by George A., Contributing Writer at Forbes magazine, Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130815225243-59549-they-don-t-teach-this-in-college
are painful times for recent college graduates.
Some 7.9% can't find
work, and another 50% or so are marking time in low-paying jobs that
don't require anything more than a high-school degree, according to a
recent Georgetown University study.
What went wrong? And what can we do to help?
fashionable to blame the college/careers mismatch on deep-rooted
factors that seem too big for anyone to fix.
Such lists start with slow growth in the global economy, followed by offshoring, big employers' dwindling interest in training new graduates, and students' tendencies to major in fields that don't have great career prospects.
those are our only points of leverage, it's hard to see how to make
headway. So lately, I've been wondering how college graduates - who are
bright, nimble and passionate - can thrive even in the face of a harsh
current job market.
I've got three ideas. This first comes from Austin Allred, the 20-something founder of Grasswire,
a social-media/news startup that's about to go live.
A couple years
ago, he was a Mormon missionary in the Ukraine, knocking on people's
doors in winter, looking for converts. Most of his visits didn't go
well. But he kept trying.
And in a recent blog post entitled "Mormon Missions: the Ultimate Startup Accelerator,"
Allred argues that he's a much better business person because of the
persistence and teamwork that he learned from his Ukraine days.
about anyone in his or her early 20s should have some cause-related
experience to draw upon, even if it doesn't involve anything close to
Think about the work it takes to be successful
on a sports team, a school play, a fund-raising drive or an urban
cleanup campaign. College graduates who do nothing more than circle job
ads and mail in resumes are short-changing their greatest strength.
such as sales, marketing and startups are well-suited to young
employees whose proven energy and passion will turn them into winners in
such new callings.
If the big multinationals aren't offering cosseted
trainee-program jobs anymore, it's time for college grads to be more
entrepreneurial and build their own futures.
This needn't be a
lonely quest. Missionaries work in teams - and job-hunters can, too.
Take a cue from Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, who got some vital nudges
(and kicks) toward his eventual career by sharing a house with a few
friends right after college.
Peer reinforcement can do great things for
young job hunters' morale, networking and sustained focus on big goals.
brings me to point No. 2: We live in an increasingly networked,
collaborative world, yet somehow academic training is violently at odds
with this truth.
To my horror last summer, Harvard announced that it was
taking disciplinary action
against more than 100 students who might have pooled resources and
formed impromptu study groups.
Their goal: to develop shared answers for
an open-book test in which the questions were issued a week ahead of
Hello? In just about any imaginable post-college job,
employers will be praying that new employees ask for help, talk to their
colleagues and form ad hoc brainstorming teams.
That's how work gets
done, whether you're straightening the aisles at WalMart or doing
strategy consulting at McKinsey. To set up a grading system that
punishes students for working together on an open-book exam seems
Figuring out how to grade collaborative work will require
university officials to let go of some old habits.
they devise will probably be more time-intensive and subjective than
marking up those classic exam books that are filled out solo, by
hundreds of students who are forbidden from interacting.
But this isn't
the 1960s anymore. Colleges owe their students a grading system that's
in step with modern-day workplace realities.
Finally, it's an open
secret that many of the best jobs don't ever get posted. They come into
being because the right candidate showed up - usually through a
referral or a brave cold call - when the employer wasn't yet certain
that he or she was going to be hiring.
I talk at length about this in my
e-book, Becoming a Rare Find: How Jagged Resumes Lead to Great Jobs. That book explains how recent graduate job hunters can make the most of this hidden job market.
of the necessary tactics are nothing more than simple common sense.
They just take a bit of courage to apply.
Start by identifying a
realistic set of desired employers. Visit them. Find alumni that work
there. Ask neighbors, family friends, local merchants - or anyone,
really - for introductions.
Establish some basis for rapport and then
make your case. If there isn't a job right away, ask for advice on how
to be well-prepared for future openings.
Any college graduates
waiting for a much friendlier macro environment could have a long,
lonely vigil. But those who try to create their own luck may be
surprised how much people with more work experience are willing to help.
(Photo credit: George Eastman House Collection).