Aimlessly Seeking A Career

I shook more than one thousand hands on Friday as our business students got their degrees and moved on to the next stage in their lives. Sometimes I wonder where they all come from.

This year thanks to Lonny, I have a much better idea of where our undergraduate degree holders are going. Lonny took me up on my offer to buy lunch for cross- departmental groups wanting to discuss a college-wide issue. Actually in this case it was breakfast and the “lunch time roulette” group developed and implemented a survey of graduating seniors in our capstone course. Fittingly, I got the results on Friday afternoon about four hours after graduation.

More than 550 students replied to the survey. Forty-five percent of the students were looking for full-time work. And as Lonny puts it, among these job seekers only half report that they know what they want to do and less than 40% know where they want to work. At best, 40% have been to Career Services and most of that was just to meet with a counselor and have their resume reviewed. Less than a quarter have taken advantage of services such as workshops, company info sessions, mock interviews, etc. However, the same group is very confident of their skills to find that unknown job, scoring in the affirmative by 80% to questions about their interviewing and networking skills. In short, they don’t know what they want to do or where they want to work and have done little to hone their job search skills, but they are sure they will find something that suits them.

I don’t share their optimism. It is hard to look for work when you don’t know what you want to do. Will a skilled aimless search produce a better result than an unskilled aimless search? My guess is that both end with the first job offer. Only luck will produce a good match. A bad match hurts the alum, the employer and us. So how do we help students improve their career decision skills so that they do a more honest assessment of their job search capabilities and get a better start on landing the right job? Lonny and the group, looks like I’m buying lunch again..

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11 thoughts on “Aimlessly Seeking A Career

  1. I have several suggestions, from a business advisor’s point of view. I’ll be happy to buy lunch!

    • Diana: I think that would be very useful. Perhaps Lonny’s group should invite you and a couple other advisors to their next meeting. I will see if I can arrange that soon.

  2. Thanks for the support, Dr. Jarley. One bit of data that I found in the survey this weekend was that 80% of that same group says they completed a project in class that was representative of what they wanted to do in a career. So at some point, we had them! My question to your readers is, how do we capture that momentary flicker of light instead of letting it extinguish?

  3. As a COB faculty member, I am saddened by these results and interpret them to mean that we, as faculty, are failing our students if, after four or more years, they don’t have an idea of what they want in that all important first job. I realize that balancing faculty that are academic researchers with lecturers and instructors with professional experience is always a slippery slope. However, in light of the survey results, perhaps we should emphasize the “real world” options our disciplines offer a bit more and the gaining of knowledge for its own sake a bit less.

    • Hi Lynda:

      It is a complex puzzle. Note Moshmanagement’s response (that’s Lonny). 80 percent of students say the completed a relevant project at some point in their time at UCF.

      I don’t think it is so much a question of research versus practice as it is about our assumptions. I think most faculty assume that students know what they want to be when they grow up. But my experience in serving the needs of students, especially first generation college students is that they enter with only vague career aspirations. Sometimes a particular faculty member will inspire them to go in a certain direction. But we don’t systematically attack this issue through curricular and co-curricular experiences and it is time that we do.

      • Paul

        Thanks for your response and I totally agree that many of our students do not know what they want to be when they grow up (heck, I’ve had at least a dozen jobs and three accounting-related careers so one could argue I don’t know either!). Anything we can do as faculty to help them recognize their options – whether it be mentoring, brining in outside speakers to class, encouraging student membership in professional organizations, as well as addressing this in our curriculum – has my full support! 🙂

    • I agree with your response, Lynda! I am a non-traditional student (Marketing major), who is graduating in August 2013. With eight plus years of marketing experience, I find a lack of connection between the classroom and the “real world.” I am thankful that I have the “real world” experience and am able to make that connection for myself. However, in speaking with many of my classmates and sharing my “real world” experience with them, they are not sure how to make the connection. The emphasis of “real world” options is strongly needed!

  4. Please allow me to add an employer’s perspective.

    I’m a graduate of the class of 2005 COBA. My memory is still fresh that I remember what is was like my senior year, but I’ve been out here moving up the ladder for 8 years so I understand what I need from an employer perspective.

