College is very expensive. While college has the goal of developing your student as a person, I know that each of you are also concerned about the job your student will get upon graduation. Some majors are more career oriented than others, but your student can have a great career no matter what the major.
Here’s my suggestion for what you can do to ensure your student has a great career.
- Career fair participation – Most campuses host employers at a career fair. I encourage students to spend time at their career fair even as a freshman. The more that students gain experience from talking to employers, the better prepared students are for the employment process.
- Building on experience – Career success stories often have the same theme: starting at the lowest level and rising to their current position. Every successful person has made the most of every job they had. Encourage your student to treat each job as a success laboratory where he/she can test out what it takes to make a difference.
- Career Center registration – Freshman can and should register with the campus Career Center. Such registration will require your student to prepare a professional resume. It will also present a number of student job opportunities that students would not otherwise have.
- Professionalism – One of the tragedies a higher education is that some graduates are practically unemployable when they finish their degrees. They had no mentoring in college and as a result never developed the “soft skills” that employers find essential (e.g. attitude, consistency of performance, work ethic, team work). College students often go through a “phase” where they seek to find themselves. Eventually the phase needs to end if students are to get a job. One thing you can do for your student is to help them find a professional mentor.
- Minors – Students often choose a major based upon a personal interest. Some of those majors don’t have a clear career path. Rather than steering your student into a major your student doesn’t want, an alternative is to encourage your student to pursue a minor that complements their major and provides the employment skills they will find useful.
- Jobs search skills – Most campuses have courses which help students learn how to prepare a resume, how to interview, how to seek out job opportunities, etc. These are good classes for freshman to take.
One of the fallacies that students often have is that the time to find a job is once they graduate. In reality, the most successful graduates have jobs before they graduate. The job search process should really begin when a student starts college and should be an integral part of the student’s college experience.
Let me close with the story of Jamie. I met Jamie through his uncle, a classmate of mine. Jamie had an Art History degree from a prestigious university but didn’t have any idea about how to get a job. His uncle asked if I could help.
This was a time when desk top publishing was in its infancy, and I hired Jamie to support me in developing a desk top publishing capability. It was obvious Jamie was not ready for a job. His work habits were inconsistent, and it was clear he had never worked in a job where others depended upon his work. His university had never prepared him for life after graduation.
With a lot of mentoring, Jamie became a real contributor. The skills he lacked at first gradually developed. In a few years, it was time for Jamie to move on. He created his own business that supported one of the nation’s most prestigious publishers. In a few years, he was able to sell this business for several million. He subsequently invested in another start-up business that he and three colleagues were creating. This business has become a prominent name in the home financing industry. Jamie has gone on to create another business.
The role of faculty as professional mentors is one that is often missing on today’s campuses. Unfortunately faculty get rewarded for research, and there is virtually no recognition for faculty who lead students to rewarding careers.