the salary offer was closer to the starting salary of a teacher (with a 9 month contract) and nowhere near salary numbers reported in the media or as shared by national associations. My son’s expectations were based on surveys by NACE which suggested business majors salaries for the class of 2011 were up 4.6% to $48,805, and that Business administration/management positions were up 5.4% to $46,372.

If graduates look at these numbers that are repeated in the Wall Street Journal and about every newspaper from the Topeka Capital Journal to the Huffington Post, it’s bound to give them unrealistic expectations, and make them feel pretty deflated when they finally get offers in the 30’s!

Colleges and universities are failing to use their alumni networks and faculties to help

The average college has 100 alumni for every new graduate. The tens of thousands –and in many cases hundreds of thousands of alumni –work for thousands of companies.  How effectively is the college working with alumni and their companies to place graduates?   In my opinion, they are doing so poorly.   This is not the career office’s fault, it’s an overlooked opportunity by management.

Think about this for a minute.  Every college has dozens of staff in their alumni, annual giving and development offices.  For the most part, each is responsible to reach out to alumni and companies to raise money.  A large percentage of revenue gifted from capital campaigns comes from companies.

What if the college put the time and staff on working with alumni and their companies to hire their students? If you had 100 alumni working to help place one graduate, I’m certain they would find a way to help that grad get a job.

Graduates have no clue about how to search for jobs

In a previous post, I share the following five reasons why a graduate does not have a clue about how to search for a job.

  1. Students are busy completing their curriculum requirements, and don’t have time or feel the pressure to build career and job search strategies
  2. The career center is only open during class hours.  It’s inconvenient and doesn’t fit in their schedules
  3. Students are not aware of the many services the career center can provide because the career center does not have the time to effectively market to them
  4. The college has not put a priority on career education and job search strategies  (We’ll come back to this one!)
  5. Students may have negative, preconceived notions about the quality of services provided by the career center and assume they can pick up the skill sets on their own

For details, read the post, but if you don’t have time, my suggestions are that colleges should be requiring students to invest a minimum amount of time in career exploration and job search strategies. To accomplish that, they need to provide the career center more resources and make it less of a destination, but put it in the clouds.

No one is doing anything to help!

I’ve sat back the past four years thinking that the government, colleges, businesses or alumni associations, or perhaps even the chambers of commerce would step forward and do something to help graduates.

President Obama recently offered some loan repayment relief for graduates, but has done nothing to offer a tax benefit to companies to hire graduates, or any kind of moral/emotional support.  In the glory days of 2007 when 60 percent of graduates had jobs and another 15-19 percent went on to grad schools, colleges didn’t need to do much.  But today, with 80 percent of grads unemployed,  and colleges and universities almost unilaterally have decided to CUT THE BUDGET of the career center.

And during that time, with alumni unemployment doubling to the point 1 in 6 unemployed people have bachelor’s degrees, what are alumni associations doing to help alumni get jobs?

Holding events designed to enhance alumni’s sense of nostalgia to make them more likely to contribute to annual giving and capital campaigns.

Few to none think its part of their mission or responsibility to be a resource to help alumni get jobs.

So what do we do?

Sound off and share your opinions!   In order to help the past four graduating classes, the future graduating classes and all alumni, people and organizations will need to put some plans in motion in each of the five areas we looked at.  You could become a fantastic asset to help one or 10,000 grads have successful futures.  You’ve got great ideas and the authority to implement them.

This can’t be solved without your help!

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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