How can college leaders identify and understand the changes that will both result in greater student employment success and make things better for themselves? Money, manpower and time are issues that are always brought up. However, the most important factors are “wanting to make things better” and “looking for and identifying the things that have to be changed.” Colleges that can’t or won’t do one or both of those things will never improve the employment success of their students.
Recognize that students are quite limited in their knowledge about job search preparation activities and what, how, when and why they should be done.
Accept the fact that the college (a learning institution) is where students spend most of their time and where they expect to receive the information, help and guidance they will need for their employment search.
Agree that job search preparation instruction and guidance is in large part the responsibility of the college as a whole, not just students and the people in Career Services.
Understand that students must compete against other candidates for the best jobs in their fields of interest. Simply having earned a degree with good grades is often not enough.
Believe that their college will benefit when larger numbers of students land desirable jobs with respected employers.
Help students identify and select a career direction that matches up with their capabilities and interests not later than their sophomore year. When students wait too long to identify a career direction, there may be little or no time left for clearly focused job search preparation activities. Late decisions may also require extra time in college and additional college loans.
In the 1st or 2nd year of college, ask students to purchase and read a book that explains the entire employment process, including job search preparation strategies and efforts. Career Services should suggest one.
Early on, require students to draft a personal budget for independent living after college. That will make them think about the coming expenses and give them an idea about the minimum starting salary they will require. A sample budget form can be supplied by Career Services, so students can fill in the blanks.
Having a realistic budget, will encourage students to determine two things: 1) Does the selected career direction have desirable entry level jobs that will meet their budget requirements? and, 2) Do those jobs have good growth potential and a career path?
Qualified students should not blindly enter careers and accept employment offers that make it too difficult for them to live on their own and pay back college loans or offer little salary and career growth potential.
Help students select a major and minor that will support their career direction and the jobs that are of interest.
Help students prepare a written plan of action that includes the activities and experiences they will participate in to make themselves more attractive to their target employers. Colleges can start by providing each student with a generic example of a step-by-step plan.
Offer job search preparation classes to students. These classes should cover every aspect of job search preparation, review the contents of the book that has been selected, help students build and utilize their job search network, create a résumé that is focused on accomplishments and successes and also help students develop the stories and examples they will use during interviews.
Have each student research and identify a group of jobs in their selected field of interest. (Having a clear target will make the following steps easier for students to achieve.)
Have each student research and identify a list of employers that will have opportunities for students with their own job interests. In that way, students can pursue opportunities with the specific employers that are of interest to them. In almost every case, students must chase employers not the reverse.
Help students identify the specific things that their target employers will need, want and expect of employment candidates. (Students are more attractive to their target employers when they have prepared for and addressed their needs, wants and expectations.)
Help students research, identify and retain lists of Job Banks, Search Firms and Web Sites that can be useful, as they conduct their searches for employment. Students with similar career directions can work together as a team and share their results. (Initial lists for students in every major should be available from Career Services.)
Coach and encourage students, as they execute their action plans. Every campus employee can help with this. In fact, everyone in the college community can help with this. However, college Alumni should be ideal for this aspect of job search preparation. That means that the college has to make a special effort to involve successful alumni in this process.
Work to build a larger and larger pool of employers that will provide part-time jobs, internships, co-op assignments, work-study programs and summer jobs for students in each and every major. Work experience and job performance are extremely important to interviewers and their hiring employers. Students with job-related work experience, highly rated job performance and solid work references will always attract attention from potential employers.