Why Can’t Johnny Find a Job?

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Graduates don’t have a clue on how to find a job!  That affects the reputation of your campus, degree, and diploma!


You’ve heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!”

I got thinking about this after talking to dozens of career professionals about students’ lack of participation in the events and activities they provide.  Story after story documented the time and effort they put into creating events to give students the knowledge and skills they needed to get jobs– but alas, only a small number participated!

So why is that?

In talking to students and processing feedback from career professionals, there are many reasons why!

  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.

But can they? 

Are graduates innate job hunters, born with the skills to master the job search gauntlet?

To find out, we organized a 12 hour GRAD Career Marathon where 24 career authors and coaches from around the world each shared 3 tips with grads.  It was a massive effort!  During the 12 hour career marathon we asked students,

“How much time each week do you spend looking for a job?”

We were curious because in a previous Webinar, Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is your Parachute shared that studies indicated students spent about an hour a week looking for a job.  To us, that was a shocking number because it showed grads were simply not in the game.  That could be a result of only two things:

  • They didn’t want to get a job
  • They had no clue about how to look for a job

So, what was their response?   Over 60% of the students indicated they were spending 1-5 hours a week on their job searches!

Wow.  Richard Bolles was right!  Now hold that thought…

That got me thinking about the stats career centers are being required to collect to show how many students are employed after graduation, how much they earned, etc.

What’s behind this?

Recently, the American Bar Association agreed to provide graduate employment stats to US News & Report so they can include them as ranking stats.  As a result, a college where grads are getting jobs will now be rated higher in the very popular college ranking list than a college where grads are not getting jobs.

In addition, congress passed legislation that initially requires for-profit colleges to collect and share employment stats with them and consumers!  (Many suspect non-profit colleges will be required to do this in the future as well.)

Congress has two goals in mind.  They want to make sure students:

  • Can afford to pay back their loans and do not end up ruining their lives with  misguided investments in their educations
  • Are obtaining “Gainful Employment,” or employment that is relevant to their degrees

Based on this new criteria, if your college ratings are below your competitors, and your students are struggling to pay back their student loans, your admissions departments will find it harder to recruit quality students, and your graduates will NOT be in a position to contribute to the annual giving and capital campaigns.

It’s all related.

So where are we going with this blog post?

Well just in case I haven’t made my point – YOUR grads don’t have a clue about how to look for jobs. They don’t understand the time and commitment required, and they don’t have strategies!  You need more proof?  Remind your administrators that over the past 4 years 80 percent of grads nationwide were unemployed on the day they received their diplomas. 80 percent of those grads had to move home after graduation. Hardly a successful strategy!

Is this the career center’s fault?

  • No, you provided the opportunities and services to them.
  • You’ve been there IF they needed you.

But, the bottom line, they didn’t take advantage of your services!  So forget about them!  But you can’t!  If you do, you’ll end up with poor stats that affect the revenue side of your college.

So what are you supposed to do?

The question is – not what you are supposed to do, but what your administration needs to do. Your administration needs to:

  1. Require students to put in a MINIMUM amount of time and research into career development prior to graduation.  We’d like to see this start their freshman years.
  2. Integrate curriculum requirements with the end game in mind, helping students have successful careers.
  3. Provide you more resources instead of cutting them!
  4. And, create a culture on campus that involves faculty, athletics, staff and everyone that support the number one reason they are all there….

And that is to help graduates start successful careers – NOT get degrees based on certain curriculums.  It only make sense:

  1. Graduates get jobs quicker so they can pay back their loans and don’t have to move back home
  2. Admissions can pick from the best candidates
  3. Annual giving and capital campaign treasure chests fill up!
It’s a proactive strategy!  Unless your campus recognizes that and takes corrective action, you’ll have the full weight of the government, the public, your students and alumni on your back!  Trust me, that can be a pretty heavy experience.  Just ask administrators of for-profit colleges!

Got any ideas on how you can get your administration to change the culture on your campus?

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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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