There are too many undergraduates not getting the help need to prepare for landing jobs following graduation. There are many reasons this can happen. College career centers may provide all the necessary resources to aid in this type of transition. Other factors such as missed or lack of communication, too little time and failure to see the benefits cause these efforts to fall short. Students today lead active lives and do not want to add anything to their already hectic schedules. Others may feel uncomfortable approaching a counselor to ask for help if they have low confidence. Certain multicultural groups and those coming from low socio-economic groups may already struggle with language and academic challenges, causing them to avoid further aggravation. Finally, a large group of students are just unaware of what is available to them and how to receive it.
Due to this deficit, college graduates are left wondering one to two years after graduation if their job dissatisfaction comes from selecting the wrong major. Some probably selected it based on job opportunity alone. While others, taking advice to study something they are passionate about, selected their major based only on interests. Both approaches are not incorrect, but the process of selecting, finishing and applying one’s major should include the fore mentioned factors as well. The problem is that once students graduate, they have trouble linking what they learned to the type of job opportunities they will both be qualified for and enjoy.
Whatever the reason for choosing their major, both groups need the same type of guidance during their undergraduate years to determine a) if they are choosing the right major b) which specific type of occupations/roles in their field are best suited for them and c) how to find out where these job opportunities are and how to obtain one after graduation. Unfortunately, clients I work with have not received the guidance necessary to do this. They are confused as to what to do next. This is when they seek the advice of a career professional.
Understandingly at this point, students and their parents are frustrated. They have already spent a lot of money and time during the undergraduate years that should have more adequately prepared them for this transition. However, the tools and resources available in universities are being underutilized. So, students are left needing to invest more time and money after graduation to figure this out.
Universities can do a better job preparing these young people for careers in majors they choose in college. If certain curriculum and coaching opportunities were available while still in school, students would be more successful in achieving their post-graduation goals. It is also important to note that potential employers and their communities are also effected. Without the ability to successfully place graduates in jobs where they are qualified, corporations, government and society loses out on this untapped talent pool.
These case studies will review a couple real life situations and show how they were resolved. The purpose is to demonstrate how if a similar process to the coaching one I use, is mandated in the undergraduate program, this post-graduation conundrum can be avoided.
This case study examines the state of two individuals and why they chose their major, how they ended up in their current role and the work done to transition them to a new career path. Both happen to be English majors, which is one of those majors that doesn’t directly link to an occupation. It is a broad field of study in which graduates can choose from several occupations where they can apply their knowledge and skills. Some of the most popular careers chosen by English majors include Writers, Editors, Public Relation Specialists, Lawyers, Human Resource Professionals and Librarians. Each uses different skillsets, unique to the people pursuing them. (Profita, 2018)
Case Study 1:
Alison initially chose to be a journalism major, but she didn’t enjoy the pressure of having tight newspaper deadlines. She decided to switch to English because she enjoys reading and writing, and wanted to pursue a career that incorporates those skills. Following graduation, she wasn’t sure exactly what type of role would allow her to apply those skills. She ended up finding a job as a Communications Coordinator for a local non-profit. The job was ok because it entailed some writing and a lot of editing, but not really the creative type of writing she was craving. She decided to reach out to me for guidance in finding a better suited match for her skills and personality. Her goal is to find a position that still uses her English degree, as well as the skills she has gained over the past two years, but she doesn’t know how to do this.
Case Study 2:
Adam is also a recent English major graduate. He chose to major in English because of his love of writing as well. He proactively pursued opportunities during college including writing articles for a local newspaper to increase his chances of finding a job afterward. Despite his efforts, competition for full-time writers remains high. He has been out of school for two years now, and unable to secure fulltime work as a journalist, is now working as a part-time library aide. He came to me to seeking help in linking his interests, passion and skills to full-time career opportunities.
The process I use with my clients is a three-part methodology. The first step is to Assesswhat type of career is best suited for them. In this process, I evaluate their career interests, strengths, values and preferred work styles. Using the results from all of these, I can come up with a career profile for them. Using this information allows them to get a much more comprehensive picture of what type of career is best suited for them.
In college, this would also include a heavy emphasis on coursework and major selection as well. Therefore, another assessment that would benefit the student population looks at learning styles using the VARK model. VARK is an acronym and assesses how individuals prefer to learn.
V – Visual
A - Aural
R – Reading, Writing
K – Kinesthetic
By using this assessment, coaches and counselors can determine which type of courses would be best suited for the student. Those with a Visualpreference enjoy creating or looking at visual examples, graphs, art, etc. While those with a preference for Auralmostly benefit from lecture and discussion courses. If someone has a preference for Reading/Writing, they enjoy classes that are mostly doing those things. Kinesthetic students should take courses involving lab work, internship and other real-life applicability.(Leite, Svinicki, & Shi, 2010) When selecting a major, students should determine, with the help of their counselor which majors would allow them to use their most preferred skills and learning styles.
