On Monday the Orlando Sentinel ran a story titled, “As graduation looms, jobs elude worried students.” Today’s college graduates face an employment market unlike anything their parents faced and even more nuanced than what an older cousin or sibling may have faced. As overall unemployment drops and the number of employers attending campus career fairs increases, many graduates still face the possibility of under/un-employment after graduation. In our College three-quarters of our undergraduates will seek employment after graduation. Over half of those graduate without a full-time employment option. Of those with a full time employment option, over half are students who were already employed full time and are using their degree as a career management tool. Of those without a full-time option, some are working another internship and some will work a part-time job, but many currently have nothing. The question we as a College/community/society face is, what do “we” do about it?
Over a year ago, our College gathered the faculty advisors for each CBA student organization to hear what they saw as the student impediments to graduate employment. Undeveloped job search skills, a lack of a professional network, and unclear/unrealistic career goals topped the list. We held focus groups with area recruiters and employers to identify the skills needed to secure a job, and the skills our students were lacking. We surveyed students to identify what kind of career support they wanted (my Dad always said, it’s all about wants and needs!) We can’t control external factors like the economy. But we can make changes in how we prepare our students for a job search given the economy. In response to these inputs we created a new office, the Office of Professional Development. Our first blog outlined this change and presented our Dean’s goal for the office.
Additionally, the faculty of our college supported a change in curriculum to add required classes for all students where they will research careers and employers, develop a career action plan, learn to tell their story and manage their career. Great…we updated our support office and we updated our curriculum. We answered the question! Or did “we?”
When faced with her brother’s transformation in Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis,” Grete Samsa realizes that someone would need to care for him. He has no taste for milk, she learns, so she replaces this with something that is more appropriate given his current state but personally repulsive to her. The situation had changed so the answer must change. Gregor was no longer her human brother. Grete identifies a solution, implements it, and then has to adjust it based on Gregor’s reaction. Gregor’s father chose, instead, to react to the change harshly; focusing on his own self-interests rather than those of Gregor or the family.
Today I was told about a student who was not happy with the schedule advising she received. The person I was talking to felt a mistake was made. Did you give this feedback to the person in charge of the office? Feedback is a wonderful thing. If a mistake was made it can be corrected. If there was a misunderstanding, it can be addressed. No, he told the Chair of his department, “And you don’t want to know what he said!” Gotcha. So you went and whined. That always makes things better. Not more than thirty minutes later, I learned that this type of exchange was repeated by leaders outside of the College who have questions/concerns about changes in advising processes that the College controls. Great!
Finals ended yesterday and on Friday approximately 650 newly minted College of Business grads will hit the streets. If our stats hold true, 490ish of them want to go to work, and 270ish of them are still looking. We are doing something about this. And other Colleges are taking notice! If you see things that can be improved, then step up and get involved.
My question to the future business leaders we hope our graduates will be is, “Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?” Do you look to solve problems or just point out others shortcomings? Do you come up with ideas and then start implementing them, or just sit at the table saying, “Ya know what you oughta do…” Are you the person who tries to make a difference through the actions you take, or the things you say? Are you Gregor Samsa’s sister or father? If you recognize the difference and choose to act rather than talk, whether you have a full-time employment opportunity now or not, you will surely be successful in the future.