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The Real Reason College Graduates Aren't Getting Jobs Is Hiding Out on Campus

The Real Reason College Graduates Aren't Getting Jobs Is Hiding Out on Campus

“A college graduate earns, on average, $1 million more than a high school graduate over their respective careers.”

You probably remember hearing this statistic from your parents, teachers, and high school guidance counselors. I remember it being the focal point of my high school’s strategy to get students to go on to college. Unfortunately, there’s some disturbing realities about the value of a college degree in today’s job market that high schools and colleges don’t want students to know about.

What Value Are Colleges Providing Their Clients?

According to research done by the Federal Reserve of New York, 44% of millennials with a Bachelor’s degree are working jobs which do not require a college degree. Also, according to a 2014 report by U.S. News, the average student finishes their Bachelor’s degree with $30,000 in debt.

For the 56% of millennial college graduates with jobs that require a college degree, the theory of that student loan being an investment that pays off in the long-term holds true. But for the 44% working a job that doesn’t require a college degree, one could make the argument they are in a worse position depending on how much debt they’ve accrued while in college.

While this 44% underemployment rate is disturbing, at least these graduates have a job. According to NewsWeek, 40% of the millions of unemployed Americans are millennials. 13.8% of 18 to 29 year olds were unemployed at the time the article was published, compared to the general unemployment rate of 5.4%.

While it’s easy to point to the 2008 recession as the problem, the issue actually goes back to to the turn of the millennium. Between 2000 and 2012, the employment rate for young graduates dropped from 84% to 72%. Over that same time period the average price of a four-year public college jumped 32% (NewsWeek).

In other words:colleges became MORE expensive yet LESS efficient at preparing their graduates for the job market: Why?

The Problem is the Colleges, Not The Graduates

There’s some rumblings among hiring managers of major companies that millennials are lacking in the “soft skills” requiring to succeed in the workplace. They also complain of poor writing skills. If there is one skill you should get from the thousands you spend on college, it’s the ability to write. The problem is jobs aren’t asking for 20 page analytical papers.

Colleges aren’t teaching students how to write in the real-world, and this is just one of the many examples of the disconnect between what’s taught in Academia and what’s required to succeed in that field in the real-world.

Problem # 1: Money is the Driving Force Behind All Colleges

If you take a look at most colleges around the country over the last 5 years, several campuses have built new dorm buildings. The reason colleges love investing in dorm buildings is they see the direct return on investment in terms of more students paying tuition.

Why would a college invest money in creating a top-notch career development center that helps students actually get more than a really expensive paper out of their time at college? There’s no monetary return on investment.

The only ROI would be the satisfaction of helping a loyal client (graduate) succeed in life. If colleges really cared about what happens to their graduates once they’re off the books, then career development is where they would invest.

Imagine that a certified job coach called you once a month after graduation instead of a work-study student hounding you for donations?

Problem #2: Colleges Blame Faulty Career Centers on Students

When one questions a career counseling center on campus regarding inefficiencies, the blame is shifted to the students. A typical response is

” students these days just don’t have the drive to come to the career center”

It’s a popular scapegoat to blame the “lazy millennial” archetype, but the reality is the career center doesn’t have a strategy that

A. Attracts students
B. Helps them choose a career
C. Gets them started on that career path upon graduation.

As a college student, what is my incentive to make time to go to the college career center in my already packed schedule when I haven’t heard virtually any of my peers tell me about how much it helped them?

Problem #3: Many Campus Career Center Counselors Lack Passion

A 2013 study by Gallup shows that 70% of people are unhappy or disengaged at work. So say your campus has 10 career Counselors: 7 of them are just there for the paycheck and don’t give a damn if you ever find a job.

How Millennials Can Take Control of Their Career Prep

● Your Campus Career Center. Although this article hasn’t been too kind to campus career centers, there are some campuses who are doing some things right. Go to your campus career center and get some information to feel out where your school’s career center sits on the spectrum.
Respected Career Blogs. There are dozens of excellent publications on the blogosphere that give career advice specifically geared towards millennials. These blogs are filled with advice that Millennials have actually used to get a job in today’s job market. The communities of these blogs also offer excellent networking opportunities.

Hire A Career Coach. In today’s ultra-competitive job market, savvy millennials are investing in a career coach to get themselves where they want to be. You can search “career coaches” on Twitter and start interacting with them for free. Reach out to the one you build the best relationship with and set up an initial appointment. It’s the more expensive option out of the three ( the other two being free), but as in sports or music, the right coach can make magic happen in your career.

How was your Campus Career Center? Did they actually help you find a job? I’d love to hear your stories, good or bad, over on Twitter! (@BPucino)



3 Responses

  1. Just be careful with career coaches. Look for one that is certified (CPCC is the certification I have). To get certified, we go through a considerable amount of training and testing. Likewise, many of us post a ton of advice online at our websites, info that is free to access. GREAT ARTICLE!!!!!

  2. Hi Chelsea.
    Your critique and suggestions are not uncommon – unmotivated carer services staff, faculty not teaching to employer’s real-world needs, cost of higher education, the economy, etc. I absolutely agree that there are institutional/structural roadblocks that impede student success, especially for some, but in the end students are still responsible for their own success.

    Would you say the same thing about grades? Why aren’t all students getting a 4.0? Is it dispassionate tutors, poor teaching, lack of resources, or is it mostly about student self-discipline? The truth is that some students spend much more time and effort getting good grades than others. They are the ones getting into good grad schools and better jobs. Should we be blaming faculty, staff. and the economy because C students who gave minimal effort in classes aren’t getting into Harvard?

    There are boundless resources available to all college students to help them succeed during and after college, but most don’t bother using them – and whose fault is that? Surveys show that 60-80% of students visit the career center one time or less (that would be zero) each semester.

    You have to at least show up for practice before you can expect to play in the game.

  3. Interesting article, Brett. A powerful viewpoint that describes three problems as you see the “real” reason college graduates aren’t getting jobs. Although, is it as simple as you state?

    Let’s consider some additional real facts.

    Getting a job after college is an arduous task which encompasses earning a college degree (or receiving vocational training), quality time spent on career development and a hefty amount of fortitude. This process of ‘career development’ is essential to the outcome of becoming employed. It includes demonstrated activities such as experiential learning and/or service learning, knowing how to concisely and succinctly articulate your skills and abilities on your resume, learning and practicing interview skills, and learning how to implement effective job search strategies.

    Moreover, it is dedicated time spent meeting with career center staff as part of a regular office visit each semester to learn about workforce expectations, employment trends and other valuable resources.

    As a previous Assistant Director of Employer Relations and career counselor, I had the opportunity to counsel students on their career development as well as build partnerships with employers to hire graduates. I learned first hand from employers about job opportunities, recruitment goals and hiring expectations. Recruiters and hiring managers expect to hire “prepared” individuals who can and will do the job.

    Your article points out the problem as the fault of the college or more specifically career center/staff. However, employers hire graduates, as well as the skills and experience they will bring to their role. They partner with career center staff to facilitate the recruitment process in hiring individuals who can articulate their value effectively. The student, soon-to-be graduate is a major contributor in this collaboration. If the student does not fully engage in the process, they are not a major player in their own development. Hence, the real reason they are unemployed.

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