The second step for the client is to Connect the types of occupations they are interested in to the jobs that would be available to them. This means identifying the skills, experience and knowledge they already have and marketing them to potential employers. They can accomplish this by completing a resume, registering on social media sites and finding job listings that match their desired types of positions. The process should be similar for college students. Their experience and skills can come from part-time jobs, internships, study abroad and volunteer work, all which should be available to them in their chosen undergraduate program. Additionally, coursework should be offered on resume writing, seeking and responding to opportunities and interviewing.
Finally, making the Transitionis the last step of the process. This involves the client holding themselves accountable and determining short and long-term tangible goals. These should include a timeframe and metrics to determine if and by how much they were successful. The end result should be landing a desired job. Students who go through this process should create the goals in the beginning of their last year of study. Counselors should help them take the necessary steps needed to ensure employability with six months of graduation.
Both clients ended up being able to apply knowledge and experience they gained from their major to the exploration process I employed with them. They became aware of what they do best and how they can apply these skills to the areas where there are opportunities and that interest them.
Case Study 1:
Alison determined that she identified most with the communications aspect of the English language and wanted to use her experience to help others. In her current role, she is a communications coordinator and can use that experience to aid her in taking on more desirable opportunities. She is currently pursuing paths in both Dean of Student Affairs and Public Health positions. Through the assessment process, she learned that although she likes to write, having the end result impact others in a positive way is what is most important to her. She needs to find something that allows her to be creative but provides enough structure so she is clear on goals and expected outcomes. She is able to connect with people at her current job as well as her University’s alumni association and LinkedIn to initiate the transition.
Case Study 2:
Adam found that he is interested in many possible paths, including teaching, library sciences, copywriting, technical writing and a museum technician. We are currently in the process of narrowing down what option will be most suited for him, where he can also use the education and experience he has gained over the past two years. I suggested that he make connections with people in each field to set up job shadowing and informational interviews in order to eliminate options. Each path he is exploring uses his English undergraduate degree in some form. The challenge for him is that they also require either further education or licensure/certifications that he does not have. He needs to determine what makes most sense for him and where he is willing to invest additional time and money. Whatever he decides, he wants it to be applicable to a broad area of career paths due to his extroverted breadth of interests. He is forward thinking, and already anticipating the possibility of needing to change course again after gaining additional experience.
This process has helped both of my clients in their endeavors to successfully apply their college majors to their current career. However, they had hoped and anticipated that this type of guidance would have been received in school. Therefore, what I would suggest as a more applicable curriculum would involve these three mandated undergraduate career requirements. Making these requirements mandatory would help prioritize the need to get them done for students, who up until now were only focused on completing their coursework and getting good grades.
- All Freshmen are Required to take a Class entitled – Choosing a Major and Career. This course would assess their career interests, strengths, preferences and values. It would identify best suited careers for them and allow them to choose (or change) their major based on what they are most interested in and what might be a “best fit” career for them. They should also get some hands-on experience by job shadowing two to three professionals in different fields. These Externships would allow students to get a real feel for what it might be like to work in certain fields. This would allow them to pick something more suited to their work styles as well.
“Externships are usually brief, some lasting only a day or two. They may offer no academic credit, much less monetary compensation. Rather than working day after day in a specific position within an organization as an intern would, an extern often shadows someone in that position to get an overview of what the job entails.”
- Three Internship Requirements in Chosen Major but in Different Occupations–As a requirement once the major is chosen, there would be three internship requirements. All should be in different occupations so students are exposed to in-depth knowledge and practice within their major. Students should complete these during their junior and senior years. They need to work with counselors and faculty to locate, choose and complete the requirements for each one. As part of the internship, they should also assess if they plan to pursue this type of work after graduation and how it fits into their overall career profile.
- Either a Multisession Counseling Requirement or Senior Class on Finding a Job.This requirement would focus on where to find opportunities, marketing/branding themselves, networking, writing resumes and cover letters, interviewing and negotiating offers, etc. As tangible outcomes of this last career mandate, they would need a completed resume, mock interview and cover letters and resume written and sent to at least five potential employers.
By completing ALL of these requirements suggested, students will have acquired:
- In-depth knowledge of careers they are best suited for
- A feel for which ones they would enjoy most or be good at
- Necessary on-the job experience that employers look for and
- The tools needed to successfully land a job upon graduating
Alumni should be also able to benefit from this new curriculum. Offer current alumnus counseling, allowing them to utilize similar services within the first year of graduation. Also, offer job hunting workshops and networking events for all alumni regardless of graduation date. Many find themselves unhappy only after several years of working in a particular field. They usually enjoy connecting with and building relationships with groups of similar minded people, such as fellow alumnae.
Although it may seem like a lot of additional requirements for students, these are the ones most crucial to obtaining a desired job. By learning who they are, what is out there and how to go after it, college graduates can be successful in applying majors to the careers of their choice.
Leite, W.L., Svinicki, M., & Shi, Y. (2010). Attempted
validation of the scores of the VARK: Learning styles inventory
with multitrait-multimethod confirmatory factor analysis
models. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 70, 323-339.
Profita, Mike, (April 5, 2018): https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-jobs-for-english-majors-2059642.