    I think from my perspective the COBA needs to take a step back and realize the value they offer today. In the 60s-80s, a degree was all you needed to land a good job and that’s all Universities provided. In the 90s it was the Master’s degree that earned you a good job and that is what Universities provided. Today, because the market is so saturated with college graduates, a bachelor’s degree is now a pre-requisite for a good job. What lands you a good job is a degree and experience.

    So, the value of a degree today is significantly less than it was 10, 20 and 30+ years ago. And, I think that the biggest opportunity COBA has is to offer ways to enhance the value of the time spent at UCF by supporting students with experience opportunities. Particularly funding new business ideas and/or partnering with company’s with new product launches.

    For example, let’s say I’m you average student, Joe Average. Joe Average does the minimum to get by; does his work and graduates with a degree. Well, the only thing that Joe Average can do to differentiate himself from Sally Average is to have a good personality. Now, what if Joe Average, as a marketing major, is able to say he created, implemented, and launched the new product marketing plan for XYZ corp? What if the Bob Average, a finance major, said he created and managed the financial plan of XYZ corp? Or, a sales focus major saying he sold $15,000 of product for XYZ corp? I think you have a well-rounded graduate that is going to stand out from the rest.

    Remember, 1/3 don’t give a crap about their education or future, the middle third are OK with mediocre and will just do the minimum to get by and will be perfectly happy with their lives, and the other third will be your top performers, and do extra things to help their objective of landing a good job. Focus on the top third and make them very successful.

    In my case, since UCF didn’t offer a real-world opportunity like that, I created my own and ran my own company during my tenure at UCF. My first job (which I actually started a few days prior to commencement) held a Marketing Manager title. And, I was told this entrepreneurial experience is what separated me from the rest of the pack; including a MBA from Rollins with basic intern-level experience at companies. If I was Joe Average, I would have never earned a management-level job right out of undergrad. Today, I am a Marketing Director and still no MBA. I’m not even sure if I will need an MBA to get to VP.

    All I would recommend is practice what you preach and remember who you serve. You will benefit in the end. Two examples of how:
    1. I am solely responsible for the perception our President has of UCF graduates. We tried to do more with UCF COBA, but it is very difficult to do anything effective with them.
    2. Every year I get calles from the COB asking to donate. Every year I tell them no. And, it is not because I can’t afford it. It is simply because you treated me as a transaction. I pay you $, you give me a degree. Our relationship is now over. If UCF and/or COBA did anything to help give me what I needed, then I can say, yes, I will support the COBA.

    Bottom line is graduates need to get some real, valuable experience under their belts while attending school. Clubs, greek life, etc. don’t do anything for employers. It’s basically resume filler. The COBA has all the departments a business needs to operate. Put them together and give these kids a chance at landing an excellent job.

    Here’s another example. Correct me if I am wrong as I don’t remember the details, but a student created a website for auto-registering for classes or something like that. Well, instead of penalizing him, embrace it, put him in charge, give him some resources, make it bigger, better, and let the marketers turn it into a profit center. Let sales focus marketing majors sell ads. Perhaps a simple one-time fee each semester/class is a better business model. Let some MIS majors (oh wait…) and marketers get some eCommerce experience under their belts. Account majors can help with the accounting. HR can draft some policies. If this 3rd party backed by COBA were to charge $5/class and 10% of the student population took advantage with an average of 3 classes per student, that’s basically $75,000 of revenue for Fall and Spring, and say 25% more for summer, so you’re looking at 170K in sales each year. Less some low costs, the COBA get’s some money and a group of students get some real, valuable experience. Who knows else is out there and what other ideas students have.

    I’m free to chat if you want to call me. 407-375-4460.

  5. LinkedIn! The articles really help you to understand your industry in the real-world. Encouraging LinkedIn is something that would fit great in cornerstone labs.

  6. I think many of us faculty do this one-on-one career advising, coaching and mentoring in small pockets throughout the college. (My office hours are more often devoted to career coaching rather than course-specific questions/assistance). However, overall, the data indicates we are failing our students re: employability readiness. I am optimistic about your assessment that we don’t (yet) systematically attack this issue. The keyword “systematically” indicates an overarching vision/plan to integrate employability program-wide & college-wide, and the keyword “attack” indicates action, not discussion. This is exciting!

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