Author – John Rindy, MPH
In the 1960s and 70s colleges had these wonderful offices called “Placement Offices.” They literally placed new graduates in jobs. So, if you were a few weeks from graduating, you could drop by the Placement Office and, so-to-speak, pick up your first work assignment. But today things have changed and changed dramatically. Employers do not recruit that way anymore and so colleges and universities have had to adjust. Career fairs, alumni networking events, campus-specific job boards and on-campus interviewing, paired with a perpetual insistence that you are “either networking or not working” have largely supplanted the placement model simply by necessity. Most jobs today are never posted anywhere, because they are filled from within the organization or through the hiring manager’s network, so if someone graduates from college without a solid network of those with hiring influence, their job search and thus employment rate is likely to be negatively impacted.
A few years ago, a friend who worked at a for-profit technical college was excused from her job. The reason? “The placement rates just are not where we want them to be.” Was she really responsible for students “getting jobs?” When I consider all of the things that have to happen to make someone truly employable in today’s job market, I wonder if her circumstance was even reasonable. No one, unique person is responsible for anyone getting a job after earning a college degree. Many, many factors coalesce during the college years for students to have the very best opportunities for employment upon graduation. Here are just a few of those things:
The Faculty and the Learning: At any university, faculty have to do their part by designing and delivering effective curriculum. Arguably, some of the better curricular designs are, at least, informed by the professional world where the students will end up working. Members of college faculty can also choose to view part of their responsibility as creating connections for the future employment of their students but this is more of a cultural thing in certain institutions and departments and is not a universal expectation among all institutions and academic departments.
The Student: The student needs to show up for class, study, and ask questions. A grade point average in excess of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale will also increase their chances of employment in most areas of study. Students need to do practical work like internships and engage in other experiences such as study abroad, service learning and student organizations. These “other experiences” form the basis for the stories that they will tell while articulating their skills during a job interview. Further, the student needs to keep a clean criminal record, avoid unusual body modifications and remain open-minded about the types of jobs they might pursue.
The Family: Supportive families can make all the difference as to the performance of students during their college years. Many studies have shown that parents remain the single most influential factor in student success during the college years. So parents need to ask good questions, encourage students in very specific ways and be prepared for countless count-to-ten moments and dualistic “I hated it here yesterday but love it here today” midnight calls. Families can also work to create connections for their student by introducing them to those in the world of work who possess hiring influence. Expectation is also critical. Parents should overtly and clearly express an expectation that the student will seek and earn a first professional job after college, rather than assuming it as an implied outcome. Sending a message of “We love you but when you graduate, we expect that you will work to find a job” can be more effective than one might think.
The Career Office – No longer called the “Placement Office” at most institutions but instead “Career Development” or “Career Education,” our offices produce events, hold one-on-one appointments, offer a variety of campus presentations and learning sessions, networking programs, workshops in building and using LinkedIn profiles and much more. But the student still needs to take advantage of these events or services. Further, once the student has learned, for example, the proper techniques to use while interviewing, they actually need to act upon and apply the advice. There is nothing a college career office can do to force students or new graduates to take and apply the advice they have been afforded.
A lot goes into the formula of determining how a newly minted college graduate will do in the job market. Faculty, parents, the career office, the institution, as well as employers, the actual job market statistics and then student themselves each have at the very least an equal role in supporting the ultimate employment of the student. While it is easy and sometimes convenient to pin employment rates upon an institution or even more specifically an academic program or a career office, employment is an outcome for which the responsibility is shared by many. So as I reflect upon the misfortunes of my friend at the for-profit school, I sense a certain injustice and wonder to this day, who else did not do their part in that circumstance? It takes a village.
It’s your future. Take charge!