Since so many students have large college loans, they must be concerned about the employers and jobs that will be available to them when they graduate. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the students who are not burdened with loans are not also concerned with landing good jobs. I’ve said this before, but it still holds true. In the end, most college students only want three things:
1. A good college education
2. An enjoyable college experience
3. A great job when they graduate
Unfortunately, there are colleges that have trouble achieving all three. Some colleges are known for academic excellence. Others offer large numbers of activities, clubs and parties. Only a few have a reputation for having systems in place to ensure that large numbers of students obtain well-paying jobs with desirable employers that will have advancement opportunities.
Until college leaders change their minds and place a greater value on student employment success, they will not change their behavior. Nobody can effectively change their behavior before they change their minds.
Skeptical leaders always resist change. It scares them. Change usually scares us all until we understand it and believe that the change will make things better for us. That is the challenge.
How can college leaders identify and understand the changes that will both result in greater student employment success and make things better for themselves? Money, manpower and time are issues that are always brought up. However, the most important factors are “wanting to make things better” and “looking for and identifying the things that have to be changed.” Colleges that can’t or won’t do one or both of those things will never improve the employment success of their students.
To improve student employment success, colleges must:
1. Recognize that students are quite limited in their knowledge about job search preparation activities and what, how, when and why they should be done.
2. Accept the fact that the college (a learning institution) is where students spend most of their time and where they expect to receive the information, help and guidance they will need for their employment search.
3. Agree that job search preparation instruction and guidance is in large part the responsibility of the college as a whole, not just students and the people in Career Services.
4. Understand that students must compete against other candidates for the best jobs in their fields of interest. Simply having earned a degree with good grades is often not enough.
5. Believe that their college will benefit when larger numbers of students land desirable jobs with respected employers.
To Help Students Find Greater Employment Success, Colleges Should:
6. Help students identify and select a career direction that matches up with their capabilities and interests not later than their sophomore year. When students wait too long to identify a career direction, there may be little or no time left for clearly focused job search preparation activities. Late decisions may also require extra time in college and additional college loans.
7. In the 1st or 2nd year of college, ask students to purchase and read a book that explains the entire employment process, including job search preparation strategies and efforts. Career Services should suggest one.
8. Early on, require students to draft a personal budget for independent living after college. That will make them think about the coming expenses and give them an idea about the minimum starting salary they will require. A sample budget form can be supplied by Career Services, so students can fill in the blanks.
Having a realistic budget, will encourage students to determine two things: 1) Does the selected career direction have desirable entry level jobs that will meet their budget requirements? and, 2) Do those jobs have good growth potential and a career path?
Qualified students should not blindly enter careers and accept employment offers that make it too difficult for them to live on their own and pay back college loans or offer little salary and career growth potential.
9. Help students select a major and minor that will support their career direction and the jobs that are of interest.
10. Help students prepare a written plan of action that includes the activities and experiences they will participate in to make themselves more attractive to their target employers. Colleges can start by providing each student with a generic example of a step-by-step plan.
11. Offer job search preparation classes to students. These classes should cover every aspect of job search preparation, review the contents of the book that has been selected, help students build and utilize their job search network, create a résumé that is focused on accomplishments and successes and also help students develop the stories and examples they will use during interviews.
12. Have each student research and identify a group of jobs in their selected field of interest. (Having a clear target will make the following steps easier for students to achieve.)
13. Have each student research and identify a list of employers that will have opportunities for students with their own job interests. In that way, students can pursue opportunities with the specific employers that are of interest to them. In almost every case, students must chase employers not the reverse.
14. Help students identify the specific things that their target employers will need, want and expect of employment candidates. (Students are more attractive to their target employers when they have prepared for and addressed their needs, wants and expectations.)
15. Help students research, identify and retain lists of Job Banks, Search Firms and Web Sites that can be useful, as they conduct their searches for employment. Students with similar career directions can work together as a team and share their results. (Initial lists for students in every major should be available from Career Services.)
16. Coach and encourage students, as they execute their action plans. Every campus employee can help with this. In fact, everyone in the college community can help with this. However, college Alumni should be ideal for this aspect of job search preparation. That means that the college has to make a special effort to involve successful alumni in this process.
17. Work to build a larger and larger pool of employers that will provide part-time jobs, internships, co-op assignments, work-study programs and summer jobs for students in each and every major. Work experience and job performance are extremely important to interviewers and their hiring employers. Students with job-related work experience, highly rated job performance and solid work references will always attract attention from potential employers.
18. Work to build a larger and larger pool of respected employers that will visit the campus to recruit students. The goal should also be to find and invite a wide variety of employers so some will be interested in students with the less recruited majors. Many colleges are not good at finding employers that are interested in students from the less recruited majors. In fact, on every campus there will be students who don’t have even one campus interview.
19. Develop a long list of employment opportunities for graduating students in every major by requiring everyone who is in any way associated with their institution (College Leaders, Professors, Administrators, Hourly Employees, Students, Parents, Alumni, Suppliers, Vendors, Local Employers and Community Leaders) to use their networks to identify jobs that pay well and have a substantial employee benefits package.
20. Help students pay close attention to their job search preparation activities, job performance and accomplishments. Students must be prepared to compete for the better paying jobs with career potential.
Job offers are not won or lost during interviews. They are earned in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of college. As students get involved, participate, perform, lead and work, they can take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities and add to their list of impressive accomplishments. The best candidates talk about their performance and offer examples during interviews.
21. As students enter their senior year, they should be given multiple opportunities to participate in mock interviews. They will need to practice presenting their selling points, successes and accomplishments. When students tell compelling stories about their college and work experiences and performance, employers will pay attention.
These suggestions will result in a new culture on campus. Students who land great jobs will speak highly of the college and will be better able and more likely to make donations. Furthermore, as high potential applicants learn about the employment successes of your students, they will want to attend your college.
Student employment success is a win-win for students and colleges alike. That’s why colleges should give more consideration to the efforts and services that will result in more and better jobs for their students.