You send your child to college. He chooses a major. He takes the appropriate classes. He graduates. And then . . . ?
Many students, and their parents, may assume that after college, after all of that tuition, after preparing the resume and sending the cover letters, the perfect job will materialize. Sometimes it does. But more often, there’s a lot of work that goes into finding — and landing — that job.
The question of how much responsibility the college or university has for helping your student secure a job is currently a controversial topic. Should the college focus on academically educating the student and leave it up to the student to find a job, or should the college be preparing the student for and helping the student secure a job?
How are colleges doing?
A national poll conducted in spring of 2015 by the Robert Morris Polling Institute, in conjunction with the Center for Research and Public Policy asked just these questions of parents. Fifty percent of the 1,003 adults responding to the poll were parents of someone who had previously attended college, someone who was currently enrolled in college, or someone who was college-bound.
Respondents were asked to rate nine characteristics of the college selection process. Rather alarmingly, the overall positive rating of the college process was only 54.6%. Jerry Lindsley, president of the Center conducting the polling, indicated that corporate ratings generally fall about 85%, including for health insurance companies and utilities.
Clearly, colleges should not be happy with a 54.6% and have vast room for improvement. One of the areas which colleges will need to examine is demonstrating that students will be able to get good jobs when they graduate.
Less than 50% of those responding to this survey ranked colleges favorably for demonstrating that they stay current with the demands of the job market and maintain relationships with employers. Only 54% believe that enough emphasis is placed on job placement.
Should colleges be doing more?
The answer to whether colleges should be doing more to help students find a job is — probably. Obviously, some colleges do a better job of this than others, but at least half of those people responding to this survey believe that they could do better. An overwhelming 82% of parents say colleges should focus as much or more on job training and preparation as academics with only 15.2% believing that colleges should focus mostly on academics. 76.2% say they would choose or recommend a college based on its ability to help secure a job for a student rather than it recognizable name.
Many colleges recognize the importance of this issue to students and parents and are beginning to include job placement rates in their recruiting campaigns and material.
What about the student?
The debate continues about how much responsibility colleges have for job placement. Parents appear to be asking for, or demanding, college accountability in this area and many colleges are responding. However, students and parents need to remember that students have important responsibilities in their own job placement success.
Although this may seem obvious, students need to remember that their responsibility for preparing to be marketable begins even as they begin college. Whether or not a college does enough to teach job skills or does enough to help students with their job search, students can help prepare themselves. Even in an institution with a low job placement rating, some students are securing jobs — and they are likely those students who have worked hard to prepare themselves.
Parents can play an important part in helping students understand the value of positioning themselves to have skills that employers may be seeking.
- Students can begin as early as their freshman year to make sure that they deliver high quality work all of the time and on time, meeting deadlines.
- Students can work on honing their skills of collaboration through group work and of communication through superior presentations.
- Students should be accurate in taking directions and prioritizing tasks through time management and good self-management.
- Students can demonstrate their ability to take initiative and be flexible.
- And students can begin to think early about how to document and demonstrate these skills, perhaps through a digital portfolio or other format.
It’s about the teamwork
Certainly colleges have a responsibility to know the job marketplace and to maintain the connections to begin to open doors for students. But students need to have the background and skills to walk through the door and then demonstrate their abilities. Although parents need to step back throughout this process to allow students to take the initiative, some gentle reminders and perspective to the student may be just the coaching called for.
With everyone working together and shouldering a share of the responsibility, your student will be well on his way to that dream job — or at least a job that may lead toward that dream job.